He’s only 31 years old, and we’re already running out of superlatives for Canelo Alvarez. While we’re running out of superlatives, he’s running out of things to accomplish.
Canelo, the reigning pound-for-pound king — and arguably the biggest attraction in the sport — added another title to his absurd list of accolades on Saturday: undisputed.
He’s undeniably a first-ballot hall of famer, and maybe it’s time to discuss his place amongst the greatest fighters of all time after what he did in Las Vegas.
Canelo became the first undisputed super middleweight champion in boxing history with a ruthless performance that led to an 11th-round TKO of the previously unbeaten Caleb Plant. He’s also the sixth fighter to carry all four major world titles in a single division, as well as the first Mexican fighter to be recognized as the undisputed champion.
Again: He’s only 31. It feels like he’s really just getting started but, when you look around, what’s left for him to accomplish?
With his victory over Plant, Canelo now has won 16 major world titles across four different weight classes. He has defeated 17 former world champions and holds victories over three former top-five pound-for-pound fighters in Shane Mosley, Gennadiy Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev. His only loss was to one of the greatest boxers of all time, back when he was just 23 years old and failed to get the job done in a majority-decision loss to Floyd Mayweather.
He has reached rarefied air, where his accomplishments rival the likes of Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Sam Langford and Benny Leonard. He’s certain to be discussed with his contemporaries Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. A conversation of where he ranks alongside Muhammad Ali, Henry Armstrong, Wilie Pep, Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis doesn’t sound preposterous.
The challenge is building upon what he already has, and considering what he’s already done.
When you look at the current pound-for-pound list, there really isn’t a big name that sticks out that can add to his legacy. It’s really all about defending what he has, or adding more gold in yet another weight class.
But first, a closer look at what Canelo did to Plant gives some insight as to just how good the Mexican superstar is. Because it’s not only who he beats, but also how he beats them that makes this an interesting conversation. He’s taking on undefeated opponents and running roughshod over them.
Canelo made good on his promise to punish and stop Plant, and the Compubox numbers illustrate just how determined he was to finish the job.
From the opening bell, a combination of relentless pressure and power punching was the diet Canelo prescribed to rid himself of Plant. It wasn’t as much a boxing match as it was a seek and destroy mission. Plant, who entered the fight unbeaten in 21 fights, didn’t have the power to keep Canelo off of him; he was walked down at every turn of the fight. Although he fought well, there was no denying Canelo’s mission to decide the match in the ring.
Indeed, Canelo landed only 15 jabs while clobbering Plant with 102 power punches. The pressure eventually wore Plant down, and the end came courtesy of a violent display of power punching in the 11th frame. A left hook was followed by a searing right uppercut that put Plant down the first time. His heart pulled him back to his feet, but Plant’s legs had seen enough. Another vicious barrage of punches put him down a second time. Referee Russell Mora called for an end to the violence.
Canelo’s run through the super middleweight division has been dominant and violent. Only Callum Smith was able to see the final bell, but he didn’t put up much resistance and only served as a glorified punching bag when they met back in December. Since then, Canelo has knocked out Avni Yildirim (third-round TKO), Billy Joe Saunders (eighth-round TKO) and Plant (11th-round TKO). Plant, Saunders and Smith walked in as undefeated champions. They left empty-handed and with a loss on their record.
What’s next for Canelo? Better yet, what’s left?
Canelo said at the post-fight news conference that, after fighting four times in 11 months, he would take some time off before stepping back into the ring. He plans to fight again in May for Cinco De Mayo.
“We’re looking for better fights but defending the titles is always important,” Canelo said. “Maybe in January, we’ll see what’s next. I have nothing in particular in mind right now but I love challenges.”
Challenges. What are they?
At super middleweight, there is David Benavidez, an undefeated two-time champion who never lost the title in a fight. The 24-year-old possesses size, height and is an offensive-minded workhorse who has demonstrated remarkable durability. There are also a pair of middleweights who could move up and challenge. One is the undefeated Jermall Charlo, who has called Canelo out on a few occasions. The other is Canelo’s rival Gennadiy Golovkin. The two have unfinished business after a pair of tightly contested wars back in 2017 and ’18. But Golovkin will turn 40 in May, and hasn’t quite looked like the boogeyman he once was.
There’s a possibility of Canelo moving up to light heavyweight and taking on the challenge of becoming undisputed in a second weight class. The current champions are Dimitry Bivol (WBA), Joe Smith Jr. (WBO) and Artur Beterbiev (IBF and WBC). Canelo has already held light heavyweight gold once, when he stopped Sergey Kovalev in 2019.
Perhaps that’s his next conquest? After all, no boxer has ever become undisputed in two different weight classes.
Who knows what the future holds for Canelo. We can only look at what he has already accomplished. But his latest feat should place his name among the “Greatest of All Time” discussion.
He may not be there yet. But at 31, Canelo has time to add to his growing legacy to the point where it is absolutely undeniable.
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