As Saul “Canelo” Alvarez readies himself for this Saturday’s try at Dmitry Bivol’s WBA light heavyweight title, it’s an appropriate time to look at his growing body of work and the path taken to the very top of the boxing world.
In the here and now, the Mexican superstar is recognized as the pound-for-pound best fighter in boxing and has a very real path to historical great recognition. These realities are especially amazing when one considers the criticism leveled against him for much of his rise to the top as a supposed media creation and general fraud.
Back in 2011, at just 20 years of age, he was gift-wrapped his first world title.
Allowed to fight for the vacant WBC junior middleweight title against fringe welterweight contender Matthew Hatton, who had never really campaigned at junior middleweight, the Guadalajara, Jalisco native was blasted by media and fans for the undeserving world title opportunity.
It was a most proper blasting.
He DIDN’T deserve that world title shot at the time against a patsy in the form of the moderately skilled, UK-level talent and younger brother of Ricky Hatton. His stardom had been won in Mexico as a teenage phenom and exported to the United States, but he had yet to really affirm his world class status as a fighter when he was given a world title belt.
His fortunate son status was confirmed by soft-touch defenses of the WBC title following his victory over Hatton. As deserving and well-regarded challengers were forced to fight eliminator after eliminator to prove their worthiness of a title shot, a series of B-level challengers and faded former champs were given immediate access to Alvarez’s title as sacrificial lambs.
But then things changed.
Against his team’s wishes, he signed on to fight tricky southpaw and defending WBA junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout. And while it was a tough, close fight, Alvarez emerged victorious.
From there, he took on reigning pound-for-pound no. 1 fighter in the world Floyd Mayweather. The challenge turned out to be too much for the then 23-year-old, but the defeat would be a learning experience and a stepping stone to everything bigger and better that would come after.
Wins over Erislandy Lara, James Kirkland, and Miguel Cotto would follow. Then, blowouts of Amir Khan, Liam Smith, and countryman Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
A disputed draw with Kazakh KO machine Gennadiy Golovkin and a hard-earned victory over Golovkin in the rematch opened the door to next-level status and, from there, he’s never looked back.
Most recently, Alvarez has been on an unprecedented run, fully unifying the super middleweight division over the course of eleven months with dominant victories over three of the top five 168-pounders in the world as well as a blowout of a WBC mandatory opponent. It’s an especially impressive feat in this day and age where top boxers rarely fight more than twice a year.
Now, the 31-year-old Alvarez aims on taking over the light heavyweight division against a champ in Bivol who’s ranked no worse than no. 2 in the 175 lb. class. Then, he’ll be moving on to a September clash with old rival Golovkin to once and for all settle past grudges. After that, if plans don’t get derailed, there’s talk of a full, 4-belt unification try against the winner of the upcoming Artur Beterbiev-Joe Smith Jr. 3-belt unification clash.
For those keeping score, that would make Alvarez a fully-unified 4-belt champion in two divisions, simultaneously. That’s crazy-impressive stuff in this modern era. Alvarez has already been talking about a try at a cruiserweight title down the line and even a bout with 3-belt heavyweight champ Oleksandr Usyk in the not-too-distant future.
Although he still has a score of stubborn, agenda-riding critics, it’s become increasingly more difficult to hate on the man and his accomplishments. The best course of action for fans would be to just sit back and enjoy the Canelo show as he works his way towards history.