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Maybe Bivol-Pascal Can Make For One More Legendary Night of Boxing on HBO

Bernard Fernandez

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Movie people have their “wrap parties,” partly festive but also partly somber, to mark the end of filming for a shared undertaking that might or might not become a box-office smash and meet with critical acclaim. But while many of the actors and crew can be expected to move on to another project, for some workers in an industry that offers no lifetime guarantees there is always the nagging doubt that maybe this might be the dropping of a final curtain, a farewell to the glamor and excitement of something that had become such a major part of their lives.

Technically, Saturday night’s HBO-televised matchup of WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (14-0, 11 KOs) and former WBC 175-pound titlist Jean Pascal (33-5-1, 20 KOs) at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is not the premium-cable company’s farewell to boxing, a sport with which it has been affiliated for 45-plus mostly glorious years. HBO, which for so long advised fight fans that it was the “heart and soul of boxing,” has one more date on its 2018 calendar, Dec. 8 from Carson, Calif., a Boxing After Dark telecast which will be marked by its very late nod toward women’s boxing, with bouts pitting undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus (34-0, 9 KOs) of Norway vs. Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopez (18-4-3, 1 KO) of Poland and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields (7-0, 2 KOs), holder of three middleweight title belts, taking on WBO super middleweight champ Femke Hermans (9-1, 3 KOs) of Belgium. But for boxing purists who have been with HBO since its dramatic entry into boxing, in which George Foreman knocked down heavyweight champion Joe Frazier six times en route to a second-round TKO victory on Jan. 22, 1973, in Kingston, Jamaica, Bivol-Pascal undoubtedly will have the feel of the somber side of a wrap party.

HBO publicists are advising inquiring media minds that Jim Lampley, the longtime blow-by-blow voice of HBO World Championship Boxing, will not be taking questions about the curtain that is dropping and will thus mark the end of an era. Even the 36-year-old Pascal seems to have one foot out the door, with the fight against Pascal described in some quarters as being part of his “farewell tour,” although a return to his best form and an upset of Bivol, 27, a native of Kyrgyzstan who now resides in St. Petersburg, Russia, might extend his long goodbye in the manner of Cher, whose own farewell concert tour seemingly has been going on for 20 years.

But for every ending there must be a beginning, just as every death is counterbalanced by a birth elsewhere. Boxing on HBO and possibly Pascal, should he lose as anticipated, might be heading toward the exit but Bivol and his promoter, Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, profess to be excited by the first marquee bout showcasing a champion who has yet to fully grab the world’s attention. If there are to be no “legendary nights” for HBO in boxing in 2019 – that was the 2003 working title for 12-hour-long celebrations of great fights which had been televised by the network and helped cement its status as the sport’s primary outlet — maybe Bivol can create one for himself in as electric a way as Foreman introduced himself to a wider audience by dousing “Smokin’ Joe’s” fire in Jamaica.

“The next big step in Dmitry’s career, moving up to the main event for the first time,” Duva said in assessing the opportunity being afforded the new headliner of her promotional stable. “Nobody ever became a star on the undercard. This is the beginning of a journey.”

With or without HBO having skin in the game, Bivol and scads of other elite or mostly so practitioners of the pugilistic arts will not lack for opportunities to demonstrate their wares. TV boxing is busting out all over, with well-financed and committed joiners to the party serving to further diminish the HBO brand which had been in decline for several years.

Since August, blockbuster deals to provide boxing content were announced by British promoter Eddie Hearn, who has a $1 billion war chest to televise fights over the next eight years over DAZN (pronounced Da Zone), a new digital platform; Top Rank founder Bob Arum, who reached an agreement with ESPN to televise 54 fight cards on its various outlets over the next seven years, and Fox Sports, which is coming aboard for four years in partnership with Premier Boxing Champions. And Showtime, for so long cast as the second banana to HBO in premium-cable boxing, remains a player at the highest levels, with 22 shows in 2018 and the expressed intention to build on that number in the year ahead.

Faced with shrinking viewership at a time when a host of competitors were initiating or ramping up their boxing coverage, HBO, unlike, say, one of its longtime boxing anchors, the late, great Arturo Gatti, decided to quit on its stool rather than to buckle down and fight harder. In his Sept. 27 announcement that HBO would cease coverage of boxing in 2019, HBO Sports president 37-year-old Peter Nelson, who was nearly a decade away from being born the night that Foreman demolished Frazier, acknowledged that the low and getting lower ratings for boxing no longer justified the company’s continued involvement.

“This is not a subjective decision,” Nelson said. “Our audience research informs us that boxing is no longer a determinant factor for subscribers to HBO.”

Some years back, when HBO had only 15 million or so subscribers, it regularly featured such superstars of the ring as Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones Jr., Alexis Arguello, Aaron Pryor, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Riddick Bowe and Foreman. It was not unusual for bouts involving fighters of that magnitude to be watched by up to a third of the network’s subscribers. Now with 40 million subscribers, HBO boxing telecasts were averaging only 820,000 viewers, or about 2 percent of the total audience.

In an article in the New York Times, Nelson cited these depressing numbers as justification for HBO pulling the plug on boxing. Although Bivol-Pascal and the women’s twin bill were later added, the final HBO boxing telecast was to have been Daniel Jacobs’ 12-round split decision over Sergiy Derevyanchenko for the vacant IBF middleweight title at Madison Square Garden. No disrespect to Jacobs, Shields or Braekhus, but none qualify as the sort of can’t-miss TV as represented by some of the aforementioned household names who drew in viewers like metal objects to a strong magnet.

It has been theorized that the downfall of HBO boxing began with the departure of key executives Seth Abraham and Lou DiBella. Perhaps it was the slashing of HBO’s budget for boxing, making for fewer telecasts and less gifted, less popular fighters on the shows that were staged. Maybe it’s several factors that came into play in a witch’s brew of preordained calamity, no single one in and of itself capable of bringing down a giant but lethal when combined.

Larry Merchant, 87, the erudite former newspaperman who served as a commentator for HBO Boxing for 35 years until his retirement in December 2012, cited the natural progression and regression of a longtime fighter as a parallel to what is taking place with his former employer.

“I’m sad,” Merchant said from his home in Santa Monica, Calif. “But I was part of something that worked out well for me for 35 years. The way I put it, we were a good-looking prospect, then a challenger, a champion, a great champion, a long-time champion. Then we were an ex-champion, a has-been and, finally, retired. All I can say is so long.”

It is a given that Bivol-Pascal can’t possibly approach the drama of Foreman-Frazier I so many years ago, but it would be fitting and proper if they rooted around inside themselves to find the right stuff to help HBO to the kind of sendoff its rich history merits. The possibility for a good fight certainly exists, and each man has something of value he hopes to come away with.

For Bivol, who claimed the WBA crown when he knocked out Australia’s Trent Broadhurst on Feb. 23, 2017, in Monte Carlo, it is the chance for the quiet Russian to possibly announce himself as the best light heavyweight presently on the scene, what with Andre Ward retired and countryman Sergey Kovalev coming off a devastating seventh-round knockout loss to Eleider Alvarez on Aug. 4, also at the Hard Rock. (WBC champ Adonis Stevenson is still around, of course, but he’s 41 and notoriously judicious in his selection of opponents.)

Bivol also appeared on that HBO-televised Kovalev-Alvarez undercard, but in a supporting role, scoring a 12-round unanimous decision over South Africa’s Isaac Chilemba.

“Of course I am glad (to be in the main event),” Bivol said. “It means I am on the right way in my career. But every time I went into the ring I feel that I should show all my skills, all my best. It doesn’t matter now that it is my first (time atop the card). Every time I feel that responsibility. I want to prove to everybody with every fight that I am one of the best in my division.”

Truth be told, it was Bivol’s hope that he would instead be facing Kovalev in a unification matchup that would be of more obvious consequence than the fight with Pascal, whose best days might be behind him. But Kovalev relinquished his WBO belt to Alvarez, necessitating a change in plans.

“It was a little unfortunate because we know each other and have common friends,” Bivol said of his anticipation of the possible go at Kovalev that went by the boards. “We’ve boxed before. It is not pleasant to see someone you know, an acquaintance, go down like that. I thought he was going to win the fight. There was talk of us possibly fighting next, so that kind of fell apart. I was a little disappointed.”

Pascal wants to refute any notion that he is no longer a factor, even as he acknowledges that the end of his career might be coming sooner rather than later.

“I know that they picked me because they think they can beat me,” he said. “But it’s okay,  it’s part of the sport. This is the story of my life, to be the underdog. I was the underdog when I faced Chad Dawson. I won that fight. So I know what I have to do and what I’m capable of doing.”

First bell at the Hard Rock is at 6 p.m. The HBO telecast begins at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.

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Canelo Finally Ready to Take Manhattan; More Bites of the Big Apple to Follow?

Bernard Fernandez

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Canelo Takes on Manhattan

You know the words to the song, written by Paul Anka and most memorably sung by Frank Sinatra. It’s a paean to America’s glitziest, grittiest, most self-absorbed metropolis, whose citizens have come to believe the city is and always will be the center of the known universe. Everywhere else is, well, Hicksville.

If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere

It’s up to you, New York, New York

Canelo Alvarez, the WBO/WBA/WBC middleweight champion, is only 28 years of age, but the proud son of Guadalajara, Mexico, has been fighting professionally since he was 15. Arguably the most popular and marketable fighter in the world, he has been a creature of habit, fighting almost exclusively in places where his worshiping fans are plentiful and his star power has been allowed to flourish almost unabated. Of his 54 ring appearances as a pro, boxing’s red-haired rock star has logged 34 fights in Mexico, 11 in Las Vegas, three in California and three in Texas. The furthest east Alvarez has come to ply his trade in the United States is a single bout in Miami, certain sections of which admittedly might seem like New York with palm trees.

But now Canelo says he is ready – eager, even – to finally make his mark in America’s toughest town, and specifically in the famous arena, Madison Square Garden, which fancies itself the “Mecca of boxing.” It is a not-undeserved sobriquet when you consider the roster of ring legends who have toiled at the Garden in any of its four incarnations.

Hey, if the historic building in midtown Manhattan, and the three preceding venues bearing its name, were good enough for Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong, Jake LaMotta, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson and Canelo’s promoter, Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya, then it’s good enough for someone who considers himself to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world today.

But Saturday night’s matchup of Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs) — who will be moving up a weight class to challenge WBA super middleweight champion Rocky Fielding (27-1, 15 KOs) of England in a bout which will streamed internationally via DAZN — is not so much a one-off event as the first of many planned Garden parties in which Canelo will be the headliner.

“You know, Canelo’s always wanted to fight in New York,” said Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy. “It seems like the last three years he’s been talking to Oscar and myself about fighting in New York and, obviously, at the Garden. He’s a big fan of Muhammad Ali and idolized Muhammad Ali.

“And to fight at the Mecca of boxing where all the greats have fought … Oscar fought there as well. It’s something (Alvarez) always wanted to do. So we’re extremely excited that we were able to squeeze in one more fight in December after having such a tough rematch in September with (Gennady) Golovkin.”

So what about that, Canelo?

“I would like it to be the first of many fights there,” Alvarez replied when asked about the hints he is dropping about possibly making MSG his new pugilistic home instead of Vegas. “To fight in New York is another landmark in my career and is another important story in my career. I want it to be the first of many more.”

All well and good, although Fielding, virtually anonymous on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, has no chance of playing the role of Frazier to Canelo’s Ali, or vice versa, even if he somehow captures lightning in a bottle. This also is the Briton’s first fight in New York, and who can blame him for daring to dream that pulling off the upset will make him a superstar in his own right?

“This is what I’m in boxing for,” Fielding, 31, said of the longshot opportunity he hopes to capitalize on. “This is what I’ve been doing in boxing since I was nine, for these nights. To fight at Madison Square Garden against the biggest name in boxing is unbelievable.”

Fielding isn’t quite the no-hoper Buster Douglas appeared to be on Feb. 11, 1990, when, as a 42-1 underdog, he pulled off boxing’s biggest and most memorable upset with a 10th-round knockout of the seemingly invincible Mike Tyson in Tokyo. But Fielding is an 8-1 outsider for those willing to place a wager on him, and Canelo backers would have to bet $160 to make a 10-buck profit.

Any chance Fielding has of shocking the world lies in the fact that he is noticeably larger than Canelo, at 6-foot-1 to the celebrated challenger’s 5-8, and with a 75-inch reach to Canelo’s 70½-inch reach. That, and the fact Alvarez is moving up to an unfamiliar weight class, is enough to fuel Team Rocky’s belief that they can spoil the star attraction’s New York debut.

“We’re going to ask (Alvarez) questions,” said Jamie Moore, Fielding’s trainer. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions regarding him moving up to super middleweight. The height and reach advantages that Rocky’s got is huge. How is he going to cope with those problems? When they come face to face in the middle of the ring, Rocky’s going to be huge, an absolutely huge specimen compared to Canelo.”

But there is another saying that seemingly applies here, and that is that it’s the size of the fight in the dog, not the size of the dog in the fight, that matters. And the talent gap between Canelo and this Rocky, who is not likely to ever be compared to Marciano, Graziano or Balboa, is of much more consequence that a couple of inches and pounds.

The incentives for Alvarez taking this fight are many. If – when – he wins and becomes a world champion at super middle, he joins fellow Mexican greats Julio Cesar Chavez, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Jorge Arce as three-division champions. OK, so Alvarez has already announced he will be moving back down to middleweight. That itch he wants to scratch as a three-division titlist, even if only temporarily, is satisfied, as is his desire to make more dough before the end of the year and to show New York what he’s all about. Who knows, maybe he’ll even find time get in a little Christmas shopping at some of Manhattan’s trendier boutiques.

If there is a drawback to Canelo’s Manhattan adventure, other than the almost-unthinkable possibility of a loss, it’s that New York fight fans, whose reputation as a tough lot is deserved, are not disposed to be warmly receptive to an uninspired performance as those who lavished so much love on him in the Nevada desert, Mexico and Texas. Canelo might be cherished elsewhere, but from the opening bell he is going to have to prove himself anew to a rowdy crowd that is as apt to boo as to cheer.

So it’s up to Canelo to make New York as much his as it was for Sinatra. He theorized about the unlikely possibility of a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. (“If that fight were to happen again, I would defeat him, no problem”) and the presumably more realistic chances of a third go at Golovkin (“If we made two, I’ll make a third one”). There are other attractive matchups that could bring him back to the Garden, if his fascination with the place is as genuine as he now claims and Golden Boy accedes to his wishes.

“We’re open to doing more fights in New York. No problem,” Gomez said. “Everything seems to be going smooth. Ticket sales are great. We’re expecting a sellout. If everything goes as planned, why not?”

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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How Oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro Became a Sidebar in the Buster Douglas Story

Arne K. Lang

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Buster Douglas, Vaccaro

When Jimmy Vaccaro, a close friend of long standing, set odds on the Tyson-Douglas fight, he never imagined that he would become a central figure in the story about the greatest upset in boxing, arguably the most famous upset in all of sports. At some point during the course of the betting, the odds favoring Tyson hit 42 to 1 and that became the title of the newest ESPN “30 for 30” documentary which premiered on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

A little background. Vaccaro grew up in blue-collar Trafford, Pennsylvania, a small town about 20 miles from Pittsburgh. An older brother, John Paul “Sonny” Vaccaro, went on to become the most powerful man in basketball by virtue of his relationships with players, coaches, and shoe companies. He is credited with hatching Nike’s “Air Jordan” empire. (Sonny was the subject of an ESPN “30 for 30” documentary in 2016.)

In 1975, Jimmy Vaccaro arrived in Las Vegas and found work as a 21-dealer at the Royal Inn, a small casino that sat just off the Strip. The pay for a break-in dealer was $16.50 a shift.

Nevada had recently passed legislation that allowed sports betting to co-exist under the same roof with other forms of gambling. During the previous 25 years, sports betting was quarantined in little mom-and-pop bookie joints. When the Royal Inn put in a sports book, Vaccaro moved over to that department.

In November of 1989, after stops at several other books, Steve Wynn hired Vaccaro to open a sportsbook inside his newest property, the Mirage. Situated in the center of the Las Vegas Strip, the Mirage, with its artificial volcano outside the front entrance, was instantly the most “must-see” attraction in town.

At the Mirage, Vaccaro was the only department head among those that interacted with hotel guests who wasn’t made to wear a suit and tie. Sometimes he showed up for work in jeans. He was a “suit” by virtue of being a department head (a derogatory term in Las Vegas, similar in some respects to bean counter), but by all accounts he didn’t own an actual suit. Concordantly, his style of bookmaking, unrestrained by Wynn, could be described as freewheeling.

In bookmaking, unlike pari-mutuel horse racing, odds are posted on an event and then adjusted, if necessary, to stimulate more betting on the side that is under-bet. A perfectly balanced book — where there is an identical amount of money on each side — is an ideal construct, an abstraction, but bookmakers strive to achieve this by adjusting the odds to where they get two-way action and thereby stand to make roughly the same profit regardless of the outcome.

At the Mirage, Vaccaro often didn’t wait for the money to show to adjust a betting line. If he had a “dead number” – for example, a pointspread on a football game that wasn’t attracting any good-sized wagers – he would adjust it in hopes of stimulating activity. He did this on slow days, or during slow periods of a day, simply as an antidote to boredom.

On one particularly slow day, basically just for the fun of it, Vaccaro decided to post a line on the Tyson-Douglas fight. Tyson would obviously be such a heavy favorite that the proposition would attract little betting, likely just a few peanuts from the suckers in the “bet a toothpick to win a lumberyard” crowd, but, what the heck, there was nothing wrong with a little window dressing. None of the other books in Nevada had it and most hadn’t even bothered to offer odds on how long the fight would last. The wise-guys figured that Tyson would blow Douglas away within the first three rounds.

Then something incredible happened. The seemingly invincible Iron Mike Tyson lost. Buster knocked him out in the 10th round. In short order, Vaccaro was summoned to appear on “Good Morning America.”

Window dressing at the Mirage wasn’t like window dressing at other properties. At other properties, a proposition designed as a conversation piece would be attached to a very low limit. The primary intent was free publicity. But the Mirage attracted a fair number of so-called whales, men (mostly from Asia) who would bet more in a short fling at baccarat than an average workingman would earn in an entire year. If inclined to bet on a sporting event, a whale could get down pretty much whatever he wanted. The sky was the limit.

Vaccaro has said that he took a $160,000 wager on Mike Tyson at 40/1 odds, a wager that would have won $4,000. That’s plausible given the clientele of the Mirage, but it’s a figure that I have always taken with a grain of salt. I say this because my friend Jimmy Vaccaro has tossed out different numbers over the years when asked about the betting.

According to various newspaper reports and what appears in certain books, the betting line opened at 27/1 (the consensus) or 35/1. It crested at 42/1 (the consensus) or 48/1.

Many years ago, Vaccaro told me for a book that I was writing that he accepted a $56,000 wager on Tyson at 28/1, a $64,000 wager at 32/1, and a $143,000 wager at 39/1. He would subsequently provide different figures (close, but different) to Las Vegas Review-Journal sportswriter Stephen Nover and others.

What is almost certainly true is that the odds hit 42/1 as they bounced around and that’s as good a number as any to illuminate the magnitude of Buster’s upset.

Nowadays, when so much betting is done online, one often sees fights where the odds are higher than 42/1. But usually these lines are just for show. Getting down a serious wager on the underdog is out of the question, although an exception would likely be made for a valued client who spreads his action around. In the old days, there were so-called newspaper lines, lines provided to newspapers for information purposes. If one wanted to bet into this line, he would likely be told, and gruffly, to go down to the newspaper office and talk to the sports editor. Good luck with that.

Odds play an important role in sports because they cut to the chase, knifing through the ballyhoo to inform us whether a match is likely to be competitive. And, as mentioned, they serve the purpose of quantifying the bigness of an upset. Before the Tyson-Douglas fight, the biggest upset in heavyweight boxing in recent times came when Leon Spinks upset Muhammad Ali in their first meeting. Ali was widely quoted as a 9/1 favorite.

Odds bedevil sportswriters, however, because they are not static and often vary from place to place. When a sportswriter weaves odds into his story, he is taking a snapshot of something that is fluid. It’s sort of like citing the distance from the shoreline to the lifeguard station at a beach. (As an aside, I would advise readers to be cautious of recycling odds that appear in old books. Most boxing historians have treated the odds very loosely and some have invented odds to imbue a storied fight with a higher shock quotient for dramatic effect.)

During my lifetime, there have been at least four instances where a baseball team available at 100/1 in April went on to win the World Series. The Leicester City soccer club overcame considerably higher odds to win the 2016 Premier League title. So, from a numbers standpoint, Buster Douglas’s upset was hardly the biggest upset in sports.

But there are upsets and then there are quantifiably lesser upsets that register much higher on the shock meter. I once met a person who told me that when he read in his Sunday morning newspaper that Mike Tyson had lost, the world stood still, as it did when JFK was assassinated and when OJ was acquitted. For some people, talk about the Tyson-Douglas fight brings back a flood of memories even if they never saw the fight.

By the way, Jimmy Vaccaro, who is prominently featured in “42 to 1,” is currently on the payroll at the South Point, a locals-oriented casino that is a good drive from the Strip, although it sits on the same boulevard. His main responsibility, so far as anyone can tell, is to hang around the sports book, one of the busiest in the city. His boss, South Point owner Michael Gaughan, once famously said, “I don’t know exactly what it is that Jimmy does around here.”

He’s still the most quotable sports betting personality in town, and as down-to-earth as ever, about what one would expect from a fellow whose father spent 42 years working in a Pennsylvania steel mill.

There are rumors that Vaccaro will be heading back to Pennsylvania before the Super Bowl and the odds of that happening, unfortunately, are a lot lower than 42/1. He’s the last of an era and the town would miss him.

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The Avila Perspective: Canelo in Manhattan and other Boxing Notes

David A. Avila

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Canelo

Amber alert. If you spot a muscular redhead walking through the streets of New York City don’t be surprised. It’s probably Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

Once upon a time it was strange to see Mexicans in Manhattan, but today in the 21st century, plenty of Mexicans live in the city in areas like Hell’s Kitchen.

It figures that’s where the Mexicans would live.

Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs) moves up a weight division to challenge England’s Rocky Fielding (27-1, 15 KOs) for the WBA super middleweight title at Madison Square Garden. DAZN will stream the world title fight and entire card free for new users.

The great experiment begins.

Fresh off his $300 million signed contract Alvarez makes his DAZN debut in New York City, an area famous for its ability to attract boxing connoisseurs. Few areas in the USA have boxing fans like those crowds attending big fights at the Garden.

“It fills me with a lot of pride because I know great fighters have fought there, like Muhammad Ali,” said Alvarez. “But to be the main event there at MSG, and if I’m not mistaken, the first Mexican there in a long time, it fills me with pride.”

Also filling up the boxing ring will be the much taller WBA champion Fielding who has a distinct height advantage. When they stood next to each other, the British fighter towered over Alvarez like the Chrysler Building overlooking the tallest tree in Central Park.

“It’s a massive fight for me at Madison Square Garden and a big challenge in Canelo Alvarez,” said Fielding, 31, who sports a five-inch height asset over Mexico’s Alvarez.

Fielding won the super middleweight title this past July when he knocked out undefeated Tyrone Zeuge in Offenburg, Germany. Knockouts have been a best friend for the Englishman in half of his last six fights.

Canelo will be carrying the load for the boxing card that features several other notable Golden Boy Promotions fighters. DAZN hopes that his star power can transfer from television to streaming.

Star power. It’s a crazy asset that can’t always be measured but in the case of Canelo he was able to attract around 1 million pay-per-views on several occasions.

From Morongo to MSG

Ten years ago an 18-year-old Canelo made his American debut at Morongo Casino, a venue that holds about 400 people. Max. I remember it well.

Located in the desert, few would have predicted that freckled face welterweight would become one of boxing’s biggest draws. Well, here he is poised to make an entrance like one of those divas on Broadway. What’s the male equivalent?

Canelo looks to become a three-division world champ of Mexican heritage. It’s a list rife with hall of fame names like Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and of course Julio Cesar Chavez. That’s lofty company.

“Canelo is going to make history that night and be one on the shortlist of Mexicans to be a three-division world champion,” said Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy Promotions.

“It’s very important to be in that list of about ten Mexicans to become three-division world champions, so very important to enter history. That’s why I’m here taking on this important fight, and it’s important that we win this title,” said Alvarez, 28, who lives in Guadalajara.

Facing someone as tall as Fielding does have its drawbacks, but the Mexican redhead has tangled with opponents equally as tall and heavy.

Does anyone remember Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Back on June 2017, the battle of Mexicans saw Alvarez destroy Chavez Jr. over 12 one-sided rounds with his speed, skills and relentless attack. Can Fielding find a flaw in Canelo’s armor?

“I believe what we worked on and what I can do can cause a lot of damage and a lot of — a lot more than what people are thinking,” said Fielding.

It’s an intriguing matchup designed to entice New York area fans to watch the Mexican fighter perform just months after he toppled Gennady “GGG” Golovkin from the middleweight throne and handed him his first professional loss. In a nip and tuck display of trench warfare, Canelo traded hellacious blows with Triple G and emerged the victor by majority decision.

Golovkin’s team had dared the Mexican to fight Mexican style and he obliged and overcame the Kazakh assassin’s best blows.

Mexican style has its detriments too. Those who use the offensive go-for-broke fighting method can also be the victim. It’s a 50/50 style meant to display a kill or be killed attitude that goes back to the Mexican Revolution when Pancho Villa’s army would descend on machine gun nests on horseback or on foot and overrun them with brute force. It was kill or be killed. That’s Mexican style.

Will Canelo resort to Mexican style or will he utilize the boxing skills that have made him one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world?

On Saturday fans in New York will see firsthand and those watching on DAZN will too.

HBO Farewell

Last weekend the final boxing show by HBO featured top female fighters Cecilia Braekhus and Claressa Shields in separate world title fights at the StubHub Center on a cold night.

About 900 fans scattered around the outdoor arena to watch the event that pit Braekhus against Aleksandra Lopes in a welterweight match. It was not very interesting.

In the middleweight match Shields fought Belgium’s Femke Hermans in another very one-sided fight.

The challengers both looked to survive and were severely overmatched. Punches were seldom thrown by the challengers. It was pitiful.

HBO did not offer much money for the event and thus the opponents willing to fight for the agreed purses gave lukewarm performances.

Had a budget of at least $400,000 for each fight been offered, both title fights could have easily brought worthy opponents for Braekhus like Layla McCarter who was present for the boxing card or Kali Reis who fought the welterweight champion last May.

But HBO left the cupboard bare and offered crumbs on its final boxing show.

Shields and Braekhus would have been better off fighting each other. Perhaps that fight is in the future.

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