Hype and boxing go together hand-in-hand like collard greens and BBQ ribs. Hype builds interest in a fight and creates a sense of urgency and anticipation that makes it easier to dish out $70 for the HD PPV to your cable provider. But let's not confuse a side dish with a main dish.
I’m excited for this weekend’s junior middleweight unification bout. I have no doubt that both fighters will bring their best and that the 38,000 in attendance at the Alamodome, and the millions watching at home, will get their money’s worth. Fireworks have been promised, and I have no doubt fireworks will be delivered. But Alvarez vs. Trout is NOT Chavez. vs. Whitaker.
In September 1993, the greatest and most exciting Mexican fighter since Salvador Sanchez and Carlos Zarate squared off against the virtuoso boxer, Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker. At the time, Julio Cesar Chavez was nearing his 90th victory without a loss and was considered by many as the pound-for-pound king. Sweet Pea was well on his way to cementing his legacy as one of the best defensive fighters to ever lace up gloves. Their battle in San Antonio was more than just a championship bout or even a fight for pound-for-pound supremacy. The nearly 60,000 in attendance were clamoring to know if Chavez could bring himself closer to the pantheon of boxing, closer to being uttered in the same sentence as Robinson, Duran or Langford. They also came to see if the man who once said he wouldn’t let God hit him in a fight could avoid the brutal onslaught Chavez was known to mete out on his opponents. The world watched for boxing posterity.
That just isn’t the case with Alvarez and Trout. The comparison between that historic fight and what we’ll see this Saturday is based on superficial similarities that verge on the insulting. Let’s be honest. People have drawn the analogy for two simple reasons: The fights are being held in the same location and they feature a popular Mexican fighter against a “slick” black fighter. That’s it.
The comparison is insulting to Chavez and Whitaker, two all-time greats. It’s insulting to boxing fans who know better. And it’s insulting to Alvarez and Trout in that it reduces them to the lowest common denominator. Alvarez isn’t the stereotypical Mexican fighter that takes a punch to hand out his own. Trout may be a slick boxer, but he’s got leagues to go before he can claim to be even in the top five black fighters currently in the game, much less an all-time great like Sweet Pea.
This fight is all about one simple question: How good are they really? Can Alvarez handle a smooth boxer in his prime — a tired and washed-up Shane Mosley doesn’t count. Can Trout withstand the power of a younger fighter with more wind in his legs than Miguel Cotto? On Saturday, two good fighters will meet in search of legitimacy. Let’s enjoy their journey, and forget about 1993 and the search for all-time greatness that night tried to deliver. Let’s enjoy what we’ve got. Saturday night will be a lot more fun that way.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.