There is a segment of the boxing community (and you know who you are) who carry a remarkable distaste for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. The vitriol is almost mercenary in its rigor and full of madness in its vigor.
Almost all of the hate aimed at Canelo is at best, silly. But some of it is something else. Something more uncomfortable. I don’t know exactly what to call it, but I do know it makes me feel icky.
I cannot think of a more accomplished and personally unblemished fighter to receive such disregard from fight fans since the heyday of Andre Ward. Ward won a gold medal for his country, took on all comers in the ring, never lost a fight, and never ruined anyone’s life outside of it. Still, Ward was hated. Despite winning gold for his country, in both nights when he fought the Russian alleged woman-beater Sergey Kovalev, most Americans seemed to be against him.
While that’s not exactly the same issue for Alvarez, there are parallels. Alvarez does have strong support from his Mexican countrymen, but, at times, retired boxing legends from just over the southern border of the United States have been less kind. I’d mostly chalk this up to jealousy, but it’s still a bit unseemly.
However, I digress. The real issue at hand here isn’t whether Canelo has a strong fan base in Mexico- he does. What is more mystifying is the qualified (at best) respect he receives from fans of the sport writ large. Why is that? Why would a guy who has taken on all comers, knocked a lot of them out, whose only loss is against the greatest defensive fighter of the modern age, and whose only other blemishes are draws against the great Gennady Golovkin, and Jorge Suarez in only his fifth fight way back in 2006 when he was only 15 years old.
Let’s pause for a moment and consider that last point. Canelo Alvarez has been fighting professionally since before he could drive, vote, or drink a damn beer. He is 31 years old and he has been a fighter for more than half of his life. Let it sink in, because that is fucking insane.
His collection of scalps is pretty remarkable too. Let’s go over some names, shall we?
Julio Caesar Chavez Jr.
Billy Joe Saunders
And now, Caleb Plant.
I count at least three true legends in that group: Mosley, Cotto, and Golovkin, and one arguable (Kovalev), along with a shitload of very, VERY good fighters.
In fact, Canelo has so cleared out the Super Middleweight division that many fans are crying out (rather ironically) for a 37-year-old Andre Ward to come out of retirement.
At the end of last Saturday’s bout, once Canelo had planted Plant, one would not have blamed him for looking out at the crowd, and the super middleweight landscape, and shouting in full Brad Pitt as Achilles in Troy style, “IS THERE NO ONE ELSE?!?!” I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure there is. Maybe David Benavidez quickens your pulse, but mine remains static.
So, again, I ask the boxing fan base, what else must this man do? It seems to me all the criticisms of Canelo are so mild as to be laughable. He lost to Floyd?
Yeah, like everyone else. He might not have deserved that draw in Canelo-GGG 1? Yeah, but then again, he might have.
More insidiously, you wonder if it’s xenophobia against a red-haired, pale-faced Mexican who is only now coming to terms with the English language. To this, I say, so fucking what? He comes here to fight, not give speeches. I’ve heard some bitch about his silk pajamas, or his newly found love of golf. Can’t a man enjoy a nice pair of night pants and have a hobby?
Beyond that, let’s get to the important stuff: he fights often, he fights all, and he fights with great courage.
Sure, he’s a slow starter and sometimes (although far less in recent fights) he takes the occasional round off, but he’s hardly boring. He’s a pressure fighter and a punishing counter puncher. He can go the distance and he can knock a motherfucker out. What else do you need?
If I were to hazard a guess as to what the real issue here is, I would say that Canelo Alvarez is completely lacking (much like Andre Ward) in controversy. He does his job. He fights and lives with dignity. To the best of our knowledge he’s never struck a woman, beat a child, robbed a bank, or gone to jail. Maybe that makes him boring to some.
But what I can say to you as I watched Canelo’s hand get raised in the ring Saturday night is there goes a man worthy of respect, and who is a credit to not only his sport and his country, but to the human race. And even that silly, slightly above Burger King kiddie meal grade crown he was wearing couldn’t take away from all that is obvious about Canelo Alvarez. That he is an all-time great fighter and a fine ambassador of his sport.
If you have a problem with Canelo, you should look within.