LAS VEGAS — Canelo Alvarez hadn't even had time to celebrate his win over Miguel Cotto when the subject of Gennady Golovkin came up.
Golovkin was watching at ringside, and had to like what he heard.
"With all due respect, if he wants to fight right now I'll put the gloves on and fight him," Alvarez said.
That didn't happen Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay casino, but Alvarez may not have to wait long. The two biggest names in the middleweight division are on a collision course that could end with them in the ring together sometime next year in a megafight that could make many fans forget the retired Floyd Mayweather Jr.
It's a fight both boxers want, and one fight fans are beginning to thirst for. Two big punching middleweights in their prime with all the major titles and boxing supremacy at stake.
"Gennady Golovkin is a great fighter, and he is my friend," Alvarez said. "I have respect for him, but if we do fight, it's going to be at my weight class. I'm the champion, and I don't have to do what he wants."
Alvarez can afford to be picky, but not for long. The 160-pound title he won by beating Cotto comes with strings attached — a mandate by the WBC for him to fight his fellow middleweight champion in a unification bout.
One scenario would be for both boxers to fight other opponents in the spring — Alvarez has the Cinco de Mayo weekend Mayweather always favored for his big pay-per-view fights already lined up — and then meet in September.
"This fight will take Canelo to a whole new level," said Oscar De La Hoya, who promotes Alvarez. "This is a new era in our sport."
This being boxing, of course, there's no guarantee the fight will take place. The two fighters have different promoters and differing agendas.
But they know each other well and have sparred together several times. They also know the millions each of them can make in a fight that would match two big punchers in their prime.
"I'm not afraid of anybody," Alvarez said.
Alvarez staked his claim to being the best in the division with a unanimous decision over Cotto that wasn't as lopsided as the three judges scoring ringside made it look. One gave Alvarez 11 of the 12 rounds in a fight that Cotto was competitive in all the way to the final bell.
Alvarez never really seemed to hurt Cotto, though he threw the harder punches all night. While Cotto tried to mix it up and box from the outside, Alvarez patiently walked him into some big shots that proved the difference.
It wasn't a great fight, but it was certainly a good one. And while Cotto was bitterly disappointed, the outcome was almost surely good for a sport thirsting for good young talent.
Cotto left the ring quickly after the fight, leaving trainer Freddie Roach to speak for his effort.
"We thought it was much closer than the score cards showed," Roach said. "It was a very competitive fight."
That was reflected in ringside stats that showed Cotto throwing more punches (629-484) than Alvarez but landing less (155-129). Alvarez was credited with throwing more power punches, landing 118 of them to 75 for Cotto.
The pro-Alvarez crowd that filled the Mandalay Bay arena liked what they saw from the Mexican star, especially in the later rounds when the two traded more punches. Most were on their feet in the final round when the two went toe-to-toe in the early moments of the round.
Alvarez, who blamed inexperience for the only loss of his career — a 2013 decision to Mayweather — solidified his position as a pay-per-view draw in the fight. The red-head known simply as "Canelo" among fans has consistently drawn big, enthusiastic crowds. The performance against Cotto will surely draw more fans to his side.
But Triple G has his fan base, too, selling out Madison Square Garden last month for a dominating win over David Lemieux. It was Golovkin's pay-per-view debut and, though it didn't sell in big numbers, the fight was a coming out bout of sorts for those not familiar with the undefeated knockout artist from Kazakhstan, who now lives in Los Angeles.
With Mayweather retired, there's an opening for other fighters to take his place. Unlike Mayweather, both Alvarez and Golovkin bring plenty of firepower into the ring, something that fight fans love to see.
While the win by Alvarez over Cotto was the biggest of his career, fans can only hope it won't be long before he's in a fight that is even bigger.