2023 has been a year packed with really good fights and some major events.
When it comes to the latter, the dominance of the victors has been a notable trend. Some of the richest, most anticipated fights in the world this year were notable in part because of how wide the winning margins were between the strands. Gervonta Davis-Ryan Garcia, Naoya Inoue-Stephen Fulton, and Terence Crawford-Errol Spence were dramatic, suspenseful events until the bell rang.
Add Saul Alvarez-Jermell Charlo to that mix.
This corner picked Charlo for the upset. That couldn’t have been more wrong. Alvarez’s strength and experience at super middleweight certainly mattered, but what happened Saturday was more than that.
Alvarez showed a wider range of skills, greater experience and poise, and almost no concern for what was coming back. Charlo had no answers and at some point chose survival over really looking for them. In the corner, trainer Derrick James asked his fighter late in the fight if he wanted to win and gave sound advice about a path to try. He recommended Charlo go forward, telling him he needed a knockout.
It was easier said than done. Charlo immediately returned to giving ground. It was both a physical and mental win for Alvarez.
Now will we see if Alvarez can do the same with his leading contender at super middleweight?
Futures: The big fight left in his division is the same fight it’s been since Alvarez unified the crown against Caleb Plant: David Benavidez. It remains to be seen if that will remain the big fight. If Benavidez fights Demetrius Andrade as expected, there will be some risk in the affair. The pecking order could change and David Morrell is coming up fast.
But until or unless the pecking order changes, the showdown in the now is Alvarez-Benavidez. Alvarez would be favored but Benavidez has the size and style to make it difficult. If nothing else, fans would be treated to a hell of a scrap.
For Charlo, a move back to junior middleweight is likely but that will carry its problems. After bullying up here, in his mid-30s, Charlo returning would mean making 154 lbs. For the first time in nearly two years by the time he fights again. If it’s a big money showdown with Terence Crawford, it might be worth it.
Otherwise, Charlo may want to think hard about making his middleweight debut. Despite an uninspired effort Saturday, Charlo has been in several memorable fights and still has plenty to offer. It would have been nice to see him offer a little more under the biggest spotlight of his career.
Jesus Ramos’s decision loss to Erickson Lubin, regardless of how one viewed the debated decision, could be a good thing for him in the long run. Ramos is young and the lesson is to do more down the stretch to close the show and make the case irrefutable for the judges…Yordenis Ugas has suffered two bad beatings in a row. His time near the top at welterweight is likely closed…Elijah Garcia is a genuine bright spot at middleweight and hope for the future of a listless weight class…Jai Opetaia won a hometown first defense in the fashion those are often meant to achieve. That said, his size, speed, and power are legitimate and we already know from his title win over Briedis how tough he can be. Cruiserweight has had a lull. Opetaia can be a real spark to get things hot again.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]