This story is a few days old, but due to UFC 229 commanding all of our attention, this was essentially a completely unexpected “Friday news dump” of sorts.
Unified WBA and WBC middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs) is going to return to the ring later this year, having come off a thrilling majority decision victory over Gennady Golovkin last month. The opponent however is not a middleweight, but WBA “regular” super-middleweight (168 lbs) champion Rocky Fielding (27-1, 15 KOs) at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Now in the interest of clarifying boxing’s convoluted maze of titles, the WBA is by far the worst sanctioning body when it comes to declaring champions. They essentially have three levels of belts, with “super” meaning the top champion, “regular” as secondary, and “interim” for uh... interim. Fielding’s title, which he won by TKO against Germany’s Tyron Zeuge in enemy territory, is essentially a paper belt. That said, Fielding’s only loss is TKO1 to the current WBA “super” super-middleweight champion Callum Smith back in 2015.
Fielding is the #10 ranked fighter in his division according to ESPN, while Ring Magazine puts him at #9, so he’s hardly a scrub and he’s earned himself a surprise shot at one of boxing’s biggest draws, which of course means a big payday.
This will be Canelo’s debut at Madison Square Garden and also his first fight at super-middleweight, although he did have a 164.5 lbs catchweight bout vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr in May 2017. Another way perhaps of looking at this — aside from the opportunity to win a “world title” — is that Alvarez won’t have to cut a lot of weight for such a quick turnaround.
Of note here is that HBO Boxing is shutting operations at the end of 2018, so while they could theoretically broadcast Canelo vs. Fielding as a last hurrah, they are not guaranteed the matchup.
“I’m going to meet with [HBO Sports executive vice president Peter Nelson] and I still haven’t talked to [HBO CEO] Richard Plepler, but in the next couple of weeks we will have something in writing,” Oscar De La Hoya said to ESPN. “We understand we have a contract [option] with HBO but we’ve been approached by many platforms. Everyone wants to televise Canelo’s next fight, whether it’s on a digital platform or linear TV. And contrary to reports that are circulating, under no circumstances will we co-promote Canelo. Golden Boy is his promoter and we will continue to work to get Canelo the best deal possible.”
So everything is still up in the air right now. It could be on HBO, or HBO PPV, or DAZN, ESPN/ESPN PPV, and in the long-term, with HBO out of the equation, there will be a bidding war among these boxing broadcasters to lock-up a long-term agreement to show Alvarez’s future fights.