Canelo Alvarez Lives Long Enough To See Himself Become The Villain

The super middleweight king is doing what he accused Floyd Mayweather of
11:00, 06 Jul 2023

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has made an unexpected choice for his next undisputed super middleweight title defence. The flame-haired superstar will be putting his belts on the line against undisputed light middleweight champion Jermell Charlo. It is an interesting choice, particularly in the context of Canelo’s wider career.

Alvarez was handed the first defeat of his career in 2013 at the hands of Floyd Mayweather. Canelo was just 23 years old when he went in with the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of the era. Despite having an unbeaten 43-fight record and coming into the ring as the WBC, WBC and The Ring light middleweight champion, many have accused Floyd of cherry-picking the younger man.

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The reasons for this are not anything to do with Canelo’s lack of ability. Far from it, the Mexican had proven himself already against the likes of Shane Mosley and Austin Trout. Even at his tender age, the Mayweather fight was his eighth world title fight. But critics, Alvarez himself among them, have suggested that ‘Money’ took the fight in 2013 because he could sense how far Canelo would go in the sport. The inference is that he wanted Alvarez’s name on his record and didn’t want to wait for him to get any better before securing it.

It has always been a bit of a hollow argument. This was a 23-year-old admittedly, but one who had accomplished more in his career than many fine boxers have done in their lifetime. The 152-pound catchweight was more manipulative than the age issue, given Canelo was a full-fledged light middleweight. But Mayweather was simply in a position to dictate terms on that score, given fighters would make more fighting him than they would any other boxer. When you’re the man, you can make demands.

Now Canelo is the man he makes the same sort of demands, which make his Mayweather protests all the more interesting. For a start, the fact Mayweather was 36 on fight night has always been omitted from the narrative. If Canelo was too young, you could argue Floyd was too old considering many fighters have hung up the gloves by that age. Secondly, if cherry-picking was such an issue, why does Alvarez participate in it today?

What is Charlo’s two-weight elevation if not a carefully chosen opponent who looks good on paper? Mayweather asked Canelo to lose an extra two pounds. The Mexican legend now expects his opponent to pack on 14 pounds to fight him. This is not the only bit of shot-calling Canelo has engaged in recently when it comes to weight. 

When a rematch with Dmitry Bivol was still on the table, reportedly Alvarez would only fight the Russian at light heavyweight. Bivol, who won their first fight by unanimous decision, insisted on a super middleweight limit as he wanted a chance at his opponent’s titles and was refused. Bivol may have proven himself the better fighter, but Canelo was the one bringing the money. The fight never happened.

Not that there is anything wrong with Alvarez’s approach. He is quite simply leveraging his position as boxing’s most bankable star to his advantage. Floyd did it. Manny Pacquiao did it, making Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto defend world belts against him at catchweights below the title’s limit. Sugar Ray Leonard used the catchweight loophole to complete something historic. The Hall of Famer fought WBC light heavyweight champion Donny Lalonde for that title and the inaugural WBC super middleweight champion. The fight was set at the new 168-pound super middle limit and Leonard left a two-weight world champion for one night’s work, claiming a ninth-round TKO.

At least Canelo makes his demands in such a way that fights still get made. Whatever you think of his marginal gains, he is one of the most active elite level fighters in boxing. Alvarez has boxed at least two fights a year throughout his career, apart from in COVID-afflicted 2020. Even then, he fought in the December against Callum Smith. While the heavyweights in particular allow their negotiations to kibosh fight after fight, Canelo does get in the ring even if occasionally there are caveats.

Nothing is going to change on this score. Maybe it doesn’t have to. Charlo might not be fighting at his ideal weight, but he is probably glad of the opportunity. How often do you get to fight an undisputed champion from another weight, while holding four belts yourself? How often do you get matched with the defining fighter of an era? You might not like how we got here, but in a lot of ways Jermell Charlo is probably glad we did get here. Having agreed to it though, like Canelo when it comes to Floyd, he would do well to avoid any excuses in defeat.

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