They don’t make fighters like Saul Alvarez any more. ‘Canelo’ is currently preparing for his fourth fight in 11 months, when he faces Caleb Plant for the undisputed super middleweight championship on Saturday night. Three of those fights will have been against reigning world champions, as ‘Canelo’ looks to complete his unification of the 168-pound division. It has been a truly relentless spell of activity atypical in the modern era, but Alvarez would not have it any other way.
It is four years since the Mexican competed in a fight without a world title at stake, as Alvarez has embarked on a campaign that has seen him universally labeled as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. The years since have brought a draw and win over powerhouse Gennadiy Golovkin in a pair of wars, world titles at two new weights won from Rocky Fielding and Sergey Kovalev, and a middleweight unification win over Daniel Jacobs. After this roll of honour, ‘Canelo’ turned his sights exclusively on the super middleweight division.
While Alvarez had technically ticked the 168-pound class off his list in beating Fielding, he had only claimed the ‘regular’ WBA championship in doing so. Now, Alvarez was looking to win every single world title belt there is, becoming the first fighter to do so at super middleweight. The conquering began last December, when ‘Canelo’ relieved Liverpool’s Callum Smith of his WBC and WBA super titles in a one-sided decision.
Just two months later, Alvarez was back in the ring to take care of his mandatory commitments. Many criticised his choice to fight WBC number one contender Avni Yildirim, but ‘Canelo’ does not select the rankings, and the win was an important one to keep his dream of becoming the first four-belt super middleweight champion alive. The result was a dominant three-round stoppage win for the champion.
This barely-taxing performance meant ‘Canelo’ was fighting fit to go again three months later, when he targeted Billy Joe Saunders’ WBO title. Many experts expected the Hertfordshire southpaw to trouble the Mexican with his awkward style and durability. Alvarez dominated proceedings, breaking Saunders’ orbital bone on the way to an eighth-round stoppage. In a period of six months, ‘Canelo’ had collected three championships, and swept aside a mandatory challenger. In the modern era, such high-level activity is unheard of.
Floyd Mayweather, the only man to defeat ‘Canelo’, made the idea of the absentee champion fashionable. Once or twice a year, the boxing world would get a glimpse of its pound-for-pound king. Then he would be gone, disappearing from the ring as quickly as he evaded punches within it. Boxing’s current number one is wired differently though. The Mexican won his first world title aged just 20, and had already fought 35 times as a professional by that point. To put that in perspective, that’s four more fights than heavyweight champion Tyson Fury has had in his entire career. This activity has barely slowed since, and big ‘Canelo’ occasions have become a fixture in the boxing calendar.
That looks unlikely to stop any time soon. The unified champion says he wants another four bouts next year, and his incredible run since December 2020 proves he can make good on this promise. The identity of those opponents remains in question, but unbeaten former WBC champion David Benavidez presents an intriguing option, as does a third fight with Golovkin. A return to the light heavyweight division could provide another avenue for ‘Canelo’ to add acoating of 24-carat gold to an already-gleaming legacy. ‘Canelo’ beat Fielding in a fact-finding mission in 2018 before returning to the super middleweight division in 2020. Perhaps his 2019 win over Kovalev will function in a similar way, and ‘Canelo’ will look to clean up at 175-pounds in 2022.
Time will tell what is next for Saul Alvarez. For now, his legacy hinges on becoming the undisputed champion against Caleb Plant on Saturday night. Should he do that, he will have his pick of big fights at whichever weight he deems fit. But for now, just enjoy the fact we get to watch the best fighter in the world more frequently than any other top fighter around today.