- Tim Burke
Canelo Alvarez & the State of Boxing
Updated: Sep 27, 2022
Boxing rivalries have given us some of the most legendary narratives and storylines in sports history. From Ali-Frazier to Ward- Gatti to Barrera-Morales to Pacquiao- Márquez, the list of great rivalries are endless. But for every great trilogy, just as many ended on a flat note.
Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard is the rivalry that immediately comes to mind when thinking of rivalries that were settled far too late. Given the extreme intensity and fast-paced nature of their first fight in 1980 and the shocking conclusion of their second bout later that year, the third meeting between the "Hands of Stone" and "Sugar Ray" not happening for another nine years, with both men past their prime was a gut punch to boxing fans around the world. Too often, the boxing industry hurts itself by not making the fights the fans want to see when we want to see them. Whether it is Duran-Leonard 3, Mayweather-Pacquiao, Fury- Joshua or Cesar Chavez-Taylor, the list of potential great fights that fell short of expectations is growing every year. This is a preventable problem and one of the significant issues the sport of boxing has that the UFC does not, which is why the once beloved sport is declining. Too many times, the fans get burned because great fights do not happen soon enough. The frustrating part is that these fights fall short due to the industry's greed. Unfortunately, the fans excited for Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin 3 fell victim to the industry's greed.
The first two fights between Alvarez and Golovkin happened in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and were high-action and highly technical, with the second winning Ring Magazine's Fight of the Year. The third fight was far from its predecessors, with an older, slower GGG looking helpless against Canelo Alvarez. It is frustrating for fans to see another great rivalry go out with a whimper. However, it is unfortunate to see the fans and media take their frustration out on Canelo Alvarez. No matter where you rank Alvarez on the Pound for Pound best fighters list, he is unquestionably the face of boxing, and heavy is the head that wears the crown. After the conclusion of the fight against Golovin, all Alvarez heard was disrespect. "Are you ducking a fight, Benavidez or Charlo?" So what, he has not fought a 25-year-old David Benavidez? Benavidez is a great fighter and a future star of the sport, but he has not done anything to earn a fight with Canelo. He has defeated one champion in Anthony Dirrell and did not hold a title at 168 when Alvarez entered the division seeking to unify the belts.
An Alvarez-Benavidez fight will undoubtedly be an entertaining fight for the fans, but at the stage where Alvarez is at in his career, you need to earn a fight with the face of the sport, which Benavidez has not. The criticism Alvarez receives is unjustified. Nobody challenges themselves in the sport of boxing the way Canelo does. He is consistently moving up in weight to conquer new divisions. Alvarez is taking on the biggest challenges to enhance his legacy and will continue to do so. Whether it is defending his undisputed titles at super middleweight, conquering the light heavyweight division, or potentially conquering a fifth division at cruiserweight, Canelo's legacy will only grow. He is not avoiding challenges or ducking fighters. So why is he being criticized? Especially considering he is one of the most respectable and honorable individuals in boxing?
Another critical post-fight narrative I have heard is that since Canelo could not KO a 40-year-old GGG, it diminishes his greatness. Despite stating he has a TFCC tear in his wrist with pain so bad that he cannot even hold a glass in his hand, we expected him to KO the great Gennady Golovkin. While not pretty, Alvarez's performance on Saturday was gutsy and concluded the rivalry with the definitive answer that he is the better man. But that somehow diminishes his greatness? How?
So, he could not finish one of the greatest fighters of the 21st century, with one of the greatest chins the sport has ever seen, while dealing with a painful hand injury for nearly a year that now requires immediate hand surgery? Why does that diminish his greatness and legacy? How does it demote Alvarez from being a great fighter to strictly a solid one, as Teddy Atlas believes? Why do people feel the need to disrespect and diminish the accomplishments of Canelo Alvarez after a hard-fought gutsy performance?
The third fight happened too late, but Alvarez is not to blame. Alvarez has significantly improved between their second and third meetings, and Golovkin has declined. The reality is the third fight should not have happened at all. We knew who was the better of the two fighters, and we've known for four years. I understand the feeling of frustration and disappointment after the fight. What is the purpose of taking our frustration out on the face of the sport? If the boxing world is so frustrated, let's work to change the system, take a page from the UFC's book, and create a better structure for boxing. Let's work to fix the flaws that the business side of the sport has instead of tearing down the individuals who put their life on the line with every fight they take to provide for their families to entertain us. That would be much more productive than shamefully bashing the likes of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. Who is a role model for this sport, who has the courage and toughness we admire from fighters, and who is an honorable person and athlete that every young boxing fan should admire. If you are bitter about the business side of the sport, don't reflect that bitterness onto another person who has nothing to do with the problem. It does not accomplish anything. If you are bitter about the business side of the sport then change it.