Columns, Sports

The Four Belt Era: Canelo cruises, sets up massive 2024 campaign

The fight between Saul “Canelo” Álvarez (60-2-2, 39 KOs) and Jermell Charlo (35-2-1, 19 KOs) was never close. Álvarez was in control from start to finish and won at least 10 rounds on all three judges’ scorecards as he cruised to a unanimous decision victory.

Haley Alvarez-Lauto | Graphic Artist

In last week’s column, I predicted that Álvarez would control the ring and make Charlo uncomfortable, and that’s precisely how the fight played out. Charlo’s inactivity — also mentioned previously — was a problem. Per Compubox data, he was unable to land double-digit punches in a single round and was dominated in terms of both normal and power body punches landed.

Charlo was slow, and his best shots didn’t affect Álvarez’s still-granite chin. As expected, the challenger found himself on the ropes often, but to no success: he was dropped in the seventh round by an overhand right. As I said in previewing this fight, “if you can’t bring it to Álvarez, you’re not going to beat him.”

This was an inspiring performance in which Álvarez answered the questions professional pundits were asking before the fight. He looked sharp, fast and powerful. Even though Álvarez wasn’t able to finish Charlo, his punches clearly had an effect. Most importantly, Álvarez never slowed down and kept his foot on the gas for the full 36 minutes, leaving his past three performances in the rearview mirror.

The king of boxing proved his supremacy and set himself up for several marquee challenges for both legacy and big paydays.

The Charlo fight was the first in Álvarez’s three-fight deal with Premier Boxing Champions, a deal worth over $100 million. As we look ahead, the remaining two fights are shaping up to be massive.

If I were given the privilege of booking Álvarez’s next fight, my choice would be David Benavidez, assuming he beats Demetrius Andrade in November. Now’s the time for this fight. For years now, Benavidez has been pegged as the man who poses the greatest challenge to Álvarez’s throne.

Benavidez is the boogeyman. He’s a relentless volume puncher who throws punches in bunches that, more often than not, overwhelm his opponents. His 85.19% knockout rate is a testament to his aggressive, hard-nosed fight style. He connects on 38.9% of his punches, the highest mark in the sport. Benavidez demands to be taken seriously.

With Álvarez coming off a quality performance, the stars have aligned for the two to square off in what can only be described as a massive fight, likely on Cinco de Mayo weekend in 2024.

The other option for Álvarez is the best fight boxing can make: a match-up with Terence Crawford. It doesn’t get better than Álvarez versus Crawford, and Crawford has made it clear that he wants the king next.

Álvarez has been firm in his stance that he won’t fight lower than super middleweight, but Crawford has no issue with that. It would be a big jump however, as Crawford is currently campaigning 21 pounds below the super middleweight limit.

It would be a historic fight. They’re both undisputed, and with a win, Crawford would become the first boxer to become undisputed in three divisions. Despite the weight discrepancy, Crawford poses a greater threat to Álvarez than Charlo did. It’s a competitive fight on paper as Crawford has every tool at his disposal.

Father Time is the biggest hurdle to overcome in making this fight, as Álvarez is 33 and Crawford is 36. There’s an opportunity for the fight to occur after a potential Benavidez bout, but the timing will be tight in any case.

At present, Álvarez has proved he’s 100% healthy. He’s back to being discussed as, debatably, the best boxer in the world. He said it best in his post-fight interview: “Nobody can beat this Canelo.” He’s right. It’s going to take a stellar performance to beat this iteration of Álvarez.

Lucky for us boxing fans, our king doesn’t seem ready to step away anytime soon. In an interview after the fight, he made it very clear that he’s here to stay: “I still love boxing. I love boxing so f—ing much.”

True competitors like Canelo Álvarez are the reason I love boxing. He’s one of the greatest boxers of all time. For that reason, we must cherish him while we still can.

Comments are closed.