Saul “Canelo” Alvarez bursted onto the American scene at age 19. In Mexico, fighting on the Mexican television channel, Televisa, Alvarez had already built up a reputation as Mexico’s next, can’t-miss great fighter. Despite some outcry from the hardcore Boxing world, and questionable performances against Floyd Mayweather and Erislandy Lara, Canelo has still shown enough to hold onto that mantle as Mexico’s best.
Alvarez desires to join the list of truly great Mexican fighters such as Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricardo Lopez, Salvador Sanchez, Marco Antonio Barrera, and of course the father of his opponent this Saturday, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. However, like HBO’s Max Kellerman has stated before, in order for Alvarez to fulfill what he believes is his destiny he will have to become a great fighter, not just a pretty good one as he is now. All of the fighters I listed previously were all truly great fighters, each of them considered one of the 5 best fighters on the planet at the time of each of their primes.
At times, people seem to forget that they were all great fighters and not just “Mexican warriors”. They were Mexican warriors indeed, but also great technical fighters. The main reason why people loved these fighters so much, casual fans and hardcore fans alike, is because they all truly checked both boxes. What boxes? Is he exciting, is he worth spending the PPV money on? Yes. Ok, that is all well and good, but is he really a top fighter, can he fight the best of the best and actually win a number of those fights? Yes.
Canelo has yet to have fully delivered on either front just yet. I say fully because he has had some exciting performances against James Kirkland, Liam Smith, and Alfredo Angulo. Alvarez has also shown some exceptional combination punching, and even some great upper body movement. So while he has put on some good fights, and is a pretty good fighter, he has not yet proven that he will be able to fully check each box.
The time for that to truly start happening is now. In fact, if Canelo doesn’t start looking like a great fighter Saturday night, most will see that it will never happen. The sentiment will be that unfortunately, Alvarez the fighter will never match up to Alvarez the box-office draw. It is a challenge that his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, was able to accomplish in spades.
The story coming into this fight has really been all about Julio Ceasr Chavez Jr. The narrative has largely been about if Chavez can make weight comfortably, if he is focused and determined, and if he is actually good enough for any of that to matter in the first place. Then there is the story of Chavez trying to redeem himself towards his country and his father. It has been smart promotion, a lot of people balked at the fight when it was announced, and now most educated boxing minds are expecting a competitive fight.
The favorite is clearly still Canelo Alvarez, everybody expects him to win Saturday night. But the fact that a lot of good Boxing minds think that the fight will be competitive speaks more to Canelo’s reputation than Chavez’s. Sure, some of the sentiment has come about because Chavez Jr was always a talented fighter, who was gifted with some (I’m not saying all) of his father’s pedigree and talent, and people think this is just the opportunity to cash in on the potential he’s had. Chavez has a distinct size advantage as we all know, so there isn’t some crazy logic going around that has people thinking it’s going to be competitive.
The thing is though, it is 100 percent Alvarez’s job for none of that to matter Saturday night in Las Vegas, it is his job to outclass Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. he needs to finally start making people believe that he really can beat Gennady Golovkin, not just be the famous participant in Boxing’s biggest potential fight. You could talk about Chavez’s size advantage, but really, stylistically, Chavez is tailor made for Canelo. Canelo loves to stand his ground and dare you to stay in punching range with him. Chavez Jr has moved around a bit in his fights, but what he does best, what he has won fights with, has been marching forward breaking down his man.
Any fighter that has attempted to stand in front of Alvarez has been decimated. Lara, Mayweather, Khan and Trout had varying degrees of success by Boxing Alvarez. With Canelo’s terrific combination punching to the head and body, he should be able to tag Chavez Jr at will. With his head movement, he should be able to stay out of the way of most of Chavez’s big shots.
If Canelo is the fighter that he believes he can and will be, then this fight will not be competitive. Think a lesser version of Pacquiao versus Margarito, where Pacquiao won pretty much every round, but was hurt by a few body shots. That is the kind of performance Canelo should be looking for and should put on Saturday night. Ideally, he’d score a knockout which would surprise a lot of people who believe Chavez Jr will simply be too big for him to put away. But even if Chavez is able to absorb punishment as he has in the past, Alvarez can still score a referee or corner stoppage if he can put on his best performance to date.
And why shouldn’t he? Canelo isn’t 22, 23, 24 years old anymore, he is 26. He is now beginning his peak years and he’s had right around 50 professional fights, so he’s in a sweet spot right now. Canelo is still just 26 but has the experience of an older fighter.
This will be a try-out for Canelo Alvarez. Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy will be watching intently and will be looking to see if their guy is ready for Triple G. Again, It’s Alvarez’s job to silence all the hype about a great Mexican war, and Chavez being focused, and once again shift the narrative to him being perhaps the biggest star in Boxing, and his summit meeting with GGG. If Alvarez looks spectacular, look for GGG-Canelo to happen this year.
In the end, Alvarez will win this fight. But he needs to know that if is all he does in this fight, just win, he will stay stuck at his present plateau. If Alvarez is going to eventually push through this current wall he’s hit for a few years now, he needs to be downright impressive.
To me, Canelo has always show the potential to do great things, and really live up to and fulfill the footsteps of Chavez, Sanchez, and all of the others. But potential and reality are two different things, and to be honest, I’m almost identically split on which side of the fence I am on with this kid. Half of me believes he just isn’t that great, that he’s good but not great. The other half says that while he hasn’t been great yet, it’s a matter of time before he is. This Saturday night in Las Vegas we’ll see if Canelo Alvarez is truly one of the very best on the planet, or if he’s just another good fighter who happens to be blessed with a great fan base.