Sad-Eyed WBC to Canelo Alvarez: “Where Did Our Love Go?”

By Paul Magno on October 4, 2017
Sad-Eyed WBC to Canelo Alvarez: “Where Did Our Love Go?”
Mauricio Sulaiman looks out the window of his Mexico City office longingly. (El Universal)

In the background plays the Supremes’ “Where did our love go?” A single tear rolls down the second-generation bureaucrat’s fleshy face…

WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman looks out the window of his Mexico City office longingly…In the background plays the Supremes’ “Where did our love go?” A single tear rolls down the second-generation bureaucrat’s fleshy face.

The romance was one made in boxing heaven. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, self-made teenage idol, was the living incarnation of an emerging Mexico’s version of the American Dream. Going from modest beginnings as a farm boy in the Mexican heartland to the precipice of superstardom by the time he was seventeen, Canelo was too good to be true for the ever cash-hungry WBC. The Mexico City-based sanctioning body pursued and courted the fast-rising red-headed regional star and helped him become a Mexican national phenomenon.

The WBC would guide their new darling through the maze of title contention and bend over backwards to make sure he wore WBC gold and silver every step of the way. The sanctioning outfit eventually brought a 20-year-old Canelo to his first world title in an excruciatingly cynical match-up for the vacant WBC junior middleweight belt against no-hope fringe WELTERWEIGHT contender, Matthew Hatton.

As criticisms pelted them like bugs splattering on the windshield of a fast-moving sports car, a loyal WBC stood firm in their devotion to their new superstar.

The WBC would set up an obstacle course around Canelo, forcing the division’s best challengers to run a gauntlet before working their way to the champ. The apparent games of interference on Canelo’s behalf managed to turn an otherwise likable, earnest fighter into a questionable figure.

At one point, there were five 154 lb. title eliminators fought for the right to face Alvarez in the eighteen months following his title-winning victory over Hatton. None of the winners of those eliminators, however, seemed the least bit closer to actually fighting the new champ. Instead, “eliminator” winners like Erislandy Lara and Vanes Martirosyan would be told that they had only won “semi-final” eliminators and would then have to go on to fight “final” eliminators. James Kirkland’s eliminator victory over Alfredo Angulo would be re-billed as a “Continental Americas” title bout. Kirkland’s next eliminator victory, over Carlos Molina, would actually lead to him falling from the #1 challenger spot to #2 in the organization’s 154 lb. rankings.

And while all of the WBC’s top junior middleweights were pushed into eliminator after eliminator to prove their worth as challengers, fighters such as Ryan Rhodes, Alfonso Gomez, and Shane Mosley “somehow” got a direct path to a title shot.

Much to the kid’s credit, though, the grasping at low-hanging fruit and use of protectionism-as-matchmaking eased off. According to boxing chatter, the young star, himself, kicked off his training wheels and took on tough challenges like Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout, as well as one-time boogeymen James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo and pound-for-pound top dog Floyd Mayweather.

But, even though Canelo seemed to have changed and grown, the World Boxing Council HADN’T.

The sanctioning body would fall deeply in love with media darling Gennady Golovkin and practically gift wrap him their interim world middleweight title, apparently hoping to get a piece of big-money bouts between Golovkin and either Canelo or Cotto.

Unfortunately for the WBC, both Cotto and Canelo passed on a high risk-low reward Golovkin bout at the time, abandoning their belts rather than being strong-armed into paying sanctioning fees AND step-aside money for the right to pursue more lucrative bouts. Cotto would balk at paying a reported $1.1 million, total, the week of his fight with Canelo for the right to actually face Canelo, then opted to vacate his title days before the PPV event. Canelo, upon beating Cotto and grabbing the vacant belt, would then also vacate the title after the WBC would not budge on allowing more than 15 days for negotiating a Golovkin fight. The sanctioning body, in Canelo’s eyes, created an environment where his name would publicly be dragged through the mud and they used that pressure of negative public relations to try and push him into a deal that was not to his benefit.

And that’s when Canelo and the WBC officially “lost that loving feeling.”

Since dumping the WBC belt into Golovkin’s virtual shopping cart of belts, trinkets, and media awards, Alvarez has worked to distance himself from the organization whenever and wherever possible.

When the WBC wanted to issue a special title belt, handcrafted by indigenous Mexican artisans, to the winner of the Canelo-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. bout this past May, Alvarez refused the offer. And when they again wanted to issue a similar handcrafted belt to the winner of Golovkin-Alvarez, Alvarez announced that he was choosing not to compete for the WBC title and would not be accepting the belt if he should win the fight.

“It’s not that I lack respect and don’t want the belt,” Alvarez pointed out at the time, wanting to clarify that he was not rejecting the efforts of the indigenous artists involved in creating the belts. “I just don’t want anything to do with the WBC.”

Over time, the animosity has not lessened. If anything, Alvarez’s resolve in not doing business with the WBC has strengthened. By all accounts, the stubbornly proud Canelo has no intention of ever tossing a cent the WBC’s way again.

And that’s why Mauricio Sulaiman stares wistfully out his office window, listening to sad songs about lost love, and weeping.

Okay, maybe Sulaiman’s not actually doing any of the above, but losing out on a 3% take of monstrous Alvarez paydays could be enough to turn any grown bureaucrat into a jilted, lovesick wreck.

The WBC wanted for so long to be in the Canelo business—and they were—but then they made the mistake of hustling too hard and juggling too many favorite sons. They let greed guide them as they tried to pit pet fighters against one another for maximum benefit. And in doing so, they managed to alienate all of them but the one with the fewest big money options.

Canelo and the WBC may work together again in the future—the relatively small world of boxing business pretty much guarantees that enemies will have to work together at some point—but things won’t be the same. Love revisited seldom burns as bright.

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  1. Bruce Kielty 05:26pm, 10/18/2017

    A superb article.  Boxing will never regain even a portion of its former glory as long as malignancies (aka self-serving and self-appointed sanctioning bodies) remain part of the equation.

  2. nicolas 09:40am, 10/05/2017

    A great article. I think that if Mauricio’s dad had been alive, this would not have happened. Have to give Maurico some credit though, I think he is better than his father, even though I was at first critical of him, especially when Jill Diamond wrote an article about him in an interview she did with him. Did not Canelo recently go to the WBA conference or summit, and praise them.

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