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FACT OR FICTION: SAUL "CANELO" ALVAREZ

By Paul Magno | March 24, 2020
FACT OR FICTION: SAUL

Welcome to a new series here at Fight Hype where high-end, main stage fighters will be examined, analyzed, and ultimately judged on whether they are fact or fiction-- “for real” or just a big ball of hype. 

To come to this conclusion, fighters will be judged, not necessarily on skill or inherent ability, but on their overall level of opposition and the actual testing of their mettle in competitive action at the world class level. 

In this debut piece, we look at Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs), the sport’s biggest star and, frequently, one of its most controversial players.

Best Performances (In Chronological Order):

Austin Trout (4/20/2013)

It was a close fight and many see the unanimous decision win over Trout as a controversial one, but it WAS a win. It was a win by a 22-year-old Canelo over a tricky southpaw world junior middleweight champ just four months removed from a win over Miguel Cotto. Impressive.

Erislandy Lara (7/12/2014)

Another close fight with a controversial decision in his favor. However, once again, it was against a tough, elite-level fighter with a supremely difficult style—and Alvarez was just 23 years old. 

Miguel Cotto (11/21/2015)

Maybe Cotto was past his prime and fighting one division above his ideal weight, but he was just one fight removed from a dominant victory over WBC middleweight champ Sergio Martinez. He was by no means a shot fighter.

Gennady Golovkin (9/15/2018)

After having fought the Kazakh KO artist to a controversial draw just a year earlier, Canelo came into the rematch more aggressive and with, seemingly, a chip on his shoulder. Despite the bout evening out in the later rounds, Alvarez did enough to win fairly decisively in this second encounter

Daniel Jacobs (5/4/2019)

What looked to be a tough stylistic test against a big, strong world stage player in Jacobs turned out to be a fairly one-sided win for Alvarez. This was a bigger win than acknowledged against an opponent who was (and continues to be) an elite-level fighter.

Sergey Kovalev (11/2/2019)

On paper, this bout was a legit challenge as Alvarez would be moving up two weight classes to meet a past-prime, but still world class and heavy-handed Kovalev. As things played out, though, Kovalev was tentative and Alvarez was cautious until blasting the big Russian away in the eleventh round.

The Bad (In Chronological Order)

Matthew Hatton (3/5/2011)

Canelo was gift-wrapped his first world title, the WBC welterweight title, against a fringe UK talent who was not even a true welterweight. What else can be said?

Floyd Mayweather (9/14/2013)

The sole loss on Alvarez’s ledger was an almost literal schooling at the hands of the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world at the time. Although he put in an earnest effort, this was a clear loss and a learning experience for the young star.

Amir Khan (5/7/2016)

Khan was a talented, albeit underachieving fighter—as a welterweight. Fighting Alvarez at middleweight, however, was a predictable one-sided slaughter.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (5/6/2017)

As a money-making event, this bout was a success. As a competitive contest, however, it was a mega-flop. Chavez Jr. didn’t come to fight and just went through the motions for a full twelve rounds while Alvarez cruised to a one-sided decision. 

Rocky Fielding (12/15/2018)

The UK’s Fielding may have held a paper world title, but he was by no means a world stage player. This one-sided romp was a total waste of time for Alvarez against an opponent who probably rates a full notch below his own sparring partners. 

Defining Career Moments

-- His poise against Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara at 22 and 23 years of age, respectively

-- A decisive loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2013 that seemed to inspire the use of more nuance and tactical boxing in his repertoire 

-- Two quality performances against highly-touted and unbeaten Gennady Golovkin, where he proved his sturdiness against a big punch and affirmed his ultimate self-confidence as a main stage player 

-- A decisive beating of Miguel Cotto

-- One-sided blastings of former offensive beasts James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo

The Ten-Fighter Test

There’s a theory that the tenth best fighter on a boxer’s resume will tell you a lot about his established body of work. If he doesn’t have 10 quality opponents, then he’s either still a work in progress or a protected entity. Ranking the order of a fighter’s quality wins is subjective, but not too subjective. Most reasonably knowledgeable fans will be in general agreement as to who rates as a quality opponent and, more or less, where they stand against a fighter’s other wins. 

In Canelo’s case, his ten most impressive wins, ranked in order are:

Erislandy Lara…Gennady Golovkin...Miguel Cotto…Austin Trout…Daniel Jacobs…Sergey Kovalev…Shane Mosley…Josesito Lopez…James Kirkland…Alfredo Angulo. 

That establishes Alfredo Angulo as Canelo’s ten-fighter measuring stick, something which will be put into further perspective as more of these “Truth or Fiction” features are posted.

The Verdict

If we’re measuring Canelo against boxing greats of the past, he falls way short. But against fighters in the here and now, his body of work and depth of opposition is better than most. Despite having too many “controversial” decisions on his ledger, Canelo is “Fact.”

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