Happy Birthday Canelo: Saul Alvarez Is The Modern Great With Something To Prove

Celebrating and assessing the Mexican icon on his 33rd birthday
15:01, 18 Jul 2023

The great Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez turns 33 today. The Mexican icon has won world championships at four weights. He is the first and only four-belt undisputed super middleweight champion in history. Canelo’s list of victims reads like a veritable who’s-who of modern boxing. Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev. He shared a ring with Floyd Mayweather at the age of just 23. 

Why then, with such a laundry list of Hall of Fame achievements, does it feel like Alvarez has something to prove?


Make no mistake, the reigning 168-pound king could retire from the sport tomorrow and go down as one of the all-time greats. But there remains a couple more worlds to conquer for Alvarez while he remains active. 

‘Canelo’ already has his next date in the diary. He will be meeting undisputed light middleweight champion Jermell Charlo in a controversial super middleweight title defence in September. The initial plan had reportedly been a fight with Charlo’s twin brother, WBC middleweight champion Jermall. That fight would have been better received. Jermell is a talent to be sure, but the fact he is moving up two weight divisions and 14 pounds for this challenge doesn’t sit right with many. 

The fight most people want to see Alvarez have is a bout with fellow Mexican David Benavidez. The unbeaten two-time world champion is a bonafide super middleweight and the top WBC contender at the weight. The sanctioning body revealed ‘Canelo’ would not be on the hook to fight him as a mandatory until May of next year. If the fight does take place, it is one of the most intriguing in the sport.

Benavidez is the reigning WBC interim champion, having destroyed David Lemieux in three rounds in May 2022. ‘El Bandera Roja’ then defended the strap against ex-IBF world champion Caleb Plant via unanimous decision in March of this year. Plant is a former Alvarez foe who gave as good as he got in that fight. Benavidez ground down ‘Sweethands’ more comfortably than ‘Canelo’ had, even if the latter did stop him in the 11th round.


Every inch the natural super middleweight, size wise Benavidez is a tricky match for ‘Canelo’ While he is used to beating bigger men in his journey up from welterweight, ‘The Mexican Monster’ is rock solid and a long 6’2 compared to Alvarez’s 5’8.

‘Canelo’ didn’t fare too well against the last man who outsized him by such a margin. The 33-year-old went up to light heavyweight to face WBA champion Dmitry Bivol in May 2022. The Russian handled the Mexican in a surprisingly straightforward 12 rounds. It was far from a surrender from Alvarez, more a case of him not knowing what to do against a bigger man who was the more skilled fighter on the night. It is for that reason that the defeat has stuck in his craw.

Alvarez has made no secret of a rematch with Bivol being his favoured fight, even above a Benavidez clash. While ‘Canelo’ does acknowledge Benavidez, it is Bivol he wants. The only active fighter to defeat him, the flame-haired Mexican is desperate to aim a cleansing fire at his conqueror. He wants to dictate terms too, preferring to fight again at light heavyweight despite Bivol’s willingness to contest the super middleweight title.

Charlo comes first though. It is not a fight that will teach us a great deal about ‘Canelo’. The birthday boy still has something to prove but he won’t do so against a blown-up light middleweight. Alvarez can expand his already-astounding legacy by taking on his possible heir, Benavidez. He can also do so by conquering the one non-Mayweather fighter to beat him, Bivol. If he does both then we might just have to build a new wing in the Hall of Fame.

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