Great Expectations: Do We Expect Too Much From Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez?

Instead of criticising 'Canelo' for not fighting certain boxers, let's applaud him for fighting the ones he does
13:00, 03 May 2022

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is a victim of his own success. Like those that criticise Manchester City’s possession-based approach, rather than the teams that can’t take the ball off them, some are growing dissatisfied with the Mexican’s dominance. Ordinarily, an elite fighter moving up in weight to face an unbeaten world champion would be seen as cause for celebration. But Alvarez’s risky business with WBA light heavyweight king Dmitry Bivol this Saturday has not been lauded in all quarters. 

When you’re the best, you are often accused of ducking some fighter or another. As the biggest name in the sport, every boxer at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and even cruiserweight is targeting ‘Canelo’. It would be physically impossible to fight them all, even with the uncommonly active schedule the flame-haired Mexican keeps. Therefore, for every analyst and fan applauding Alvarez for taking on the 19-0 Russian, there are dozens more bemoaning the fact he isn’t facing their own personal “ideal” opponent.

David Benavidez’s name dominates those discussions, and rightfully so. ‘Canelo’ embarked on a year-long mission to unify every super middleweight title. The 25-0 Benavidez is a two-time world champion at the weight, but did not have a title in his possession during Alvarez’s crusade. Thus he appears to have been missed off the list, with ‘Canelo’ leaving him behind to return to light heavyweight. 

It is a shame, and you can see why fans crave the fight. But at the same time, the word “duck” gets thrown around a little too readily. Alvarez has moved up in weight to attempt to win an unbelievable 17th world title belt. His motivation is not the thought of an easier challenge than Benavidez, because Bivol is arguably just as good. Thus to accuse the pound-for-pound great of ducking Benavidez is simply inaccurate.

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Benavidez is far from the only boxer Alvarez is supposedly avoiding. Some feel Artur Beterbiev would have been a more appropriate foe at light heavyweight, considering the WBC and IBF champion is considered the division’s top name. WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade has had his name mentioned too, with his boosters suggesting his awkward style is unlike anything ‘Canelo’ has dealt with thus far. The fact fighters across three separate weight divisions are being mooted shows how wide the net is for ‘Canelo’, and how difficult it would be to please everyone.

The reality is we expect too much from the truly great fighters who bless us. Floyd Mayweather went 50-0, won 15 world titles and beat 24 former or current world champions. Yet there are still detractors who pick holes in his record and claim he handpicked opponents. We are predisposed to celebrate potential before trying to drag down the resultant genius. The fact ‘Canelo’ is capable of feats we rarely see means that we expect more from him than the average fighter. Because whatever you think of ‘Alvarez’, you could never describe the Mexican phenom as average.

For now, fights with the likes of Benavidez and Andrade will have to wait. If ‘Canelo’ beats Bivol on Saturday, his next move is already set. A third fight with WBA and IBF middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin beckons. ‘GGG’ gave Alvarez more trouble than anyone not named Mayweather in their two fights a few years back. Many feel ‘Canelo’ was lucky to walk away with a draw and a win from the two bouts, Golovkin was certainly unfortunate to be awarded neither of the fights on the scorecards. With ‘GGG’ approaching the end of his magnificent career though, it seems likely Alvarez will win more decisively this time.

After that, Alvarez will undoubtedly pursue some of the challenges we have listed here. He is just 31 years of age and in his physical prime. As well as fighting champions across middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight, we may even see the mooted move to cruiserweight revived. In truth, ‘Canelo’ is capable of almost anything. It’s about time we stopped to appreciate that.

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