For boxing detractors who have been asking, "Who are the stars other than Mayweather and Pacquiao?", look no further than Mexico's "Canelo". Saul Alvarez tore James Kirkland to shreds in front of an announced attendance of 31,588 at Houston's Minute Maid Park, home of Major League Baseball's Houston Astros. It's the second time in the past few years that Alvarez has headlined a stadium show, having attracted nearly 40,000 for his unanimous decision win over Austin Trout back in 2013. Following the Trout win, Canelo fought (and lost to) Floyd Mayweather in what was previously the highest grossing PPV in boxing history before Mayweather vs. Pacquiao came along and crushed that total (along with everything else).
There is plenty of demand to see the 24-year-old Canelo fight, and the Kirkland KO brought boxing one step closer to what would be the next biggest non-Mayweather PPV fight to make. According to ESPN's Dan Rafael, Miguel Cotto's representative said prior to Canelo-Kirkland that they signed the term sheets to set up Canelo vs. Cotto in the fall.
Miguel Cotto reps are here for #CaneloKirkland to check things out. They have signed term sheet for Cotto-Canelo this fall if both win.— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) May 10, 2015
The 34-year-old Puerto Rican will defend his WBC Middleweight (160 lbs) belt against Australia's Daniel Geale on June 6th at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. If Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs) bests Geale, the stars would be nearly aligned for a new installment of the longstanding rivalry between Mexico and Puerto Rico. There has been plenty of recent criticism of Cotto, mainly due to his inactivity after beating Sergio Martinez last June, followed by his decision to leave Top Rank and join Jay-Z's Roc Nation, and the underwhelming opponents list in lieu of a fight with Canelo or the undefeated #1 ranked middleweight Gennady Golovkin. Talks of Canelo-Cotto had broken down earlier in the year due to Cotto's team failing to agree to terms.
All of that put aside, Cotto has far and away been one of the bigger draws in boxing for more than a decade, whether through his consistent ability to pack Madison Square Garden or his relative success on pay-per-view. There's an argument to be made that at this stage in his career, he is past his best, particularly following his poor showing against Austin Trout in 2012, but for now he's still a top fighter in boxing and carries a massive Puerto Rican fanbase with him.
Here's his PPV history (HBO and Showtime only) as a headliner:
vs. Zab Judah - 225,000 (HBO)
vs. Shane Mosley - 400,000 (HBO)
vs. Antonio Margarito I - 450,000 (HBO)
vs. Manny Pacquiao - 1,250,000 (HBO)
vs. Ricardo Mayorga - 250,000 (Showtime)
vs. Antonio Margarito II - 600,000 (HBO)
vs. Floyd Mayweather - 1,500,000 (HBO)
vs. Sergio Martinez - 315,000 (HBO)
Aside from the Mayorga fight on a Showtime PPV and the underwhelming numbers vs. Martinez, Cotto has comfortably been the 3rd best PPV performer, distantly behind Mayweather and Pacquiao. His loss to Mayweather is Floyd's 4th highest selling PPV out of 14, and tied for 4th highest vs. Pacquiao out of his 19 on HBO/SHO. Canelo has only headlined three PPVs to date, all on Showtime, with buyrates of 2,200,000, 350,000, and 300,000 in 2014 against Floyd Mayweather, Alfredo Angulo and Erislandy Lara, respectively. Obviously not terrific numbers on Canelo's side for his last two PPVs, but they've also not received nearly the level of promotion nor matched the level of intrigue as the Mayweather fight.
If, and I do mean IF -- the dirty politics of boxing or a Geale upset win can always come into play -- Canelo vs. Cotto would be a surefire massive hit in the Latin American market and would be the center of attention in the combat sports world. The Mexico (even Mexican-American is acceptable) vs. Puerto Rico rivalry predates any other combat sports, bringing us classics such as Felix Trinidad vs. Fernando Vargas, Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Orlando Salido, and Salvador Sanchez vs. Wilfredo Gomez.
It is unlikely that Cotto vs. Canelo would reach the heights of any Mayweather bout but it would be a major PPV in a market that has seemingly dried up for everyone in boxing except Floyd and Pac. On paper, Canelo (45-1-1, 32 KOs) would be favored to defeat Cotto, and a win for him would further elevate his status as boxing's must-see attraction for the long term. Yes, there is life for boxing after Mayweather and Pacquiao, and fans bared witness to it last night.