Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 37-0-1 (27) is a very aesthetically pleasing fighter to watch. He has quick hands, is physically strong, throws straight rights and lefts and can pivot to either side and disguise his uppercut to look like a hook and vise-versa. He holds his hands high and has what appears to be adequate head and upper body movement, along with good basics and fundamentals. When he decides to cut loose and lets his hands go, he gives the impression that he could end the fight or seize control of it whenever he wants to, which of course is not the case. He also likes to mix it up, smartly, on his terms.
The unknown about Alvarez is something all fighters hope they can go their entire career and never have to answer for sure– that is how tough they are and how good of a punch do they take. These are questions that we'll have the answer to regarding Alvarez in the near future. But in all fairness there are a handful of fighters at the top of the junior middleweight division that would probably handle him right now, such as Miguel Cotto, Paul Williams, Antonio Margarito and Alfred Angulo. Cornelius Bundrage was rated above him but after this past weekends 12th round stoppage of Ryan Rhodes 45-5 (31), I expect that to change. In fact I expect Alvarez to be matched with Bundrage next, which would be the right move. However, if Cotto beats Margarito in their rematch, Cotto-Alvarez would be a huge fight and the time might be just right assuming Cotto has the expected tough bout with Margarito and he comes out on top.
This past weekend Alvarez was matched perfectly. His opponent Ryan Rhodes, had the experience to extend him rounds, but lacked the speed, power and overall skill-set to really be a threat. And Alvarez, whose style is terrific eye candy, will look like a world beater against limited and second tier challengers. So the intended mission pertaining to his ascension was accomplished. Alvarez got 11 rounds of experience under his belt and wasn't fighting for his life versus Rhodes, which enabled him to try things and tinker with his style a little bit. The problem is, and it's not really a problem, his management and promoters don't care about what the fans and critics say, as long as he draws their interest and they cover him when he fights next. The catch is he was in a no win situation versus Rhodes. Had he gone through him in a couple rounds, the discussion would be that Rhodes was an old journeyman, and Alvarez is being protected. Had the fight gone the distance, then the talk would be centered around how Alvarez couldn't get rid of a 34-year old journeyman who he had every advantage over. That's why the ending was perfect. Alvarez gained experience, worked on his defense and was able to display his offensive arsenal whenever he wanted, and then got the desired stoppage before the clock expired in the 12th and final round.
Based on his showing against Rhodes, a fighter who was thought to be his sternest challenger by many observers, here are a few observations: Alvarez isn't a big puncher and actually doesn't punch quite as hard as I originally thought. I'd say he's an adequate banger, but that's it. He does put his punches together and can throw every punch in the book and doesn't have to have his feet set, although they usually are, when gets off. Seldom does he throw just one punch at a time, but I get the impression he feels everything must be perfect and lined up just right before he feels as though he can be effective when he does cut loose. And I observed when Rhodes changed things up by moving his feet and backing away and then pressed forward, Alvarez was unsure of himself and was a little tentative about what he wanted to do. On a positive note, it was a thing of beauty watching Alvarez tag Rhodes repeatedly with quick right hand leads whenever he switched and fought as a southpaw. That was the one look that Rhodes tried to give Alvarez to no avail and “Canelo” made him pay every time. And Rhodes confirmed after the fight what was obvious during the bout, that the soon to be 21-year old is most effective when he goes to the body.
It looks as if Alvarez will be managed to get the most out of his ability. It seems that his brain trust is just as interested in him developing as a fighter as they are making him a superstar and multimillionaire. He is limited as to how far he can go and there are fighters he has to be kept away from until the time is right, and perhaps forever. And I don't expect him to be around for a long time. But he'll be must-see for the near future and probably be involved in some action packed fights down the road.
Lastly, I've seen enough of Alvarez now to conclude I don't think he's on his way to greatness and he's definitely not Mexico's next Julio Cesar Chavez as some writers and fans have suggested, not even in the same universe. But it would be a welcome and needed injection for professional boxing if he proves me wrong.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com