Santiago Ponzinibbio has defended Lionel Messi following scathing criticism from boxer Canelo Alvarez
UFC welterweight star Santiago Ponzinibbio has warned boxing icon Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez that he is picking a fight he cannot win in his scathing criticism of footballer Lionel Messi.
Multiple-time boxing world champion Canelo appeared to take considerable umbrage with footage that appeared online following Argentina's FIFA World Cup win against his native Mexico, which appeared to show Messi wiping his feet on the dressing room floor with a Mexican jersey after Argentina's 2-0 win on Saturday.
An aggrieved Canelo tweeted shortly after the match that Messi was "cleaning the floor with our flag" after the game in which the PSG forward opened the scoring in the Group C encounter.
He added in a tweet which has since been deleted that Messi should "ask God that I don't find him," which prompted the veteran UFC fighter to tell Canelo that he was insulting the entire country of Argentina.
"I was pissed," Ponzinibbio said to MMA Fighting.
"No point threatening Messi. Everybody knows Messi's career. If [Canelo] 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, who has amassed an impressive 28-6 record in mixed martial arts, added that if Canelo is looking for a fight, he would be more than willing to defend the honor of his nation's most beloved athlete.
"I was upset," he explained.
"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."
First things first for Ponzinibbio, however, as he is due to take on former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in what promises to be a bruising encounter at next month's bumper UFC 282 card in Las Vegas.
After that? Who knows - particularly if Canelo takes aim at Messi once again following Argentina's Wednesday clash with Poland.
Mexico also take on Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, with wins for both Argentina and Mexico ensuring their passage to the knockout stages in Qatar.