Tuesday night word that Mexico’s popular former light-middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is in advanced negotiations to fight James Kirkland May 2 at San Antonio’s Alamodome on HBO is like a chess move.
It is meant to provoke some reaction from middleweight world champion Miguel Cotto and, to some extent, from unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Yet, several facts -- along with subsequent reactions of several boxing authorities -- calmed the rush to theorize that the date and the network broadcasting of Alvarez-Kirkland is a grave warning sign for Mayweather’s long-awaited but unfinalized bout against Manny Pacquiao.
First, Alvarez promoter Oscar De La Hoya has already said he’ll move Alvarez off May 2 if Mayweather-Pacquiao can be made.
Discussions to make the super-fight are proceeding, with Mayweather and Pacquiao having expressed verbal agreement to a purse split, a drug-testing plan and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as a venue, while network executives from Showtime and HBO on Tuesday discussed a joint pay-per-view broadcast.
Second, Alvarez-Kirkland is a non-pay-per-view fight that would of course be shifted to somewhere else on the calendar by HBO for the fight of the generation.
Cotto has let several Alvarez deadlines pass without agreeing to a deal – employing a wait-and-see strategy on Mayweather-Pacquiao that most believe is sound business given the past inability to make the mega-bout.
Some boxing officials still believe De La Hoya’s “game of chicken,” as one called it, could still allow Cotto back to Alvarez if Mayweather-Pacquiao gets made in the next week or so.
Mayweather (47-0) has been adamant he intends to fight on May 2, extending his string of Cinco de Mayo weekend bouts to four consecutive years, but since the Pacquiao talks are undone, Alvarez and De La Hoya swooped in.
It’s believed that if the Mayweather-Pacquiao talks collapse, Alvarez will keep the May 2 date should Mayweather opt for Cotto on Showtime pay-per-view, further reducing the appetite for the rematch of a fight that generated 1.5 million pay-per-view buys in 2012.
Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 knockouts) made it clear even before defeating Cuba’s Erislandy Lara in July that he intended to fight on this year’s Cinco de Mayo Saturday since it is a Mexican holiday.
De La Hoya told reporters after another deadline passed Saturday that he was moving on from Cotto. This is the third try with Kirkland for an Alvarez bout. An injury in 2012 and a contractual dispute last year removed Kirkland from Alvarez dates.
The heavy-handed Kirkland (32-1, 28 KOs) was impressive in his most recent bout, a December 2013 technical knockout of Glen Tapia, but he’s also a dramatic – if not unstable – character who has been imprisoned on a gun charge and feuded with his manager and trainer.
Cotto offers a far better option for Alvarez given the compelling history of Mexico-Puerto Rico battles in the ring.
Letting out word of serious Alvarez-Kirkland talks, however, still might not move the proud Cotto to flinch.
Asked if the Alvarez-Kirkland deal was done Tuesday night, a high-ranking Golden Boy official requesting anonymity said they would “neither confirm nor deny” that.
More chess moves to come.
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire