The return of one of boxing's most significant superstars will take place this weekend when Saul Canelo Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs) defends his undisputed super middleweight titles against the United Kingdom's John Ryder (32-5, 18 KOs).
Alvarez will be fighting in Mexico for the first time since 2011. The last time he was there, he stopped Kermit Cintron. Against Ryder, he will be headlining in his hometown of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
Usually, the fight week of a Canelo fight has more pomp and circumstance, with networks that typically don't cover boxing talking about the sport. But, for the bout with Ryder, there is an unusual lack of buzz.
Nope, This Shouldn't Be on PPV
Although, this shouldn't be surprising. In previous eras, the fight with Ryder wouldn't be on PPV; it would be headlining a standard HBO or Showtime championship boxing card.
In fact, just a few years ago on DAZN, Alvarez's bouts with Daniel Jacobs, Sergey Kovalev, Callum Smith, and Billy Joe Saunders were available at the standard subscription.
Much like numerous fighters who are considered elite when they face an opponent that is as high as +1000 underdog like Ryder, a victory for Saul Canelo Alvarez will be measured more on how he wins. Despite the disinterest in Alvarez's match with Ryder, it can't be denied that the Mexican superstar, over the last decade, has been one of boxing's most lucrative attractions.
At the still relatively young age of 32, Canelo Alvarez has been a professional for 18 years, making his debut in 2005. It's more than likely with almost two decades as a pro, we are witnessing the final chapters of Alvarez's career. Also, he may no longer be in his prime.
Is Saul Canelo Alvarez Sliding Off His Peak?
Every fighter reaches a peak, and no matter how long they stay there, it is only temporary. The only place to go from the mountain top is down. 2022 may have been that drop-off point for Alvarez with his first definitive loss on the scorecards at the hands of Dmitry Bivol, followed by a forgetful and underwhelming third match with rival Gennadiy Golovkin.
It's debatable where he will end up in the annals of Mexican boxing history. But he has undoubtedly made his mark as a crossover star and, for a generation, will have been the fighter they grew up watching.
With over 60 fights, there are numerous that could be examined that played a significant part in the four-division champions' career. NY Fights will take a look at three pillars that are arguably his most triumphant and stand as some of the best victories.
AUSTIN TROUT, APRIL 20, 2013
WBA/WBC AND RING MAGAZINE JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHT TITLES
It may seem strange to put a fight that is now over a decade old as one of Alvarez's finest wins. But, the match with Las Cruces, New Mexico's Austin “No Doubt” Trout, signified a turning point for the Mexican.
Trout was coming off a surprisingly dominant win over Miguel Cotto in Madison Square Garden and was seen as one of the most dangerous opponents at junior middleweight. The image at the time, which for many he has yet to shed fully, was that Saul Canelo Alvarez was a coddled and protected fighter who had been given opportunities rather than earned them.
After winning the vacant WBC 154-pound title from Matthew Hatton, who fought most of his career at welterweight, Alvarez would defend his titles against aging fighters like Shane Mosley and Kermit Cintron. Not to mention fighters who stood little chance of winning, like Alfonso Gomez, Ryan Rhoades, and Josesito Lopez.
The prevailing thought was that Saul Canelo Alvarez would stay as far away from Trout as he could. And that his team wouldn't put the then 22-year-old fighter near such an undefeated treacherous foe. Fortunately for everyone involved, including fans, Canelo Alvarez would take it upon himself to ensure he fought Trout.
Saul Canelo Alvarez Got Props For Taking This Tough Fight
“Canelo put his foot down and said this was the fight he wanted,” Trout said to ESPN after the fight was announced. “He said he was ready. God bless him. I'm here to show the world he's not. But he made the people who work for him make it happen, and boxing and the fans thank him.”
The match between Alvarez and Trout would be a unification match for Alvarez's WBC title, Trout's WBA title, and the Ring Magazine championship. At the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX, in front of close to 40,000 fans, Alvarez would win a unanimous decision over Trout with scores of 115-112, 116-111, and 118-109.
The scorecards didn't accurately portray what took place inside the ring, and it would be a theme of criticism for Alvarez's career of receiving an overabundance of perceived favoritism from the judges in all his fights.
The open scoring slightly marred the bout. When the judge's scorecards were read after the eighth round, it was clear Trout would need a couple of knockdowns or a knockout to win. However, the smoking gun moment came in the seventh round when Alvarez landed a well-timed right hand that sent Trout to the canvas.
Throughout the bout, Saul Canelo Alvarez displayed composure while Trout launched high-volume attacks against him. He also showed a new wrinkle in his defense with upper body movement.
The significance of the Trout fight is that it altered the perception of Alvarez. Before stepping into the ring with Trout, Alvarez was viewed as more of a marketing ploy than a pugilist to be taken seriously.
GENNADIY GOLOVKIN II
September 15, 2018
WBA, WBC, and Ring Magazine Middleweight titles
Make no mistake, Alvarez's first two fights with Kazakhstani power puncher Gennaidy Golovkin are highly disputed and controversial. Their first bout in 2017 ended in a draw, with a majority of spectators and pundits having Golovkin winning. Adding to Alvarez's woes was a positive PED test for the banned substance Clenbuterol.
Saul Canelo Alvarez did provide a hair sample that tested negative, but his reputation with several fans has been forever tainted.
So, heading into the rematch with Golovkin, Saul Canelo Alvarez had a huge chip on his shoulder. Not only to prove he was a better fighter than his rival but also to showcase that his skills weren't PED-manufactured.
The fight itself more than lived up to expectations. It surpassed the action of the first encounter while still being almost as financially viable, selling 1.1 million in PPV. At the box office, the bout would garner the fourth-largest gate in Nevada boxing history.
Saul Canelo Alvarez v GGG 2 Result Still Debated
Historically, the bout will be remembered as the final major PPV by HBO. And until last month's match between Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis, it was the last boxing PPV that sold over 1 million PPV buys in the United States that wasn't an exhibition bout or headlined by social media stars.
Canelo-Golovkin 2 would also win Fight of the Year honors from multiple publications, but for Saul Canelo Alvarez, the fight was undeniably one of his premier performances. The battle was close enough that Golovkin could have easily had his hand raised, but Alvarez clearly improved upon his first showing by being more aggressive and front-foot heavy.
Canelo-GGG I Result Debated More, But…
With scores of 114-114 and 115-113 twice for Alvarez, the judging wasn't as disputed even with an even split in scores from fans and media.
Sometimes a loss can help elevate a fighter. It's possible Alvarez treated the first fight with Golovkin as a defeat. Even if you had Alvarez losing on your scorecard, some measure of respect for the Mexican was earned by even his harshest critics in the second Golovkin fight.
“We had a great fight, the one we expected the first time around,” stated Golovkin's trainer at the time Abel Sanchez. I had it close going into the 12th round. We had good judges who saw it from different angles. I can't complain about the decision, but it's close enough to warrant a third fight.”
The fight firmly established Alvarez as one of the best fighters pound-for-pound and was the start of a run of quality performances that lasted for 3-plus years.
November 06, 2021
WBA, WBC, WBA, IBF, and Ring Magazine super middleweight titles
The culmination of Alvarez's run as arguably the best fighter in the world was highlighted by his win over Caleb “Sweethands” Plant. Since 2018, Canelo Alvarez put on back-to-back stellar performances that ranged up and down the weight scale from middleweight to light heavyweight.
The run included a title defense against Daniel Jacobs at middleweight, an 11th-round knockout over an aging Sergey Kovalev at light heavyweight, and in what many have called his most complete overall performance against Callum Smith at super middleweight.
Saul Canelo Alvarez became the fourth former junior middleweight champion to win a title at light heavyweight, preceded by Thomas Hearns, Ray Leonard, and Mike McCallum.
By November 2021, when Alvarez was set to face Plant, he had filled over 73,000 fans at AT&T Stadium against Billy Joe Saunders. With consecutive dominant victories, most considered him boxing's biggest draw and the best fighter pound-for-pound.
Saul Canelo Alvarez Showed Plant About Levels
Plant was a formidable opponent and, as an undefeated titleholder, was a threat to Saul Canelo Alvarez. But the fight was as much a celebration of Alvarez's achievements as it was another opportunity to make history as an undisputed champion. At super middleweight, Alvarez found the perfect weight class that allowed him to not worry about cutting weight or facing fighters that were massively bigger than him.
While the term undisputed champion has been thrown around lately as something specific to this era, there have been numerous undisputed champions in boxing history where there wasn't such an influx of world titles.
In today's world of four major titles, Alvarez's 11th-round stoppage of Plant garnered him the distinction of being the sixth (or seventh if you count Teofimo Lopez) undisputed champion since Bernard Hopkins first unified all four titles in 2004.
There is still time left in the career of Saul Canelo Alvarez, but the lasting image of him wearing a crown is momentous. And it won't be easy to surpass, even for a fighter of Alvarez's stature.