History was made on Saturday in Las Vegas as Canelo Alvarez moved up two divisions and finished light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev via 11th-round knockout.
Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs) became just the fourth Mexican fighter to win titles in four weight divisions and became boxing’s only three-division simultaneous champion by adding to his unified middleweight crown and secondary belt at 168 pounds.
Let’s take a closer look at what we learned from not just Alvarez’s performance but the effort put forth by Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KOs) leading up to the dramatic late stoppage. What does this mean for Canelo’s legacy, and what’s next for one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world?
1. Alvarez just might be the best boxer in the world: Debating pound-for-pound resumes is subjective enough in the sport, and we are already operating at a rare moment in time in which upwards of five active boxers hold a legitimate claim to the crown. But how can one seriously deny the success Alvarez is having regardless of the division he’s fighting in. Sure, on a straight comparison of the eye test, it wouldn’t be unthinkable to consider unified lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko or unbeaten welterweight titleholder Terence Crawford as holding some kind of edge against Alvarez depending upon your taste.
But no one has had a similar 14-month stretch to the one that Alvarez is currently on right now by outpointing Gennady Golovkin in their all-action rematch to unify the middleweight crown, move up to 168 pounds to finish Rocky Fielding for a title and then come back to 160 pounds in May to unify against Daniel Jacobs in a strong performance. To add on his conquest of one of the sport’s most dangerous punchers in a division well north of his natural weight makes it difficult to ask anything more of Alvarez before giving him the nod.
2. Kovalev’s performance only added to Alvarez’s accomplishment: Although the final result of the younger, fresher Alvarez stopping the veteran champion in Kovalev was roughly what most oddsmakers and experts predicted, the journey to get there was anything but easy for the Mexican star. Alvarez may not have been facing prime “Krusher” at age 36, but it can be argued that Kovalev put forth the best of who he is at this point in his career on Saturday night. Although he never appeared to hurt Alvarez or establish himself as the bigger puncher, Kovalev did commit to his jab and a patient style of technical fighting that frustrated Alvarez at times and allowed the Russian champion to enter the championship rounds with a legitimate shot at winning the fight on the scorecards.
Alvarez didn’t get the victory because Kovalev submitted to the pre-fight fears fans had about the status of his chin, stamina or his ability to absorb hard body shots. Alvarez won because he patiently wore the bigger man down before delivering a vicious two-punch combo that ended the fight definitively. Yes, Alvarez has benefited from favorable scoring in some of his biggest wins, but he didn’t rely on the judges on this night and scored the kind of resounding victory that is difficult to realistically peck away at.
3. If Alvarez is looking to extend his legacy in another superfight, one name comes to mind: The debate following Saturday’s fight instantly turned into whether Alvarez would linger at 175 pounds and chase the other two titleholders or move back down in weight. There was also talk about whether he would give in to public demand for a middleweight trilogy against his hated rival Gennady Golovkin. But there isn’t a slam-dunk choice in front of Alvarez at the moment that involves making the kind of history that he desires, save for an even braver move up to cruiserweight (which he teased publicly during fight week).
If Alvarez is seeking a huge name that brings just enough commercial appeal along with a gluttony of the critical kind, he should look no further than retired P4P king and former 175-pound champion Andre Ward. Although Alvarez hasn’t mentioned Ward’s name much during interviews, the 35-year-old broadcaster for ESPN is constantly asked about such a fight by journalists, seemingly on a weekly basis. Now that Alvarez has firmly established himself as legitimate at light heavyweight, it’s the kind of legacy-defining fight between top stars of their era that is rare in boxing and would go far to declare who is the man of the post-Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao era.
4. Delaying the main event was ultimately the wrong move: The decision made Friday by the all-sports streaming app DAZN to delay the start of Saturday’s main event in order to allow the competing UFC 244 pay-per-view to go off the air was initially hailed as genius by fans of both sports. It seemed as if it would provide combat sports fans the opportunity to watch both major competing shows without having to choose one or another. The way it ultimately played out, however, was anything but ideal. Both Alvarez and Kovalev were left awkwardly waiting more than 90 minutes as they laid on couches with their gloves on and hands wrapped watching the UFC main event of Jorge Masvidal-Nate Diaz play out. Patrons inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena were also given the ability to watch the fight play out live on the big screens in what was seemingly an unprecedented decision.
But what about the boxing audience watching at home who had no interest in UFC? And what about the two elite fighters who were essentially told their superfight wasn’t as important as what’s happening in a different sport, thousands of miles away on a different network? Alvarez, who earned $35 million per his DAZN deal for the fight, would’ve had 35 million reasons to complain had he chosen to do so. Even if the the company ultimately benefited by waiting, as initial reports seem to indicate (so more subscribers and those looking to sign up just for that fight had time to finish UFC before clicking over), it sent a difficult message to everyone involved as fans had to come away believing UFC was more important than boxing at the sports’ highest levels.
5. Alvarez nearing a whole different level of greatness: If we’ve established a few different things this calendar year, it’s that Alvarez is the fighter of the moment in this era, the biggest star in the sport globally and quite possibly the best P4P performer today. He’s also inching closer in the debate of greatest Mexican boxer in history, though fans of Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. will likely have something to say about that. But what about Alvarez’s overall legacy and the idea that even eight months shy of his 30th birthday, he’s already putting together the kind of resume that has him knocking on the door to being considered one of the greatest fighters of all-time?
While the knee-jerk reaction is to stand down on getting so caught up in the moment, Alvarez has accomplished an extraordinary amount up to this point through 56 fights and 14 years as a professional. He has captured titles in four weight divisions, taken part in some of the biggest events of his era and even contributed multiple fight- and knockout-of-the-year contenders. At 29, Alvarez has victories over Shane Mosley, Austin Trout, Erislandy Lara, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Golovkin, Jacobs and now Kovalev. Even if you take umbrage with some of those wins due to the age and weights of his opponents or even the scoring, it’s hard to deny his consistent ability to rise to the occasion on the biggest stage and evolve his game.
Source: Brian Campbell