- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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This much we know: Former junior middleweight titlist Canelo Alvarez has a March 8 Showtime PPV date at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. What we don’t know is who Alvarez will face.
Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer has said publicly that he has made an offer for more than $10 million to Miguel Cotto to face Alvarez. Obviously, Cotto is the most attractive opponent out there for Alvarez.
But as each day passes, and based on what I hear from folks involved, it seems more and more likely that Cotto is going to pass on the fight and instead go for a June fight against middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. Cotto can’t make as much money against Martinez as he can to face Alvarez, but he also can’t get an opportunity to become the first Puerto Rican fighter to win a world title in four weight classes by facing Alvarez.
Cotto can do that against Martinez and that is obviously worth something and a reason he would leave money on the table.
So if you believe, as I do, that Cotto is ultimately going to go for Martinez rather than Alvarez, who then should Alvarez fight?
Alvarez will be in San Antonio this week for two reasons -- to watch brother Ricardo Alvarez’s fight on the Adrien Broner-Marcos Maidana undercard and also to meet with Schaefer to go over details related to March 8, including discussing opponents.
Here’s my quick look at the candidates as I see them with the caveat that Alvarez is staying at 154 pounds and not moving up or down in weight. I really see only four candidates who make any sense, especially because I do not see any of the plethora of good welterweights that Golden Boy promotes being viable to move up in weight for March 8.
Here are the candidates:
• Erislandy Lara: He holds an interim belt at 154 and easily dominated Austin Trout on Saturday night, dropping him and rolling to a points win. It was Trout’s second straight loss. The first was a very competitive, tough decision loss to Alvarez in April.
After Saturday’s fight Schaefer said Lara was a candidate for the Alvarez fight. Lara is good. Very good. He is certainly a worthy opponent. That said, I think the last thing in the world Alvarez or Golden Boy want is the slickest, most technical fighter in the division to be Alvarez’s opponent in his first fight after he was so easily outboxed by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September. Lara might very well give him a boxing lesson like Mayweather did.
From a business point of view, it just doesn’t make any sense, either. Alvarez generates enormous money and has a huge fan base. Lara is not a draw at all. Alvarez needs to be brought back from his loss appropriately, not thrown in with a guy who could hand him a second loss and severely injure his brand. Alvarez is only 23 and his team should be looking long term.
• Carlos Molina: Molina has a world title, which he won on the undercard of Mayweather-Alvarez in an awful fight. Showtime has an option on his next fight so a bout with Alvarez can be made easily, especially because Molina wants the fight.
He is kind of like a poor man’s Lara -- very good, very technical and not overly exciting. In fact, he and Lara fought to a draw in 2011 in a fight many believe Molina won. I can see Alvarez and Golden Boy gambling and taking this fight. Like Lara, Molina isn’t a draw. He is not unbeatable, though, and the allure of a world title surely is appealing to Alvarez. Although let’s be honest -- does anyone think this fight would be exciting?
• Alfredo Angulo: Angulo is a straight-ahead brawler who makes exciting fights. He lost his last fight in June by 10th-round TKO in a rumble with Lara, whom he knocked down twice before Angulo suffered a severe orbital injury.
Although he lost to Lara, there’s no doubt a fight between Alvarez and Angulo would be a crowd-pleasing fight. Angulo also is a bigger draw than Lara or Molina, and that’s something to consider for a pay-per-view fight.
Even more important is the fact that if you are guiding Alvarez, who could have a long career worth perhaps hundreds of millions, matchmaking is paramount. Angulo simply has the better style for Alvarez to face at this stage of his career than Molina or Lara and also is the biggest draw among the candidates. Personally, I think Alvarez-Angulo would be one helluva fun fight.
• Sergey Rabchenko: Rabchenko, from Belarus, is the European champion but also ranked No. 1 in the WBC’s poor rankings. Alvarez is No. 2, so this fight could be billed as an eliminator for a title shot. Since Mayweather probably will vacate the title at some point, it would set up Alvarez to reclaim the belt that means so much to him.
Schaefer said Rabchenko is a possibility, although I believe he’s a major dark horse. It’s a deal that could be made easily since Rabchenko is promoted by Ricky Hatton, who has a longstanding relationship with Golden Boy, his former promoter.
There’s nothing fancy about Rabchenko’s style, so he works for Alvarez from the boxing perspective, but he is totally unknown to American and Mexican fans. He would be a non-entity on a PPV promotion and that’s not good.
That’s my breakdown. My money is on Angulo getting the fight. He makes the most sense because he gives Alvarez the best chance to win and he is, by far, the most marketable name of among the candidates.