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Saturday’s Canelo Mismatch: Tolerable or Inexcusable?

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It’s never a GOOD thing when you’re asking people to pay a price for a product that was always destined to be inferior. That’s pretty much what DAZN served up last Saturday night, live from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, when they pushed Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Turkey’s Avni Yildirim as premium content suitable to be placed behind their paywall subscription service (and also offered up as a pay-per-view option).

Everyone who knew boxing knew that the Turkish fighter was not going to win. The only unanswered question was how badly he would lose. And, as things turned out, it was pretty bad. Alvarez, who is regarded by many as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world right now, walked right through his challenger, met with zero resistance, and saw his hand raised after Yildirim’s corner threw in the towel after the third round.

The criticisms and laments were predictably loud and plentiful.

Even the usually shameless WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman, whose organization deemed Yildirim worthy of mandatory challenger status for WBC title-holding Alvarez, felt the need to do some damage control after the bout, stating that he plans on looking “into the process” that determines his organization’s rankings.

“I’m sorry for Avni,” Sulaiman said after the slaughter. “The paper sometimes doesn’t reflect the actions, and it was very unfortunate. We had great expectations, and it’s a matter where we need to look into the process that is not working in some roads.

“Definitely, there are things that we have to go back and look at what is happening and how things evolve. As I say, [Canelo] was tremendously successful, he was in great shape, and that stage should have been for a much greater fight.”

DAZN and Alvarez supporters made excuses for the mismatch, laying the blame at the feet of the Mexico City-based WBC, claiming that Alvarez HAD to fight Yildirim or face being stripped of the title.

But that’s a cop-out.

Alvarez is a big enough star to put the kibosh on any foe he wishes not to face. And those familiar with the business and organizational dynamics of the sport know that the WBC will roll over to accommodate a money-making fighter’s whims– especially Alvarez, who abandoned their belt once before and cost them a fortune in lost sanctioning fees before allowing himself to be wooed back to their side.

Canelo could’ve rejected Yildirim. He chose not to.

But are the critics being too harsh on the 30-year-old from Guadalajara?

Alvarez last fought on December 19, scoring a dominant and one-sided decision win over WBA titlist Callum Smith, who was widely regarded as the no. 1 ranked super middleweight in the world at the time. He’s slated to fight WBO super middleweight champ Billy Joe Saunders in May in a unification bout. He’s talked about then facing IBF super middleweight titlist Caleb Plant in September. There’s also some talk about a possible bout in December.

If Alvarez’s plan comes through, it’ll see him face three top 5 super middleweights and a WBC mandatory challenger in a ten-month span with maybe one more fight before the end of 2021. Something like this is unheard of in the present tense world of boxing, where the stars usually only fight twice a year at most, and not always back-to-back against top-ranked challengers.

There’s a strong case to be made that maybe we let this one go. Alvarez is doing big things against sound opposition, working towards full 4-belt unification in the division, and should be allowed a soft touch here and there.

Maybe the bad guy here, aside from the WBC, is streaming service DAZN, who knew what they were serving up and, maybe, should’ve pulled down their paywall to offer this stay-busy curb stomping as part of a “free weekend” promotion.

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Paul Magno has over forty years of experience in and around the sport of boxing and has had his hand in everything, from officiating to training. As a writer, his work has appeared in several online publications, including Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, FightHype, Max Boxing, Boxing.com, Inside Fights, The Boxing Tribune, The Queensberry Rules, and Premier Boxing Champions. You can reach him at: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com