Bivol II, Benavidez Or 'Boo Boo'?: What Next For Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez

Having beaten John Ryder over the weekend, 'Canelo' is seeking fresh prey
12:00, 08 May 2023

It was never in doubt. John Ryder put up a brave and valiant display, but Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s victory over him to retain the undisputed super middleweight championship felt inevitable. The only slight surprise was that the Mexican couldn’t capitalise on the knockdown he scored in the fifth round to secure the stoppage. Instead it was a bloody, brutal and one-sided unanimous nod for ‘Canelo’, which keeps his lofty ambitions alive.

When you’re the most bankable star in boxing, you’ll always have options. A celebrity of Canelo’s stature would not even need to face a genuine boxer at this point to make an eight-figure sum. It’s futile to pretend that Alvarez vs Jake Paul wouldn’t come close to landing a spot in the top ten all-time pay-per-view buyrates. But in an era where integrity is at a premium, Canelo has thankfully distanced himself from such frivolity. A true throwback fighter, the Mexican is only interested in bouts that can enhance his legacy and reputation.


Happily, there are plenty of those about. Given the fact Alvarez has just retained the undisputed super middleweight championship, we’ll start in that weight division. Given the fact Canelo has just dispensed with the WBO interim champion in Ryder, what about facing his WBC interim counterpart David Benavidez?

Interim belts are largely meaningless. They exist as a way for governing bodies to harvest sanctioning fees and nothing more. But Benavidez is the real deal when it comes to world title credentials. A two-time outright WBC champion, he has never lost the big green belt in the ring. Boasting a 27-0 record and still just 26 years old, Canelo’s fellow Mexican is a mouthwatering foe. The only snag is the fact this bout would make more sense taking place on Cinco De Mayo weekend. For that reason, this Mexican civil war may still be a year away.

So who else is worth fighting at 168lbs? Unbeaten two-weight world champion Demetrius Andrade has long spoken of his desire to face Canelo. HIs style is sometimes tough to watch but you can’t argue with his record. Having recently debuted at super middleweight with a win over journeyman Demond Nicholson, the 35-year-old ‘Boo Boo’ shouldn’t waste any time trying to secure this big fight.

Alvarez has also been tipped for a battle with David Morrell in the past. The big punching Cuban is 9-0 and has held the WBA regular title since his fifth fight. What he lacks in professional experience he makes up for in brutal power, having only been the distance once. Apart from Lennox Allen, who was unbeaten in 23 fights while Morrell was having his third, nobody else has gone beyond the fourth round with the Cuban. You’d back the iron-chinned Alvarez to do that, but it would be fascinating to watch him reckon with the hardest puncher he’s faced since Gennady Golovkin.

These fights, as appetising as they are, aren’t the ones ‘Canelo’ desires though. The Mexican superstar has been clear that he wants to face old conqueror Dmitry Bivol next. The WBA light heavyweight champion dismantled Alvarez on the way to a unanimous decision a year ago. It is an ignominy Alvarez has stewed over for 12 months and, in the wake of the Ryder triumph, he set his sights firmly on a Bivol rematch.

Bivol and the boxing world at large have been saying for a year that they’d prefer he meet Artur Beterbiev rather than ‘Canelo’. An undisputed light heavyweight title fight between two unbeaten boxers is too good not to stage. But it hasn’t happened for a year, and Bivol himself seems to have softened on the idea of revisiting with Alvarez. However, the terms each man want are very different.

Alvarez was asked about the fight in the Ryder aftermath and went on record as saying he wanted the “same rules, same terms, same everything.” These conditions would include the weight, which would once again be at the 175-pound light heavyweight limit. You might think this move would favour Bivol, given that he is the reigning champion and more natural at that weight. But despite those physical factors, Bivol disagrees.

“It’s a motivation for me to try to fight for all the titles at 168”, Bivol explained on social media. He added “What is the challenge or what is the motivation for me if I’ve already beaten him at that weight class?”, referring to another go-round at light heavyweight. He’s right of course. Bivol’s legacy will not be enhanced greatly by another ‘Canelo’ win at the same weight. He’ll retain the same world title and, given the first fight was far from a fluke, he has little to prove. Whereas a victory at super middleweight would make him an undisputed champion for the first time in his career, as well as a two-weight world champion. 

If ‘Canelo’ wants the rematch that badly, he should agree to Bivol’s terms. But that is rarely how it works in boxing. Bivol has proven himself the better man in the ring, but Alvarez is the box office attraction here. The biggest star always dictates the field tilt at the negotiating table. Despite most of the fights listed here offering more intrigue than a straight Bivol rematch at light heavyweight, we will likely get that fight. The simple reason being that nobody in boxing generates as many eyeballs or as much cash as ‘Canelo’ and because he wants it. Twas ever thus. But of course, if the “same everything” really does come to pass, then Alvarez will lose again. It will be fascinating to see where the defining fighter of this generation goes after that.

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