If Canelo Alvarez doesn't already know, someone should inform him: His reputation is in a state of disrepair.
Whatever the reality, the common perception is that he lost to middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin last September and his recent failed drug test for a performance-enhancing drug has raised questions about his training methods.
A hilariously lopsided scorecard that officially salvaged a draw for Alvarez didn't change that. Neither did Alvarez taking a hair follicle test that didn't show any traces of clenbuterol.
Maybe Alvarez is telling the truth, maybe contaminated meat was responsible for the failed drug test that cancelled his scheduled rematch with Golovkin earlier this year, but there have been too many cases of my-dog-ate-my-homework in professional sports for such a claim to be widely accepted.
The process of restoring credibility has to start with a rematch with Golovkin. Alvarez has no other option.
Only Alvarez's representatives have started to explore other options for the popular Mexican fighter's September return from a six-month drug suspension, outraged by Golovkin's demand for a 50-50 split of the purse.
In boxing parlance, Alvarez is the "A side" of the promotion, a term popularized by former champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. And if anyone is familiar with the power that comes with that designation, it's Alvarez's promoters at Golden Boy Promotions, as chief executive Oscar De La Hoya was the so-called A side in pretty much every fight he was ever in.
When De La Hoya was an active fighter, he always negotiated from a position of power.
As Alvarez's promoter, De La Hoya resumed negotiating from this privileged perch again in recent years. It's what he knows.
But there are times when A sides have to make financial sacrifices for the sake of their long-term interests, like say, when they basically purchase the name of legendary fighters to add to their resumes. De La Hoya did that when he ceded more than a 50% cut to a declining Julio Cesar Chavez in 1996. Alvarez did something similar in 2015 for a fight against Miguel Cotto.
A rematch with Golovkin could start to erase doubts about Alvarez that have emerged over the last nine months. If Golovkin holds the key to Alvarez's redemption, Alvarez should pay him for it. So long as Alvarez defeats Golovkin in a rematch, he could easily make up what he lost in the coming years. Alvarez is still 27.
"You're entitled to your opinion," Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy Promotions, politely said on Sunday, "but it's not going to happen."
Gomez pointed out how Golovkin settled for a $1 million guarantee in May when he knocked out Vanes Martirosyan, the opponent he selected to replace Alvarez. And, at 36, Golovkin has only a handful of fights before his powers diminish.
Under the framework that was agreed upon for the rematch in May that was cancelled, Golovkin was already set to earn more than he did in the first fight, perhaps somewhere in the range of $25 million to $35 million, according to Gomez.
Gomez said he was bothered by how Golovkin's side didn't make their increased financial demands known until last week. Golovkin's promoter, Tom Loeffler, said that was because he didn't receive his marching orders from Golovkin until then.
Gomez rejected the premise that Alvarez's brand is damaged, claiming Mexican boxing fans are familiar with their country's problem with contaminated meat.
"The Mexican fans are educated," Gomez said. "They support him."
The assertion is questionable. In the immediate aftermath of the first Golovkin fight, Alvarez was booed while interviewed in the ring. The majority of ringside observers believe he lost the fight. The displeasure of the fans extended beyond the unsatisfying result and to the evasive counterpunching strategy he employed. Just as almost every Argentine soccer fan is waiting for another Diego Maradona, almost every Mexican boxing fan is waiting for another Chavez. The sight of a Mexican in retreat bothered them.
Golovkin received a warm reception when he visited Estadio Azteca in Mexico City a couple of months after the fight. Alvarez's crowd became his.
Boxing's audience is increasingly Mexican and Mexican American, and Alvarez's primary objective has to be to win back this demographic, which has rewarded him with purses that superior fighters such as Terence Crawford or Vasiliy Lomachenko could only dream of. Billy Joe Saunders, Daniel Jacobs and Jermall Charlo would be quality opponents, but Alvarez can't reclaim the hearts of his people by fighting any of them. Doing so would be viewed as running from Golovkin.
Gomez denied Golden Boy is posturing or looking to delay the rematch with Golovkin until December so that Alvarez wouldn't have to fight him after a one-year layoff. Gomez also said talks could restart if Golovkin backs down from his demand of an even purse split.
Not fighting Golovkin would cost Alvarez a career-high payday. But Alvarez is still 27 and Gomez said he could make up the lost revenue over two fights, one in September and another in December.
The X-factor here is Golovkin, who is the one calling for a 50-50 split, according to Loeffler. The question here is whether the demands are being made strictly for business reasons or to punish Alvarez for a perceived violation of sportsmanship.
"Gennady's a man with principles," Loeffler said.
Loeffler said he will ultimately abide by whatever Golovkin tells him to do, but didn't sound particularly enamored with the idea of arranging a fight with anyone other than Alvarez.
"If it doesn't happen," Loeffler said, "both sides will be hurt."
Golovkin will be hurt financially, but his place as the era's dominant middleweight is safe. That's something money can't buy. Alvarez should be mindful of that.