When I wrote my annual boxing wishes column for the new year two weeks ago, one of the top items on my list read like this: "[For] Canelo Alvarez to line up Daniel Jacobs for his May fight and then a third fight with Gennady Golovkin for his September bout."
Well, it didn't take long for the first half of that to come true, with the news Thursday that middleweight world champion Alvarez will meet Jacobs to unify their 160-pound titles -- Alvarez's two with Jacobs' one -- on May 4 at a site to be determined (likely T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas), in the second fight of Alvarez's mega-contract with streaming service DAZN.
When DAZN lavished an athlete-record deal on Alvarez -- 11 fights over five years worth at least $365 million -- the company hierarchy had to make an assessment of whether the fights Alvarez would take would justify the massive investment.
Alvarez has made nine figures fighting on pay-per-view, where the more he sold the more he made. But with $365 million coming to him no matter who he faced, he easily could have just taken soft fights and pocketed easy money.
DAZN rolled the dice and Alvarez is delivering, because it is not in his DNA to seek a string of easy fights. He has a long history of wanting to challenge himself and wanting to fight the best.
He has said time and again that he wants to be a legend, wants to leave a lasting legacy and that he wants to please boxing fans by fighting the biggest and best possible fights.
Nobody expects him to do that every single time out, so when he opted for an easy fight at super middleweight for a secondary title against Rocky Fielding in December -- coming off a grueling rematch with Gennady Golovkin three months earlier -- to kick off his DAZN deal, I had no problem with it, even if others were highly critical. I truly believed Alvarez would look for an A-level fight next time out and not waste his time with a David Lemieux sort of fight.
"If Canelo was any other fighter he would not have chosen Jacobs to fight," Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya told ESPN shortly after the Jacobs deal was finalized. "We can pick anyone we want to fight, but Canelo is fighting for legacy. He understands that if you fight for legacy the money will come. You fight for legacy first and then the money will come, but this is what every partner gets when they sign with Canelo and Golden Boy. We want to give the fight fans the best fights and that's the bottom line."
Just look at Alvarez's career path so far and it's no surprise he picked Jacobs, because Alvarez has never ducked a tough fight and is not about to start.
In 2013, he took on Austin Trout in a junior middleweight unification fight that Golden Boy was not enthusiastic about, but Alvarez wanted it. He insisted. He got it. And he scored a competitive decision win over a prime Trout in a good fight.
In his next fight, Alvarez, only 23 at the time, stepped up to face Floyd Mayweather later in 2013 in one of the richest fights in history. Although Alvarez took a one-sided decision loss, the only defeat of his career, he had at least dared to be great and did not let the setback deter him.
After Alvarez stopped Alfredo Angulo in his next fight, the slick, dangerous Erislandy Lara came to the postfight news conference and called Alvarez out. Alvarez easily could have ignored him. There was no public demand for the fight, and Lara was a zero as an attraction despite his ability.
But Alvarez decided to fight him because he was one of the best junior middleweights in the world. He insisted on the fight despite Golden Boy's best efforts to convince him to go in another direction. But Canelo basically made the promoter make the fight, which Alvarez won by slim split decision.
Canelo's track record of fighting the best continued. Two fights later he beat fellow superstar Miguel Cotto, outpointing him to win the middleweight world title.
And although it took time, Canelo finally faced GGG not once but twice in dangerous, difficult fights. Canelo got a friendly draw in the first fight and then a close majority decision in September.
Now, Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs), 28, is keeping to his word by again fighting the best opponent available to him. Alvarez is the No. 1 middleweight in the world. GGG is No. 2. Jacobs is No. 3.
"When we signed the deal with DAZN, they were a little worried about what type of opponents Canelo would fight because it's not stated in the contract," De La Hoya said. "But nobody has to worry about him fighting the best."
A third fight between Alvarez and Golovkin could (and should) happen in the future, but it was really not feasible for May, especially with free agent GGG still deciding on which broadcaster to sign with.
Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs), 31 of Brooklyn, New York, wanted this fight very much, immediately asking for Canelo after he won a vacant title in an excellent fight with Sergiy Derevyanchenko in October. Alvarez wanted this fight also because he is serious about wanting to fight the best.
It's a tremendous fight for fans and it won't cost $80 on pay-per-view. It's an important fight for the legacies of both boxers and it also gives DAZN exactly what it needs: a fight worthy of pay-per-view.
For that we can thank Canelo Alvarez and his unwavering desire to continue fighting the best opponents possible.