Last September, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, (43-1-1, 31 KOs), surrendered his undefeated record, as well as the unified super welterweight championship of the world to the sport’s best fighter, Floyd Mayweather. Despite becoming the youngest champion in the division’s history, Alvarez was questioned by critics as being ready or deserving of fighting on the biggest stage against Mayweather. Following the lop sided, anti climatic super fight, those critics were only given more ammunition. Heading into this past Saturday night against the rugged Alfredo Angulo (22-4, 18 KOs), Alvarez needed to come up with a big performance to help keep off the skeptics, while giving his supporters something to smile about.
And smile they did, as Alvarez dazzled and dominated in exciting fashion. Round after round, Alvarez showed off great combination punching, with a solid defense as he warded off almost all of Angulo’s attempts to change the momentum of the fight. The hand speed Alvarez displayed is impressive for a fighter with the build of the stocky Alvarez. Angulo is a good sized super welterweight, but Alvarez was even bigger. Alvarez surprised Angulo in the early rounds by pushing off and backing up Angulo in the clinches. With that being said, perhaps the size advantages isn’t all upside. Alvarez seems to tire a bit early still. Is it a physical limitation, something that needs to be addressed, or does Alvarez simply take too much weight off in making 154 pounds? It remains to be seen.
Angulo’s best moment in the bout came in the eighth round. With Alvarez taking a breather, Angulo launched a attack that brought him by far his best stanza of the night. Alvarez’s punch output dropped, as he laid on the ropes for portions of the round trying to slip Angulo’s punches as a good number of them connected. Other than the eighth, however, Angulo’s punches seemingly lacked the pop they usually carry throughout much of the night. Leaving some spectators (and even some newspapers in Mexico, apparently), scratching their heads as to why. It should be noted, however, that even in Angulo’s previous bout with Erislandy Lara last May, that Angulo that night as well threw a good quantity of punches without much on them. It is something Angulo does to set up his harder combinations. Unlike the Lara bout however, for the most part the punches with bad intentions were few and far in between.
The stoppage came in the 10th round, after Alvarez landed a wicked left uppercut that snapped the head of Angulo back. Referee Tony Weeks called a halt to the bout, and was greeted by a heated Angulo in disagreement. Much of the near capacity crowd at the MGM Grand Garden echoed Angulo’s sentiments, wanting the competition to finish in the most violent, natural way possible. Weeks’ call however, was hard to dispute. The excitement of the fight caused fans to want to see more, but Angulo’s chances of winning had essentially disappeared, and at that point Angulo was just taking unnecessary punches. To Angulo’s credit, it seemed likely he could have gone the distance in taking two and a half rounds more of punishment.
Canelo Alvarez displayed the kind of versatility and gifts that make him a tantalizing young pugilist to follow. Being blessed with good punching power and hand speed, Alvarez fought as well fighting off the back foot as he did going forward. Alvarez piled up the points while alternating from counterpunching and jabbing to moving forward with hard body punches and combinations. Showing improvement in just about all aspects of his game, Alvarez is without a doubt one of the best fighters below 25 in the sport. As he transitions from his youthful upstart to his true prime, Alvarez is sure to have one of the biggest, passionate followings in Boxing. Alvarez’s upside is very high, his talent could lead him to the pound for pound rankings for years to come. Many fighters have had such acclaim, as Adrien Broner did just four months ago, only to fall short and disappoint. Alvarez will have to continue to work hard and not get caught up in being Mexico’s red headed heart throb if he is to ever realize his potential.
With good victories over Austin Trout and Alfredo Angulo, it’s time for Alvarez to once again try his hand at the very best the division has to offer. The fight many want to see is between Alvarez and Cuba’s crafty Erislandy Lara. Lara has been taunting Alvarez the past few months, calling Alvarez “Canela” as well as over protected. During the post fight press conference, Lara continued his campaign and called out Alvarez in person. Both fighters have the same promoter and should be able to make the fight happen easily. It makes the most sense for Alvarez if he to stay at a 154 pounds. If not Lara, then a move up to middleweight to face the winner of Cotto-Martinez in June would be even more appealing. Alvarez and Golden Boy should waste little time in building up these fights, Alvarez already brings in the crowds of a elite draw. Those future fights, along with others, will solidify if Alvarez is the next great fighter in boxing. Worthy of his superstar status.