In just a few days’ time a true super fight will be upon us and for disciples of the sweet science across the globe, September 16 can’t come fast enough.
While the Middleweight combatants train for the most anticipated fight of the year, boxing fans and scribes alike have been dissecting and analyzing the matchup from every conceivable angle like it was a geometry problem.
Undefeated 160 pound Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) has been the division’s Boogieman since winning the interim WBA Middleweight championship via knockout in 58 seconds over Milton Nunez in 2010. Nunez was victim number six in what would be a streak of 23 consecutive stoppage victories for GGG.
In the meantime, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) was cutting a swath through the Welterweight and Super Welterweight divisions, winning belts and gaining legions of fans in the process.
Canelo dipped his toe into the Middleweight pool in 2015 against the oft avoided, slick Cuban boxer Erislandy Lara. The non-title affair was contracted as Super Welterweight, however the fighters came in a pound over the limit.
After nearly decapitating the durable James Kirkland in three rounds, Alvarez outpointed veteran Miguel Cotto for the WBC Middleweight strap.
Interestingly enough, when pressure mounted for Canelo and GGG to meet in a unification match, Alvarez elected to vacate his championship instead.
There was much speculation as to the reasons behind this decision. Some believe it was boxing politics, others feel that Team Alvarez was intimidated by the Middleweight destroyer.
Still others surmised that the decision was made at the insistence of Canelo’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya to increase the already huge demand for the two adversaries to clash in the biggest fight in their respective careers.
Alvarez began his professional pugilistic education at 15 years old and has since engaged in 51 fights. Let’s slip between the ropes and take a look at the young warrior’s five most important fights leading up to the September 16 melee for the universally recognized world Middleweight championship.
5. Austin Trout – 4/20/2013
Coming into this fight, Austin “No Doubt” Trout was undefeated in 26 fights and coming off his career best win, which was his fourth successful defense of the WBA Light Middleweight title, via unanimous 12-round decision over Miguel Cotto.
Canelo Alvarez stepped into the ring for the sixth defense of the WBC Super Welterweight strap that he won against Matthew Hatton in March of 2011.
So competitive was the matchup that Alvarez had a rematch clause in his contract, while Trout did not. In a razor-close match, Canelo caught the slick Trout and left no doubt about his punching power, dropping him in the seventh round for the first time in his career.
Ultimately it goes down in history as a clear unanimous-decision victory, but the scores do not tell how close the fight was in actuality. In fact, two veteran boxing scribes had it 114-113 (Dan Rafael) and 114-114 (Al Bernstein).
The bout with Trout certainly was a building block in the already growing foundation of the young Alvarez.
4. Shane Mosley – 5/5/2012
“Sugar” Shane Mosley had certainly passed his best days when he ducked through the ropes to face Canelo Alvarez, who was 19 years his junior.
The fight took place in front of an excellent crowd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Miguel Cotto.
Mosley in fact was coming off a 12-round thrashing at the hands of an all-time great Welterweight named Manny Pacquiao.
While being 40 years of age, Mosley was still only four fights removed from a turn-back-the-clock, scintillating knockout of the now infamous, hard punching* villain Antonio Margarito.
Mosley, who is also a future Hall of Fame inductee, had almost as many knockouts as Alvarez had total bouts when the bell sounded for the opening round.
Sugar Shane moved well in the opening stanza and played it fairly safe behind his jab. Alvarez on the other hand started slow and stalked the former champion for most of the round.
Calling on his experience, Mosley continued boxing wisely against his young rival in the second round. In the final minute Alvarez started finding his rhythm, catching Sugar with several hooks just prior to the bell.
An accidental clash of heads opened a deep cut on Canelo’s left eyelid in Round 3 and Mosley likely did enough to capture Round 4 on the judges’ cards.
From this point forward, Canelo doggedly pursued Mosley, consistently banking rounds with crisp hooks and solid right hands.
The result was never in question and Alvarez was announced the winner by a wide unanimous decision, garnering the young phenom his first Hall of Fame scalp.
*Margarito was discovered to have a plaster-like substance in his gloves just prior to entering the ring against Mosley. It is generally believed that he had been doing so for quite some time, including his brutal stoppage against Miguel Cotto.
3. Erislandy Lara – 7/12/2014
Following a loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and target practice against popular and rugged, but limited Alfredo Angulo, Canelo Alvarez elected to take on the often avoided Cuban slickster, Erislandy Lara.
Lara was in fact coming off a unanimous-decision victory over Austin “No Doubt” Trout, who gave Canelo a stern test in their bout just over a year prior.
At this point, Lara’s sole defeat had come at the hands of Paul Williams via a disputed 12-round majority decision. HBO’s unofficial judge Harold Letterman scored the bout 117-111 in favor of Lara.
This was not just a Mexican vs. Cuban fight, but also the quintessential boxer vs. puncher matchup.
The Cuban southpaw stand out used slick footwork, sharp angles and counterpunching to sweep the first few rounds as Alvarez continued to invest his energy to Lara’s body in an effort to slow him down.
In the middle rounds it was a very close fight and Canelo launched an uppercut that found its mark, cutting Lara over his right eye.
At the end of 12 rounds it was in the hands of the judges who scored it a split decision in favor of Canelo.
Fans and pundits alike were also split in their reaction to the decision. It was most certainly a case of to what an individual gives the heavier weight, superb boxing and countering or effective aggression.
“I wanted to take the Lara fight because you guys said that I wouldn’t, and because he talked too much about me,” said Canelo. “He said he’d take me to school, well guess what? I don’t think anybody wants to go to that school.”
Fights such as this push the pugilist out of his comfort zone and forces him to grow and learn. It is safe to say that Alvarez walked out of the ring that night with a higher ring IQ than when he entered and is a better rounded fighter for his effort.
2. Miguel Cotto – 11/21/15
Canelo Alvarez’s clash with Miguel Cotto just 18 months ago is key in terms of his mega-fight with Middleweight destroyer Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. Canelo vs. Cotto marked the Mexican’s very first bout in the Middleweight division which was contested for Cotto’s WBC and lineal titles at 160 pounds.
Cotto is not a Middleweight by nature, but stepped up in 2014 to shock the champion, slick boxing Sergio Martinez, dropping him three times in the opening round and annexing the title from the proud, but injured Argentine in 10 rounds.
In the fight just prior to Canelo, Cotto came in at 153.5 to defend his newly minted WBC strap against long-time Middleweight Daniel Geale who he blew away in four rounds.
The classic rivalry of Mexico vs. Puerto Rico drew a sold out crowd of over 11,000 raucous fans to The Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, Events Center in Las Vegas to view the title fight.
Alvarez was again facing a future Hall of Famer who also possesses a massive following of loyal devotees.
The 35-year-old Cotto has had his share of wars, but he wisely elected to box against his much younger, and naturally larger adversary.
Alvarez, 10 years his rival’s junior, characteristically pursued the Puerto Rican icon for 12 rounds and sought a knockout that would never come.
Cotto has gained championships in four weight classes during his storied career and garnered valuable experience that can only be attained through attrition. He used every ounce of this experience and showed Canelo different looks and veteran moves that kept him competitive to the final bell.
In the end, Canelo once again showed effective aggression and an excellent work ethic that resulted not only in a unanimous-decision victory, but the WBC Middleweight world championship.
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. 9-14-2013
It has been said that one learns more from a loss than all of their wins. While that statement would be impossible to quantify, it surely wouldn’t have the same weight in every situation.
In Canelo Alvarez’s fight with defensive master Floyd Mayweather however, Canelo certainly went to school. With Mayweather guaranteed $41.5 million and Alvarez projected to receive a career high $12 million, perhaps both walked out with a minor degree in finance as well.
Anticipation for this unification fight was at a fevered pitch. Both fighters were undefeated with high fan profiles and polarizing personalities.
The education that WBC Super Welterweight champion Alvarez would gain courtesy of WBA Super Welterweight kingpin Floyd Mayweather Jr. would start long before they touched gloves prior to the opening bell.
When the fight was announced it sold out in 24 hours and kicked off a massive promotional tour that saw the competitors travel to an exhausting 11 cities over two countries in front of oceans of adoring and often rabid fans.
The evening saw a live crowd of over 16,000 generate a record gate in excess of $20 million dollars which was the largest in Nevada boxing history and set another record with 2.48 million PPV buys. The fight was also shown on Televisa, and also reached 22.1 million viewers in Alvarez’s native Mexico, the highest-rated television event in the nation’s history.
To say that Alvarez received an education prior to the opening bell would be an understatement and this would be the night Floyd “Money” Mayweather would tutor Canelo to his Masters.
Alvarez began with an intelligent strategy, try digging to the body in an attempt to slow Mayweather down. Mayweather had other plans however, and countered well with his patented shoulder roll followed by straight right hand and other crisp shots in return.
Canelo continued to press the attack, but the only punch that appeared to land flush was a low blow in the fourth round.
As the fight progressed Mayweather completely took charge and Canelo’s spirit and confidence was ebbing away, though he continued coming forward.
In the later rounds the proud, young Mexican star showed the effects of Mayweather’s slashing counter punching on his face while Money remained unmarked.
At the final bell it was announced that Mayweather was the winner by a majority decision. It was mysterious, that is until it is considered that infamously incompetent judge C.J. Ross cast the score of 114-114 while the other two judges saw it a much more realistic 116-111 and 120-108.
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is more than a young veteran of 51 professional fights. He is a student of the game penning his thesis in blood on September 16 and a victory over GGG will see him universally recognized as valedictorian of the Middleweight division.
Fight fans around the world are anxiously waiting for the school bell to ring.
Header photo by Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions