This Saturday, Jim Lampley will be returning to ringside for the first time in almost five years, as he covers the Canelo Alvarez-Jermell Charlo pay-per-view at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for PPV.com. That was the site of the last pay-per-view he called, the very last such event broadcast by HBO Boxing, the rematch between Canelo and Gennady Golovkin. Having called so many of Canelo’s biggest fights – including the first two Golovkin battles, the knockouts of Amir Khan and James Kirkland, the win over Miguel Cotto, among others – how does Lampley view the Mexican’s chances against the American? And, given his up-close-and-personal viewpoint of Canelo over the years, how does he feel about the thought that Alvarez is not quite the fighter he used to be?
Boxers are “never the same from fight to fight,” he explained to ProBoxTV. “These are human lives and in no sport are the human factors which affect you more prevalent and unpredictable than in boxing. It wouldn't have made sense for Canelo to have fought the two fights he fought in the first few fights against Golovkin and come out without any kind of physical or emotional diminution. Those are all out wars that test a man in ways that the rest of us can't really possibly fathom. So, if you were to suggest to me that something was lost in those two fights against Golovkin, that makes all the sense in the world.”
That said, he notes, Canelo promptly moved up to 175 pounds and knocked out Sergey Kovalev; but of course, when he returned to light-heavyweight, he faced Dmitry Bivol and suffered the second loss of his career. It is that loss to the undefeated Russian that has some smelling blood, but Lampley isn’t convinced that the defeat presaged a terminal decline.
“I see the Bivol fight as, for whatever reason, a clear matchmaking error,” he explained. "Bivol was entirely different to Kovalev. He was not a go-forward hard-punching destroyer, he was a boxer of enormous and sophisticated skills. He was longer, he was taller, he was younger; everything about the fight suggested that this might be a bridge too far. He took a fight that he didn't have to take. There was nobody in the western world who was demanding ‘You must go fight Dmitriy Bivol.’”
The adjectives “longer, taller, and younger” also apply to Charlo, the difference being that whereas Canelo moved up in weight to face Bivol, Charlo is leaping two weight divisions to take on Canelo. Does Lampley think the weight difference will prove definitive in Canelo’s favor, or can Charlo copy to the Bivol playbook and use his youth and length to his advantage?
“It's conventional wisdom to look at a weight jump like this and say, ‘Oh, he's giving up too much. He's not really built ready to be a 168-pound fighter.’ That's not necessarily true,” he said.
“Sometimes people put on weight and get better. Sometimes they have more punching power. Sometimes they're more sure of themselves in certain situations. Sometimes they can take a punch better. You don't know whether Charlo is going to be penalized by the extra 14 pounds or whether he's going to benefit from the extra 14 pounds. Since it's one of the great unknowns going into a fight like this, I remember very early on in my boxing commentary career thinking of Michael Spinks fighting Gerry Cooney, ‘What a mismatch! Michael Spinks has no chance against Gerry Cooney. He's just way too light for that.’ He beat the living hell out of him. He jumped on him and attacked him. And from the very first moment, he was dominant and in charge of the fight, I learned a lot from that. Don't ever leap to the conclusion that just because somebody is moving up in weight that's going to penalize them. Charlo might be better.”