What We Learned From Canelo vs. Kirkland
The first knockdown of the fight.
Photos by Eric Sauseda
Before we can talk about the future, we have to talk about the recent past.
There have been many, many complaints about the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight. One of the lesser but more interesting ones is about how they did nothing with the undercard. You may have watched them in hopes of getting your $100 worth, but do you really remember anything about them? Probably not. The fights before the main spectacle came off more as obligations than as anything else, which is baffling.
Mayweather and Pacquiao won't be around forever (celebrate however much you feel necessary), and with their retirement will come a void in the landscape of PPV boxing. This isn't to say that boxing is in danger of dying — there will always be dudes willing to punch each other in the face for money — but it's a reality that needs to be faced: While boxing has stars, it needs more.
Which is why the lack of interesting undercard for the biggest fight in history is ultimately kind of mindblowing. Here was a chance to introduce millions who may not normally watch boxing to some new, exciting faces and what we got was...well...you don't remember, right?
Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, James Kirkland headed to the ring and once the bell rang, seemed to be fighting for his very existence. Unfortunately for him, things did not go well, which is to say that he took a punch to the face that was so hard it may very well have separated him from his existence for a few seconds. It was not a good night.
Saturday night, Saúl Álvarez (but just call him Canelo because that's what everyone else does) headed to the ring to make a statement. He wanted to remind the world that exciting boxers still exist, men who aren't afraid to go out and create beautiful violence. At 24, he wanted to remind everyone that he's the future of the sport. His night could not have gone any better.
1. Right Now, Sky Is the Limit for Canelo. The guy just has so much going for him right now: He's young, he's got a great look, he can fight and he's got legions of fans. James Kirkland is from Texas, but finding someone who was cheering for him in the 30,000+ crowd was nigh impossible at times. Simply put, Canelo fans packed Minute Maid Park and made him the hometown favorite over the Texan.
Right now Canelo has plenty of options. He's for sure going to fight before the end of the year, and Golden Boy Promotions confirmed it's keeping a close eye on Miguel Cotto's fight in a few weeks. A Cotto win likely leads to boxing's next big PPV payday, as the odds of Canelo fighting Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin in the next 12 months are pretty slim, although he basically said in the post-fight press conference that he'll square off with GGG eventually.
Of course, Andreas Hale's suggestion doesn't sound too bad either (especially if Mayweather/Pacquiao II falls through):
Pacquiao-Canelo on Cinco De Mayo weekend 2016 at a catch weight doesn't sound too bad either.— Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) May 10, 2015
Get used to having the chance to see Canelo in person. He said he plans on fighting in Texas at least once a year for the next few years.
The smile of a man who had a good night.
2. The Shadow of Mayweather/Pacquiao. When a fight breaks PPV records the way Mayweather/Manny did, you can't really escape it, and Saturday night it was on everyone's lips when they weren't screaming their lungs out for Canelo. It was in online chatter, fans were talking about it in Minute Maid Park, shade was thrown at it during the press conference. Mayweather/Pacquiao being less than stellar may have been a bummer for people who dropped their money on it, but it's given other promoters plenty of ammunition for quotable statements.
Golden Boy Promotions made a big noise before and after the fight about how it put together fights for the fans and not the money and how Canelo/Kirkland was the type of fan people should have seen last weekend. It's good business, true, but it'll be interesting if Golden Boy will be able to spin things into not just big paydays for Canelo, but big things for the rest of its roster. Again, boxing needs new stars.
3. A Few Words on Taishan. So here's the thing: Taishan Dong is amazing. He's likely never going to be a great fighter, but as an attraction, he is utterly fascinating. He is seven feet tall with an 84-inch reach, and his nickname is The Great Wall because he is massive and from China. While he won only by majority decision (which seemed fair; I personally scored the fight 3-1 Taishan), the four rounds he fought were utterly ridiculous and entertaining.
Simply put, regular boxers don't train to fight a guy seven feet tall. The end result is two things happen: When Taishan is on offense, he just pushes you around the ring while occasionally trying to knock your head off, and when Taishan is on defense, he just takes massive shots to the face and upper body because there's so much of him to hit, it's really hard to miss. But to his credit, he was throwing real combinations and took some solid punishment without going down. I don't know if he'll be a star in boxing, but you have to think Vince McMahon and the WWE are salivating at the chance to sign him in a few years.
But maybe come up with a better nickname. And no, Taishan "The Enormous" Dong is not the answer.