Canelo Alvarez's quest to become undisputed champion has hit a major roadblock.
Boxing's top star was on the verge of a deal to meet Caleb Plant on Sept. 18 in Las Vegas -- a PBC on Fox pay-per-view -- a pact that was in the works for weeks. Talks broke off earlier this week, and the deal is now 100% dead, multiple sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
Alvarez and Plant are now seeking new opponents for their fall fights, rather than facing each other in a bout that would have unified all four 168-pound titles. Alvarez, 31, was set to earn a career-high guarantee upward of $40 million, per sources, while Plant was due to make in excess of $10 million (also a career-best). Besides the one-fight deal, Alvarez also was extended a two-fight deal that included a stay-busy fight in December in his native Mexico, sources said.
ESPN's pound-for-pound No. 1 boxer and Al Haymon, the founder of PBC, were closing in on an agreement after a long, complicated negotiation, but talks broke off at the 11th hour over disagreements in the contract. The contract was passed back and forth between Alvarez's team and Haymon over the weekend, sources said; following multiple edit requests, the deal collapsed over the stalemate.
"His bark is bigger than his bite," Plant, 29, told ESPN during a phone conversation Tuesday evening. "Canelo was offered the highest guarantee of his career: He was set to make $40 million plus Mexican TV rights and his Hennessy sponsorship. No problem, let's fight. We gave it to him. Then they wanted upside of gate and PPV revenue; no problem, let's rumble.
"It was always agreed that it was a [title] unification; no rematch for either fighter. Towards end of negotiations they asked for a rematch when they lose. No problem, you can have the rematch as well, I just wanna fight."
Plant told ESPN he agreed to his side of the deal two weeks ago with "no arguments about money or any stipulations." Besides the one-way rematch clause, it would only go into effect if Alvarez lost, which Plant said he agreed to, there was also the matter of the ring size. Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders battled over the distance inside the ropes ahead of their May fight, which Alvarez won by ninth-round TKO after he fractured the Brit's orbital bone.
In the end, Saunders got his wish: a 22-by-22 foot ring. Nevada State Athletic Commission guidelines call for a standard 20-by-20 foot ring; Plant agreed to it. The Nashville native said the star fighter had other "ridiculous requests."
"One that is absurd: If I get injured or sick then he gets a late replacement for the same amount of guaranteed money, but if he gets sick or injured, then we gotta wait for him," Plant added. "We're at seven-and-a-half weeks from the fight; we've lost valuable time that should be spent promoting and drug testing for a fight of this magnitude.
"I question whether legacy or money is their real motive. We've been waiting for him to get done with his wedding, shooting his TV show, his golf tournament and now have tried to give him everything he wants and more to make this fight. I'm more than willing, able and ready to fight Canelo Alvarez on any date. Those are the real facts and if anyone has something to say differently, we have the paperwork to prove it."
Time is running out for Alvarez to secure an opponent -- and platform -- if he plans to fight on Mexican Independence Day weekend as he traditionally does. A Plan B option, per sources, is a return to 175 pounds for a title tilt with Russia's Dmitry Bivol on DAZN. There's always the chance he misses out fighting on the Mexican holiday. Another drawn-out negotiation in 2019 forced Alvarez to miss the September date and instead fight in November, a KO victory over Sergey Kovalev.
Alvarez's two-fight deal with Matchroom's Eddie Hearn expired following his May TKO victory over Saunders, opening the door for Alvarez to seek a one-fight deal with Haymon's team and a chance at undisputed status.
"I'm coming, my friend," Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) said in the ring after he beat Saunders, meant as a warning to Plant.
The deal -- negotiated by Alvarez's reigning trainer of the year, Eddy Reynoso -- would have marked Alvarez's return to pay-per-view, a platform he has headlined on nine times since his fight with Shane Mosley in 2012. Those bouts included a megafight with Floyd Mayweather in 2013 and a pair of matchups with his bitter rival, Gennady Golovkin.
Now, Alvarez could return to DAZN, the platform that has streamed his past six fights, beginning with a December 2018 win over Rocky Fielding.
Following the rematch with GGG in September 2018, Alvarez linked up with DAZN on an 11-fight, $365 million deal. But after just three fights together, a dispute led to a legal battle between the fighter and DAZN, along with then-promoter Golden Boy. The spat was settled, and Alvarez became a network and promotional free agent. His past three fights were promoted by Hearn on DAZN.
Delivering Alvarez to Fox would have been a coup for Haymon, whose three-year deal with the broadcast platform expires later this year but includes a network option for a fourth year, per sources. A fight between Alvarez and Plant would have been sandwiched between two other major PPV fights: Manny Pacquiao-Errol Spence Jr. on Aug. 21 (Fox) and Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder on Oct. 9 (ESPN+/Fox).
There was reason to believe Alvarez would link up with PBC for multiple fights. If Alvarez plans to remain at 168 pounds -- he's ESPN's No. 1 super middleweight -- Haymon offers the best available opponents. There's Jermall Charlo, the undefeated, brash-talking middleweight champion who has long pushed for a meeting with Alvarez.
Haymon also advises David Benavidez, the former 168-pound titleholder who many in the industry believe will present the toughest challenge for Alvarez with his relentless volume punching and size. And don't count out a future fight with Spence. He currently campaigns at 147 pounds but owns a larger frame; he figures to move up to 154 pounds next year.
Perhaps a fight with Plant can be revisited at a later date; even sooner if Alvarez bypasses Sept. 18. For now, Alvarez is left to find his next foe.
Alvarez had actually already begun preparations for Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) at his gym in San Diego. His two dates have traditionally been Cinco de Mayo weekend in May and Mexican Independence Day weekend. Yet he also fought in December, a decision win over Callum Smith to claim the unified 168-pound championship, and stayed busy with a third-round TKO of Avni Yildirim in February. If he fights on Sept. 18, it will be Alvarez's fourth fight in nine months. Superstar boxers routinely compete just twice a year, and that used to be the case for Alvarez.
No matter whom he fights, Alvarez is a box-office bonanza, but he hasn't been able to flex his proverbial muscle on PPV in three years. His last three bouts were offered on pay-per-view, but that wasn't a major revenue driver since they were only available for substantially less money as part of a monthly subscription to DAZN.
Alvarez's two fights with Golovkin both generated more than 1 million PPV buys; his 2013 matchup with Mayweather pushed past 2 million.
Plant, of course, isn't nearly as well-known as either of those stars, but there's reason to believe he would make for a commercially viable foil for Alvarez. The titleholder has headlined on Fox in three consecutive fights and isn't shy when it comes to boasting about his talent and dedication to the sport. The Nashville native possesses one of boxing's best jabs. He also owns lightning-quick hands and excellent footwork to go along with a powerful frame for the 168-pound division at 6-foot-1. What Plant has lacked: top-flight opposition. His best opponent was Jose Uzcategui in Plant's title-winning effort. He's also encountered hand issues, including in his most recent victory.
The fight with Alvarez would have seen Plant rise several levels in class. While Plant hasn't been tested, he's looked the part in all his fights and is rated No. 3 by ESPN at 168 pounds.