Canelo Alvarez says he’s unbeatable. Boxing insiders agree

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Canelo Alvarez says he's unbeatable. Boxing insiders agree

Lance Pugmire Feb 25, 2021
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As the world’s top pound-for-pound boxer and a four-division champion capable of fighting in three weight classes, Canelo Alvarez is once again poised to dominate on Saturday night when he faces Avni Yildirim (21-2, 12 KOs) in a mandatory WBC title defense on DAZN.

But it really doesn’t matter who the 30-year-old faces right now. According to Alvarez, he’s “at the peak” and an unbeatable fighter.

“Yes, I really do feel that I’m at my best moment as a boxer right now,” Alvarez said on Thursday’s edition of The Athletic’s “The Pug and Copp Boxing Show.” “I feel I’m a more mature boxer, that I have a lot more experience in the ring.”

Daring to pronounce that seems dangerous in a sport where so many capable challengers pursue the Mexican star (54-1-2, 36 KOs) with a puncher’s chance. Yet, many boxing insiders have no issue at all with that statement and instead praise the two-belt super-middleweight champion for his defiant come-and-get-it attitude.

“You want that in a fighter’s mentality if he has the work ethic and maturity of Canelo Alvarez,” veteran promoter Lou DiBella said. “Tom Brady doesn’t think people are beating him. I don’t think Michael Jordan thought anyone was better than he was.

“That’s the rarefied air Canelo is in. It’s a good thing to have that attitude, and believe me, there’s no evidence from Canelo that he lacks anything in dedication and commitment.”


Canelo Alvarez has just one loss in 57 fights as a professional. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
A survey of some of boxing’s most experienced matchmakers, trainers and insiders supports Alvarez’s claim that he’s the best boxer on the planet right now. This comes on the heels of his 2018 rematch victory over long-reigning middleweight champion Gennadiy Golovkin, his dominant performance against middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs, his brutal 11th-round knockout of light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev and the destruction of former 168-pound champion Callum Smith in December.

Saturday night in Miami, even on a quick turnaround, Alvarez is expected to cruise to victory against Turkey’s Yildirim — a 50-1 underdog according to BetMGM. But it’s not just his Turkish opponent confronting tall odds.

After Alvarez competes on Saturday, he has a planned May bout against WBO super-middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders. It could be followed by any of the following: unbeaten IBF champion Caleb Plant, rival middleweight champion Golovkin, unbeaten middleweight champion Jermall Charlo and two-belt light-heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev.

Boxing insiders give those potential foes little to no chance against Alvarez.

“I really do think he’s unbeatable right now,” said longtime trainer Robert Garcia, who keeps his four-division-champion brother, Mikey Garcia, along with 140-pound champion Jose Ramirez and unbeaten welterweight Vergil Ortiz Jr., in his Southern California stable. “If we talk about the 175s, there’s a couple that might be very dangerous – not that they’re better. (Beterbiev) is so big, strong and dangerous, but honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if Canelo would beat Beterbiev. He’d have to take a lot of chances, but he could beat him.”

Carrying this swagger into the ring divides Alvarez from the rest, and now that he’s prevailed in his legal battle to split from former promoter Oscar De La Hoya and script the remainder of his career, the product of Guadalajara, Mexico, is further emboldened.

“He knows he’s the best in the world, and he’s not finished,” Garcia said. “Some fighters get tentative in success and there comes a point where you don’t see the hunger in them anymore, even though they’re getting paid a lot of money. Canelo’s making $30 million a fight and he’s still hungry to do more. He’s still hungry to be better. That’s the main thing: the mentality.”

Hall of Fame matchmaker Bruce Trampler of Top Rank has been around the sport for more than 40 years, time enough to insert some caution into this discussion.

“I hesitate to say he’s unbeatable, because over my years, every guy I thought was unbeatable got beat,” Trampler said. “But if you’re asking me to pinpoint Canelo right now … by virtue of the guys he’s fought, nobody’s going to be more experienced or show Canelo anything that he hasn’t seen before. He’s fought lefties, tall guys, punchers.

“If a guy is going to beat Canelo, he’s going to have to really hit him on the chin. Do you remember when (Miguel) Cotto’s brother (Jose Miguel) wobbled him (in 2010)? It did happen. It’s not to suggest he’s chinny, but it does say nobody’s invincible or impervious to a hard punch. That said, I don’t see anyone out-boxing him. Joe Frazier out-pointed Ali by outworking him. But I don’t see anyone outworking Canelo, either. They’ll have to hit him on the chin and do something that’s never been done before.”

In mentioning Alvarez’s past, Trampler ventured to the area that he and his fellow Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman credit for leading Canelo to his lofty status: his resume.

By fighting 22 times between 2006 and 2008, Alvarez firmly embraced activity as a springboard toward winning belts. That mindset remains at the heart of his push to fight five times within this 12-month stretch that opened with the Smith victory.


Canelo Alvarez dominated Callum Smith from the start in December on the way to a unanimous decision victory. (Michelle Farsi / Matchroom)
Late in 2008, Alvarez made his U.S. debut at Casino Morongo in the Southern California desert against a crafty Los Angeles boxer, Larry Mosley. The veteran was a complex test, and one judge scored it tightly, six rounds to four in the 18-year-old’s favor.

That penchant to test himself amplified during a demanding 15-month stretch in 2013 and 2014 when Alvarez knocked down Austin Trout to edge him by decision in a 154-pound unification bout. He was then picked apart by Floyd Mayweather Jr., but he returned to win a tight decision against sophisticated Cuban Erislandy Lara.

Trampler said Alvarez’s early U.S. opponents were tougher than he would have given him as a matchmaker.

“Fighting a Larry Mosley, Austin Trout and Floyd Mayweather, he built up so much experience and such a foundation by surviving them and learning from those things,” Trampler said. “And now he’s put all that together to be the fighter he is today. He didn’t pick his spots. Didn’t duck anyone. And Canelo is now reaping the rewards of the dues he paid early in his career.”

Those complex challenges have advanced Alvarez’s own style and separate him today from fighters content to take on more one-sided challenges to pad their records and hope for the major payday of a future title fight.

“When you beat guys like Mosley, Trout and Lara at a young age, you see stuff … you only get better from that,” Goodman said. “And whether you look good or bad … I don’t give a shit what anyone else says, he legitimately beat those guys.

“I’m a big fan of his. When he fights, I tune in because I admire his boxing ability. He’s very smart. He’s not rock-em, sock-em. He’s smart, has good defense. And he seeks and destroys.”

Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach likens Alvarez’s dominance to the most prolific run of the eight-division champion he corners, Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino won fights from 130 to 154 pounds and stopped some of the biggest names in boxing, including Erik Morales, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito.

Roach agrees with others polled that there is no active fighter between 160 and 175 pounds who can defeat Alvarez.

“At this stage of his career I believe he is unbeatable,” Roach said. “He is in the midst of an extraordinary run in his career. He believes he is the best. He fights like he is the best. He sees the whole picture when he is in the ring.

“By the fourth round, Canelo has figured out his opponent, regardless of whether his opponent fights orthodox or southpaw. He’s amazing. When a fighter is in a groove like that, nothing can stop him.”

Hall of Fame fighter Buddy McGirt knows all too well what Alvarez is capable of at any weight. He was in Kovalev’s corner in the November 2019 bout and speculates Alvarez has a good reason for embracing the invincible feeling.

“I think that’s what keeps him motivated,” McGirt said, explaining the pound-for-pound reign has staying power because Alvarez “is always calm in there. He doesn’t panic and he’s always in control. He comes out and sets the tempo. It’s called the overlay for the underplay. He gets the guys to dance to his beat, and then after that, it’s a matter of time.”

Alvarez has a savage side. He acknowledged on The Athletic’s podcast that he intentionally aimed power punches at the inflamed arm of Smith in December, a bout he controlled from the start and won by unanimous decision.

With BetMGM placing the over/under on total rounds at two, Alvarez should retain that killer approach against Yildirim, the trainers say. There’s no reason to mess around against an overmatched opponent. Take him out early and move forward.

Some have questioned Alvarez for taking a soft touch here, particularly from the legion of Mexican fans who rank Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. as the country’s top fighter ever. But Garcia says he should get a pass because he plans to fight so often this year — and against tough competition.

“When he’s going to pick up another $20 million to $30 million and please the people in Florida, why not (fight)?” Garcia asked. “All the greats have done it. Canelo gets a lot of criticism, especially from the Mexicans, for his picking of opponents. But if you look into Chavez Sr., he did a lot of that, too, taking easy fights between big fights. Why can’t Canelo do that?”

The expected outcome is that Alvarez will affirm this “unbeatable” talk as the challenges of Saunders and Plant await to fully unify the super-middleweight division. The possibility of a Golovkin trilogy and perhaps a 2022 date with Charlo loom also loom.


Billy Joe Saunders is set to fight Canelo Alvarez in May. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)
Longtime New York-based boxing agent, broker and consultant Rick Glaser has an idea how those will turn out.

“Certain styles will make for more competitive fights. I believe Billy Joe Saunders has a chance to win some early rounds in the fight, but he will get ground down,” Glaser said. “Plant would get blown through like (General) Grant through Richmond.

“Canelo wears you down, and that’s very unique in this era of boxing because most people don’t fight with that intensity for the duration of the fight, in every round. Pressure melts the physical and mental abilities of fighters. That’s a fact no matter who the fighter is. Right now, no one would beat him.”

Goodman says he scored the first two Alvarez-Golovkin fights as a Golovkin victory and then a draw. If they fought a third time, however, “he knocks Golovkin dead.”

“I’d bet my house on that. You can just see how he got better from his fights and that Golovkin’s on the downside,” Goodman said. “There’s no question about that. Each and every fight, Canelo is getting better. To take this one on Saturday and jump back in May, that’s special.”

The advancements in skill — slipping punches, attacking the body, punching accuracy with massive strength and remarkable balance — defuse arguments for the others.

“People ask me how Jermall would do? I say, he’d just grind the shit out of him,” Glaser said. “Beterbiev (at 175) has a weak chin and a bad fortitude. … Nobody right now can take those body punches. No way, no how. Canelo will end up with more wins than any world-title fighter who started in the past 30 years.”

Alvarez’s 414 professional rounds – not counting up to 10 undocumented bouts in Mexico – will ultimately lead to a decline, of course. But at this hour, and for many days beyond, the expectation is that boxing is in for an extended run of dominance by the redhead who is fully empowered to choose who and how often he fights.

“Every great fighter has his turn,” McGirt said. “And right now it’s his turn.”
 

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