Canelo Alvarez’s career was on the line.
The Mexican star seemed to be a once-great fighter in decline his past three fights, a loss to Dmitry Bivol and victories over Gennadiy Golovkin and John Ryder. He blamed his performances on a wrist injury but the masses weren’t convinced.
Until this past Saturday, that is.
Alvarez (60-2-2, 39 KOs) looked like the dominating champion of old, attacking challenger Jermell Charlo with passion and effectiveness, putting the 154-pound champ down once and winning a one-sided decision to retain his 168-pound titles and silence his critics.
Thus, he was a no-brainer for Boxing Junkie’s Fighter of the Month for September.
The fact that Charlo (35-2-1, 19 KOs) moved up two weight classes to face Alvarez – as well as the winner’s inability to stop him – should limit the praise we heap upon the 33-year-old future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
However, we saw what we saw, a great champion who fought with the fire and sharpness that was missing in his previous three fights. He told us beforehand that he was healthy for the first time in years, which would allow him to perform at his best. He then proved it in the ring.
And don’t make too much of the fact Charlo didn’t get stopped. He fought in something akin to a survival mode, reluctant to engage for fear of getting hurt. When a boxer as clever as Charlo assumes that posture, it’s difficult for anyone to knock him out.
If Charlo had fought more aggressively, the fight wouldn’t have lasted 12 rounds.
Was it among the greatest performances of Alvarez’s career? Probably not. He has passed more difficult tests. Was it a special performance? Absolutely, given the importance of the fight for him and the perception of Charlo going into it.
“Nobody can beat this Canelo,” he said. And he might be right.
Alvarez didn’t want to talk about the future after his victory, preferring to savor the moment. However, you can bet he’d like another crack at Bivol, the 175-pound champ who easily outpointed Alvarez in May of last year.
Following his uninspiring victory over Ryder, it was almost inconceivable that Alvarez could turn the tables on Bivol, a terrific boxer and the naturally bigger man.
The Russian probably would be favored in the rematch given his dominance in the first fight. However, after what we saw on Saturday, it seems plausible that a healthy Alvarez could perform better and perhaps exact revenge.
That was what made his convincing victory over Charlo so significant: It changed the way he’s perceived, which is a significant accomplishment.