Having directed so much of Canelo Alvarez’s career, from Mexican television through multiple boxing world titles, Oscar De La Hoya feels equipped to comment on his upset loss last week to light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol.
“The fact that the promoter of this event pushed Bivol on Canelo, it was the dumbest move in boxing history … it’s not knowing boxing,” De La Hoya said, calling out Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn without ever naming the promoter.
De La Hoya split with Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) after the fighter sued for and won his release from the promoter in 2020. Alvarez argued a breach-of-contract, filing that Golden Boy did not provide him a fight as the COVID-19 pandemic raged.
Hearn replaced De La Hoya, and staged three super-middleweight bouts that led to Alvarez standing as the undisputed 168-pound champion in November when he fought under the Premier Boxing Champions banner.
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Earlier this year, Alvarez opted for a multi-fight package with Hearn and DAZN that featured Bivol and a planned trilogy meeting against rival Gennadiy Golovkin at 168 pounds in September.
Alvarez rebuffed a two-fight offer from PBC that could’ve included 168- or 164-pound fights against unbeaten middleweight champion Jermall Charlo, unbeaten welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. or unbeaten former 168-pound champion David Benavidez.
“It was the stupidest move … whoever allowed Canelo to fight Bivol. I would’ve never allowed Canelo to fight Bivol,” De La Hoya said. “Look exactly at what happened. Canelo’s on the top of the world. He’s the king. Why fight a guy that if Canelo fights 10 times, he loses 10 times? And he has nothing to gain. Nothing to win. Nobody knew Bivol.”
Also promoted by Hearn, Russia’s Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs) proceeded to stun the boxing world Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, landing more punches in all 12 rounds than -600 favorite Alvarez. Bivol flashed a sharp jab to set up repeated power punches that backed Alvarez, while using his natural size advantage to absorb Alvarez’s best punches.
De La Hoya once allowed Alvarez to fight all-time great Floyd Mayweather Jr. as a 23-year-old in 2013 — the only other loss on Canelo’s record — but that was seen as a risk-nothing opportunity to gain experience and exposure. Alvarez took that moment and ran, ultimately becoming a four-division world champion and the pound-for-pound king.
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From that precipice, he agreed to take a second 175-pound title fight. Only this time, instead of facing aged Sergey Kovalev, he met the younger, peaked Bivol.
“It’s (the promoter’s) job to guide a fighter’s career,” De La Hoya said. “It’s your job to know what’s the best move, to see what the biggest and best fight for his career is. This was a terrible fight for Canelo’s career. Styles make fights. Bivol’s a great fighter. And nobody knew who Bivol was before this fight. People were not even thinking of Bivol.
“I’m sure it was a shocker to all the casual fans who don’t understand how and why Bivol beat Canelo. But Bivol was the bigger guy, he was the better guy, he had the better game plan and he beat Canelo hands-down. If you look carefully, Bivol fought a disciplined fight. His distance was perfection. Every time Canelo wanted to throw a hard left hook to the body or to the head, Bivol either got closer or backed up to the perfect distance to deflate Canelo’s power. And Bivol’s jab was a thing of beauty. The one thing Bivol didn’t care about was the crowd. When Canelo was on the ropes trying to lure him in, Bivol was no dummy. He just stood away. He didn’t care what the fans thought. He just fought his own fight and won easily.”
Hearn did not immediately return requests for comment on the fight.
De La Hoya sought to apply the painful lessons of his own celebrity career to Alvarez when they worked together. He said he urged him to remain in the gym rather than get caught up in the trappings of fame. De La Hoya also knew an elite fighter, if left to his own devices, will seek out a greater challenge than he can handle — just as De La Hoya did when he was knocked out by long-reigning middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins.
De La Hoya maintained patience with Alvarez before striking a 2017 deal for him to fight Golovkin, who had knocked out 23 consecutive men.
“We obviously promoted Canelo and were successful. The next move, if I were his promoter, is to go back to 168(-pounds) where you’re the champion, have ‘GGG’ (Golovkin) move up to 168, knock him out and be on top of the world again,” De La Hoya said.
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Asked if he’d like to reunite with Alvarez as promoter again, De La Hoya said, “My door has always been open. What happened in the past is very unfortunate, but we’re a promoter. That’s what we do best. I’m here to make the best fights happen, to promote the best fighters, to build the champions of the future, to work with everybody.”
De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions works alongside Hearn staging bouts for the streaming service DAZN.
He will send his own Mexican light-heavyweight — unbeaten former 168-pound champion Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez — into the ring Saturday night on DAZN against Dominic Boesel, in Ontario, California.
In the 30-year-old Ramirez (43-0, 29 KOs), De La Hoya has a staggering -3000 favorite fighting Saturday to become Bivol’s mandatory World Boxing Association contender, an obligation Bivol can choose to delay by taking either the Alvarez rematch or a bout with the winner of next month’s Artur Beterbiev-Joe Smith Jr. three-belt unification match.
So what should Alvarez do now?
Hearn said Saturday night Bivol-Alvarez 2 is “the biggest fight in boxing.”
De La Hoya said Alvarez should turn to Golovkin next to further sharpen himself and feel more comfortable at 175 pounds before taking the Bivol rematch.
“I doubt Canelo-Bivol happens next,” De La Hoya said. “If Bivol wants to continue this streak of earning more money and becoming a bigger name in this sport, of capturing the Mexican audience and keep things warm for a future Canelo fight, then he would have to face ‘Zurdo’ to keep things alive. He has to go through us to get back to Canelo.
“Zurdo is knocking on every door. He’s ready to be unleashed.”
De La Hoya the promoter went a step farther, ranking the top five 175-pound fighters as Bivol, Ramirez, Beterbiev, Alvarez and Smith Jr.
“Zurdo is 2-0 with two knockouts for us,” De La Hoya said. “He’s on the right track, looking leaner, meaner, light on his toes and he wants to go for the knockout. He knows to impress the public you have to get knockouts. He just needs the opportunity, and he will shine.
“Mark my words: Zurdo can, and will, beat Bivol if they fight.”