Saul "Canelo" Alvarez
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Canelo Alvarez, Boxing’s Biggest Star, Returns to the Ring With the Sport at a Crossroads

In the midst of the “Triller-fication” of the Sweet Science, the Mexican icon takes his legacy one step forward.

On May 8th, the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world renews an annual tradition: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Mexican national hero and boxing’s biggest star, is once again fighting on Cinco de Mayo weekend. Even compared to the last time he fought, however — the champ stopped an overmatched Avni Yildirim in three rounds barely two months ago — the sport’s landscape has changed.

It’s time to reckon with the Age of Triller, plus a number of other pressing items for the pugilistically inclined.

THE TRILLER-FICATION OF BOXING?

An all-too-common refrain among boxing casuals? That viral video brothers Jake and Logan Paul’s pay-per-view spectacles on Triller are contributing directly to the death of the Sweet Science. Let’s be clear, however: No matter how you feel about YouTubers lacing up gloves to fight non-boxers like Nate Robinson and Ben Askren, they’re not the ones hurting the sport.

Compared to its heydays driven by Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, and Floyd Mayweather Jr., boxing tends not to attract as many casual fans in the US as it used to, spurring HBO to discontinue its broadcasts and pay-per-views in 2018. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing; the diehards will still show up to watch American standouts like Errol Spence Jr., Terence Crawford, Deontay Wilder, and Teofimo Lopez work their magic all the same.

But given the sport’s specialty status, we can’t exactly be surprised when a viral video star marches in and generates massive interest among those very same casuals who stopped having a favorite fighter when Mayweather retired in 2017 — to say nothing of a whole new generation of Gen Z fans who are choosing boxing over baseball, notes Front Office Sports.

Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren may not have achieved the 1.5 million pay-per-view buys that the former insisted. But even if the card did half that number at $49.99 a pop, we’re looking at a PPV haul of $37,500,000. An event that boasts figures like that may be many things — but it’s not a publicity stunt.

Money talks. And right on cue, Mayweather has reportedly committed to return to the ring for an exhibition bout against Logan Paul on June 6. In an instant, the undefeated icon assured that even purists can no longer pretend that the Triller-fication of boxing doesn’t have legs.

UNDISPUTED IN THE DESERT

After months of delay and quibbling between teams, WBC champ Tyson Fury and WBA, WBO, and IBF belt-holder Anthony Joshua might just finally be ready to duke it out for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world.

The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger was first to report that a $150 million site fee is being prepared to land the superfight in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The previous boxing site fee record? $60 million. With a target set for August, it’s looking more and more like the biggest all-British boxing match of all time will be going down on the dunes with a chance to break even more records.

Fury’s 2020 rematch with Deontay Wilder generated over $16.9 million in gate revenue, plus $110,000,000 in pay-per-view buys just in the United States. In overtaking the latter figure with site fees alone, Fury vs. Joshua has a chance to set a new high watermark for heavyweight boxing as a global market-mover.

CANELO DE MAYO

After the realities of the pandemic prevented Canelo Alvarez from fighting on Cinco de Mayo weekend last year. This weekend, he’s righting a wrong.

In a fight that was more than a year in the making, the champ heads to the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium to battle British titlist Billy Joe Saunders Saturday night to unify the super middleweight (168-pound) championship of the world.

COVID-19 postponed what was meant to be a May 2020 clash between these two, and a bitter legal battle only made things worse. When Canelo partners Golden Boy Promotions and DAZN insisted that he take less money for a fight that wouldn’t have the benefit of paying fans in attendance, the champ sued both of them for nearly $300 million, alleging breach of contract.

Canelo ultimately made nice with DAZN, but left Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy after the parties settled out of court. His bottom line ended up being just fine, as he ranked No. 30 on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-earning athletes of 2020, bringing home an estimated $37 million.

While Smith is expected to cash out in the $8-$10 million range, easily the biggest payday of his career, Alvarez is reportedly guaranteed at least $20 million. And that’s not the only revenue stream he can expect this week: he’s releasing an all-new NFT collection in collaboration with DAZN to help promote the showdown and give fans a chance to win exclusive prizes, including signed gloves and tickets to upcoming fights.

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That’s all for now. See you in Arlington, fight fans, and remember: punching will never go out of style.