Canelo Alvarez’s next fight is set for a huge crowd but George Gigney wonders if 60,000 fans attending an event in the current climate is good news or not
CANELO continued to break new ground this week, in more ways than one. First, it was confirmed that Canelo Alvarez’s next fight with Billy Joe Saunders in May will take place in front of a crowd of more than 60,000 fans in Texas, meaning it will likely be the largest crowd for a sporting event in the US since the coronavirus pandemic shutdown began in March 2020.
It seemed like the UFC would take that mantle with UFC 261 in late April, which will be the first sporting event in the US to feature a capacity crowd since the start of the pandemic. That event will be staged at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Florida, which holds 15,000 people.
However, Canelo – in conjunction with Matchroom Boxing and DAZN – will attract a much larger audience to the AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
On the one hand, it further exemplifies Canelo’s standing as a global superstar, but on the other it raises concerns about COVID-19 protocols. Florida and Texas have been notoriously more relaxed with their restrictions in comparison with other states and territories. As of two weeks ago, Texas was recording about as many cases per day as the UK on average, despite having a population less than half the size. The state is now completely open and there is no mask mandate – it’s unclear yet if there will be rules on masks for the Canelo-Saunders fight.
The obvious concern is that this event will become a “super-spreader” and cause a spike in cases, setting Texas – and the US – back in its efforts to control the pandemic. Alternatively, the event will come off with relatively little incidence, thus signalling a turning point in America’s handling of COVID-19.
Either way, the fight marks a pivotal moment for sporting events across the world, making it seem more like a science experiment than a bona-fide return to normality.
Away from fighting, Canelo made more history with his hands during the week when he placed them in cement outside the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, in a tradition dating back to 1927.
The honour is usually only reserved for those in Hollywood, and Canelo is just the second boxer to cement his place in one of the most popular tourist attractions in Los Angeles. Victor McLaglen was the first fighter to do so in 1936.
Obviously there have been more prominent boxers since then – the likes of Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and even former Canelo foe Floyd Mayweather – but for the flame-haired Mexican to be honoured in this way is still a huge deal. It’s likely his leading-man looks had something to do with it.
Speaking to talkSPORT, Eddie Hearn debunked claims that Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua might be delayed until later in the year in order to secure a better site fee with larger audiences.
“I don’t know where all this information is coming from, but everyone’s just guessing,” he said, while confirming that they have several large offers to stage the fight in June or July.
That is reassuring, and Hearn also insisted that they are aiming to finalise a venue within the next month, with seven or eight different options in play. Gone are the days when a fight of such magnitude would take place in Las Vegas almost by default.
Hearn also claimed an unnamed billionaire approached him about personally fronting the money for the fight. Whether that’s true or not will likely always remain a mystery, but there is an interesting bidding war between numerous territories for this fight.
There was one person who was not as happy with Hearn’s announcement last week that the fight is signed; Fury’s co-promoter Frank Warren. He told talkSPORT: “Everybody signed an agreement that there’d be no announcements unless they were joint and [Hearn’s announcement] came out [of] the blue. We‘re all not happy but it’s out there now. Long way to go yet.”
Canelo was all over the place this week, including on Mike Tyson’s Hotboxin’ Podcast. Reflecting on his 2013 loss to Mayweather, he said: “When I fought Floyd I was 23. [I have grown] so much. I needed more experience, maturity. I don’t take that fight like a loss, I take that fight like [a lesson]. I learned from that fight.”
That is very much on brand for Canelo, a fighter who seems to learn and adapt from every single one of his bouts.
However it was Tyson who dropped the more newsworthy revelation on the episode, claiming that he will be fighting once again after recently boxing Roy Jones Jnr. He floated the date of May 29 and claimed it will happen in Miami.
For the past few months there have been swirling rumours that Tyson will be fighting Evander Holyfield for a third time in some form of exhibition bout, and this could be what he is referring to.
Oscar De La Hoya also continued to talk up a return to the ring when he appeared on the Pug and Copp Show, claiming that he’s been sparring and had “forgotten” how good he was. Hopefully he will focus more on the likes of rising stars Vergil Ortiz Jnr and Ryan Garcia, both of whom he stated will soon be unleashed at the highest levels. Ortiz earned an excellent win over Maurice Hooker at the weekend, and the apparent plan is for Garcia to take part in a “world tour” and box in various different countries to boost his global appeal.
That would be a refreshing move and, now that Canelo has parted ways with De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, Oscar will be looking to mould these young prospects into legitimate superstars.