Just How Good is Canelo Alvarez?

When Canelo Alvarez walked out of the ring last Saturday night after disposing of James Kirkland in spectacular fashion, the boxing world was abuzz with starry-eyed exclamations, ready to proclaim the young Mexican fighter as the next big thing.

To be clear, Alvarez could not have given fight fans much more than he did on that evening. That being said, let’s slow our roll just a tad.

Alvarez has been a phenom on the come for some time now. He has some solid wins on his resume, many of those look better by name than by circumstance. His victories against Carlos Baldomir, Kermit Cintron, and Shame Mosley all look stronger on paper than they do when given proper context. Baldomir was 39 years old and had lost 3 of his last 5 fights. Cintron suffered defeats in 2 of his previous 3 bouts. The 40 year old Mosley was calcifying in front of our very eyes when he and Alvarez made their in-ring acquaintance, having not won a fight in over three years.

Canelo did score a decisive victory over the then undefeated Austin Trout but no one had Trout pegged for greatness—all due respect. At 23, Canelo then took on Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose craft and experience helped him box circles around the younger challenger. There’s no shame in that. Floyd does that to everyone. More troubling was his performance against the defensive maestro Erislandy Lara in July of last year. While Alvarez scored a split decision victory over the Cuban fighter, Lara actually landed more punches and often controlled the fight. Many observers both ringside and couch sitting thought Lara was victimized by bad judging.

To be fair to Canelo, no one looks good against Mayweather or Lara. Both are slick defense-first fighters who excel in making their opponents look baffled and frustrated. Nonetheless, those two results coupled with the lack of a signature win left Canelo looking like something of a mystery. We all know he’s good. Hell, very good. But is he great?

Despite the electrifying nature of his win over the Kirkland, some of those questions still remain. The truth is, many of those flipping for Canelo after his 3rd round KO over the brawler are giving Kirkland a bit too much credit.

Let there be no doubt, Kirkland is an exciting fighter. However, at this point, we should consider a number of factors when it comes to the southpaw from Texas. Kirkland was coming off a nearly year and a half layoff due to another round of legal troubles. He was also without trainer, Ann Wolfe, for the second time in his career. On the other occasion he took to the ring without her, he came away with a disastrous, puzzling first round KO loss to the feather fisted Nobuhiro Ishida.

His 6th round TKO of Alfredo Angulo in November of 2011 restored his reputation to a degree, but a DQ victory over Carlos Molina raised questions again. Kirkland was down on the scorecards when the fight was stopped in the 10th after Molina’s corner entered the ring before the round was over, and referee Jon Schorle curiously stopped the fight. Kirkland had just dropped Molina, but it was clear he was not hurt. If Molina would have been given the final two rounds, he would have only needed to stay upright to take the decision.

So let’s recap, Kirkland had not fought anyone in 17 months, was without the trainer who turned him into a name fighter, and had been far less than consistent in recent years.

That is not to say that Kirkland did not test Canelo. He looked to be in excellent condition when he entered the ring and on that night his heart was as big as his home state. We should not be fooled though. Other than one brief portion of the first round when Kirkland backed Canelo into the corner and got some work done, this was a one-sided fight. When Canelo dropped Kirkland in the first after the latter’s flurry, his opponent was never the same. Oh, Kirkland kept coming, but the starch on his punches never returned. When Canelo floored Kirkland with a perfect right hand in the third, it was simply the culmination of the inevitable, no matter its brutal suddenness.

I don’t want to take too much credit from Canelo. He did a number of things in the fight that were decidedly impressive. He never once lost his composure. Whenever he threw, it seemed he could not miss, and when he got his opportunity, he took it and he did so with great style. There is not a single fault that can be found in Canelo’s performance. We should not forget who he was fighting though.

Kirkland may fancy himself as the next Mike Tyson. He’d be wrong about that. James Kirkland is the new Edison Miranda. A lightly skilled, hard punching bruiser who has no plan B if the guy in front of him can weather his blows and return fire. Like Miranda, Kirkland will always have a puncher’s chance. Maybe one day one of those massive blows will land against an A list fighter and he will prove me wrong, but I’m betting Kirkland never achieves pound for pound status and in fact will likely not beat an A grade boxer.. This is intended as no insult to Kirkland. He makes great fights and I can’t wait to watch his next one. It’s just that we know where his ceiling is now and it’s below the top floor.

Certainly, Canelo took a step forward last Saturday night. It was an exceptional performance. One that we should all be excited about. Lord knows, boxing needed that kind of fight after the Mayweather/Pacquiao snorefest. But if we are being honest with ourselves, when we ask the question, “Is Canelo a great fighter?” we still don’t know…yet.

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COMMENTS

-Kid Blast :

When you factor in his age and the fact he has been bred to fight and the fact he is already vastly experienced and the fact he seems to improve with each outing, I'd conclude that he is an integral part of boxing's resurgence. In short, he is outstanding.


-Radam G :

Canelo is an A- and growing. And I agree that the jury on how great he can become is still out. He really doesn't have strong footwork. Great pugs can easy beat him because of that. Holla!


-deepwater2 :

He is growing as fighter and brings some excitement. Would Floyd have fought Kirkland at 154? Would Floyd fight Lara at 154? Don't think so. Floyd should ditch his 154 lbs since you guys think he walks around at 126 or whatever. The funny thing. Floyd never weighs in on fight night. So who knows. What was Floyd's weight when he went to the can. I remember reading it was 160 or so.


-SouthPawFlo :

September 2016 he'll be the biggest PPV star in the sport, but until he moves to 160 and stock draining himself every fight he'll never be the best...


-Kid Blast :

Whenever a fighter is this charismatic, the criticism rolls in. It's like GGG. Time to crap all over him. What more could he have done to Mandingo except decapitate him. Yikes.


-sumopop :

Who is crapping on him? Hell, I was a lot harder on Kirkland than Canelo. Which is why I don't think we know yet. Should we be enthused? Absolutely. Certain? No.--David


-Kid Blast :

David, I was not referring to you. I was referring to some of the posts. Don't be so sensitive. I am one of your fans


-Kid Blast :


And after 45 fights, I'm pretty certain.


-Skibbz :

Vamos Campeon. Viva El Rey Viva El Canelo, #1 Jugeador Mexico. Seriously I think Canelo's great. I have been hoping he's going to have an action packed 2015 and so far no disappointments. Send them to come and Canelo will cut them down. Got to admire the kid!!


-sumopop :

Fair enough. I would argue the number of fights is less significant than the competition faced and defeated. As I said before, we have reasons to be excited. He's beaten some good fighters, but no great ones. Unless you think the ancient version of Shane Mosley qualifies.--David


-stormcentre :

Canelo - if we apply championship level critique - has flaws. There's no doubt about that. He needs someone to exchange with him and (within reason) on his terms, and that's one way to explain what happened with Lara and Kirkland. He is predictable after his flurries and open for both hooks and uppercuts, sometimes even straight right hands. His right hand cross is also open to a counter right and/or left hook; if you're fast, composed, skilled, and game enough. Donkey, above mentioned his footwork, and I agree; it lacks a bit. His head movement is not as good as it should be either. But overall he's a pretty decent package that, in my opinion, probably needs to fight another legitimate champion (or thereabouts) or someone that can; adapt, have a few game plans, be able to implement them, and exhibit decent speed and power - before I am comfortable that the hype is aligned with the product. Quillin, Lee, Jacobs, Cotto, Ndam, or any light middleweight of similar ilk would probably answer these questions and/or let us know. Or, to find out, we could just watch what someone else whose both in control and knows does; Oscar. How quickly Oscar now moves Saul into the face of (true) adversity and challenge will tell us a large percentage of what we want to know. Since Golovkin has already, easily, manhandled and/or bashed Canelo (sparring) there's probably little chance that either Saul or Oscar want to risk that outcome officially; even if 3G did come down to light middleweight. But until any of these tests arrive, I think it's fair to say that Canelo is, at least, an "A" grade fighter; probably entry or mid level of that standard. That's just this Truth-Troll's 2 cents worth. :) :) :)


-Hammer Hands :

C?nelo is a great fighter, but legendary fighters bring a unique style, and Canelo doesn't have that. He doesn't have one thing that sets him above the others. The problem with not having a unique game, is that your opponents are more savy to your skill set as they've likely already fought people at your level.


-john Burns :

It is said that stiles make fights and that seems to be true with Canelo. He was an easy out for Mayweather and Many believe he lost to Lara and Trout thus indicating that a slick, fast, A-list boxer has a very good chance of beating him on any given night. On the plus side, he is very young for all his experience and he seems to improve on every outing. Can he be considered great at this juncture? Not a chance. Will he ever be great? Perhaps. He probably has six years to reach his zenith and a lot can happen with six more years of learning. One thing is for sure. He is an exciting, old school, throw down gunfighter who is exciting to watch (much more than the Mayweathers, Laras and Trouts of the world) and just maybe he will become great.


-john Burns :

You are right on. Personally, I would like to see him tested against Jacobs or Cotto, It would be a real plus if he could beat either of those guys. Fighting GGG at any weight would be a very bad career choice.


-The Shadow :

I think Canelo is much better than he's given credit for. Has underrated boxing skill, hand speed, IQ, and gives zero ***** about who he fights. He will fight ANYONE. He is a PRIDE FIGHTER, which may or may not come back to bite him in the arse. One of the most recent boxing fan favorites to have this kind of attitude was Shane Mosley who took fights he shouldn't have and as a result had losses he didn't have to have. Yes, everyone loses, but losses also directly affect your earning power, reputation and standing on boxing. Mosley was no exception. He now has nine defeats on his record instead of three or four and is called shot, even though there would be a market for him now (though there still might be) had he only had 3-4 L's on that record, had he not gone into fights injured, had he not engaged in pride fighting. In his only loss, Canelo (in spots) showed that he had the tools to put up a good fight, but lacked the seasoning, experience, and of course the IQ to throw off what is possibly the best in-game adjuster ever. Against Erislandy Lara, he showed he could make an adjustment against a constantly moving target with good defense, get his shots off (he out-threw Lara), bang him to the body and even cut the cute Cuban with an unexpected uppercut. I agree with Storm, he has his flaws, for sure. Is he an ATG? Probably not. But he's not just a mere hypejob either. (Even though he, in all fairness, -- like the other Mexican superstar JCC Jr. -- has been fighting at his own invented weight classes (Remexweight?) for the past three or four fights.) Against Golovkin, at this moment, Canelo could give GGG a tough fight before ultimately going out on his shield in a macho display of Harakiri, not unlike when Danny Garcia finished off Rod Salka. Remember that? Garcia [URL="https://youtu.be/sg6e_xqe5IY?t=1m15s">lands Mike Tyson's favorite combo[/URL], the right downstairs followed by a left hook. Salka, wounded and wobbled, pounds his fists together and screams, [URL="https://youtu.be/rwJ2BpTG0Q4?t=8m13s">as if to say "Come on! Knock me out!"[/URL] before bravely jumping right back in the pit of the lion, only to eat the same combo before being taken out. I think Canelo is a smarter fighter but in a battle with GGG, I could see that lion heart getting the best of him. Overall, I rate him, even with his flaws. When it's all said and done, this guy will probably retire with something like a 75-5 record with titles in two or three weight classes, pretty damn impressive in the modern era.


-amayseng :

I think Canelo is much better than he's given credit for. Has underrated boxing skill, hand speed, IQ, and gives zero ***** about who he fights. He will fight ANYONE. He is a PRIDE FIGHTER, which may or may not come back to bite him in the arse. One of the most recent boxing fan favorites to have this kind of attitude was Shane Mosley who took fights he shouldn't have and as a result had losses he didn't have to have. Yes, everyone loses, but losses also directly affect your earning power, reputation and standing on boxing. Mosley was no exception. He now has nine defeats on his record instead of three or four and is called shot, even though there would be a market for him now (though there still might be) had he only had 3-4 L's on that record, had he not gone into fights injured, had he not engaged in pride fighting. In his only loss, Canelo (in spots) showed that he had the tools to put up a good fight, but lacked the seasoning, experience, and of course the IQ to throw off what is possibly the best in-game adjuster ever. Against Erislandy Lara, he showed he could make an adjustment against a constantly moving target with good defense, get his shots off (he out-threw Lara), bang him to the body and even cut the cute Cuban with an unexpected uppercut. I agree with Storm, he has his flaws, for sure. Is he an ATG? Probably not. But he's not just a mere hypejob either. (Even though he, in all fairness, -- like the other Mexican superstar JCC Jr. -- has been fighting at his own invented weight classes (Remexweight?) for the past three or four fights.) Against Golovkin, at this moment, Canelo could give GGG a tough fight before ultimately going out on his shield in a macho display of Harakiri, not unlike when Danny Garcia finished off Rod Salka. Remember that? Garcia [URL="https://youtu.be/sg6e_xqe5IY?t=1m15s">lands Mike Tyson's favorite combo[/URL], the right downstairs followed by a left hook. Salka, wounded and wobbled, pounds his fists together and screams, [URL="https://youtu.be/rwJ2BpTG0Q4?t=8m13s">as if to say "Come on! Knock me out!"[/URL] before bravely jumping right back in the pit of the lion, only to eat the same combo before being taken out. I think Canelo is a smarter fighter but in a battle with GGG, I could see that lion heart getting the best of him. Overall, I rate him, even with his flaws. When it's all said and done, this guy will probably retire with something like a 75-5 record with titles in two or three weight classes, pretty damn impressive in the modern era.
Good post I concur. I also think he beat Trout convincingly and the Lara fight I honestly never finished haha


-The Shadow :

Good post I concur. I also think he beat Trout convincingly and the Lara fight I honestly never finished haha
So did I, even though he did take breaks in that fight. One thing he has going against him is those rests he seems to need to take. I don't know if that fatigue kicks in because he's losing too much weight or if it's just his conditioning that isn't that great. I guess we will find out if and when he goes to 160.


-Radam G :

So did I, even though he did take breaks in that fight. One thing he has going against him is those rests he seems to need to take. I don't know if that fatigue kicks in because he's losing too much weight or if it's just his conditioning that isn't that great. I guess we will find out if and when he goes to 160.
It is in his head. I've seen him trained in San Diego, Ca, USA. His condition is top notch. His confidence in it is shaky. Something that he will get over in time. Maybe with the need of a sport psychologist/spritual coach. Holla!