An unusual rivalry was born after Argentina defeated Mexico in the second match of the World Cup in Qatar this past Saturday. Boxing star Canelo Alvarez took on social media to attack soccer legend Lionel Messi, prompting Argentine fighter Santiago Ponzinibbio to come out at his defense.
It all started after a video showed Messi celebrating the victory in the locker room with the whole team, with Alvarez taking offense of the Mexico jersey being on the floor. The boxer tweeted that Messi, who scored the first goal of the match, was “cleaning the floor with our flag.”
A separate tweet by Canelo read “[Messi] should ask God that I don’t find him.” The post has since been deleted for apparently violating Twitter rules.
“I was pissed,” Ponzinibbio told MMA Fighting. “No point threatening Messi. Everybody knows Messi’s career. If [Alvarez] doesn’t know he shouldn’t say a thing. It’s normal for players to throw jerseys on the ground, they are all sweaty, but he didn’t do anything disrespectful. Everybody that knows Messi knows he’s an impeccable athlete and a very respectful person.”
Ponzinibbio said Alvarez, a legend in Mexico, “wants attention” with his social media outburst targeted at Argentina’s biggest sports star.
“[Messi] had an excellent match,” Ponzinibbio continued. “I was upset. Brother, if you want to fight, I’m ready, but leave Messi be. You mess with Messi, you mess with the entire Argentina. Don’t bother the kid.”
The Argentina national team returns to the pitch on Wednesday to play Poland, while Mexico plays Saudi Arabia at the same time. Both teams can advance to the round of 16 with a win.
Alvarez was last seen in action in September, when he retained five titles with an unanimous decision victory over Gennady Golovkin. His next match is still yet-to-be-determined. Ponzinibbio is set to re-enter the octagon on Dec. 10 for a clash with former UFC champion Robbie Lawler at UFC 282.