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How close is Canelo Alvarez to GOAT status?

·Combat columnist
·5 min read
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Every step Canelo Alvarez takes in public during a high-profile fight week guarantees that he’ll have a phalanx of security guards, training staff, friends, relatives, promoters and just hangers-on moving in lockstep with him.

That was true when he first came to the U.S. as a teenager in 2008 and the entourage has only swelled with the passage of time (and the dramatic rise in Alvarez’s net worth).

He’s the best fighter of his generation, one of the best of the 21st century and is hopeful later this year of becoming the first Mexican fighter to hold all of a division's belts in the four-belt era.

To accomplish that task, he’ll need to defeat Billy Joe Saunders on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, DAZN) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in a bout for the WBA, WBC and WBO super middleweight titles. And then, if he wins, he’ll need to defeat IBF champion Caleb Plant.

[Watch Canelo-Saunders on DAZN: Sign up now to stream the fight live]

He’s already among the greatest boxers ever from Mexico, which is an extraordinary feat in and of itself considering Mexico has produced fighters such as Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Salvador Sanchez, Ruben Olivares, Ricardo Lopez, Miguel Canto, Vicente Saldivar, Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, Baby Arizmendi and Marco Antonio Barrera, among others.

One of his rivals, Floyd Mayweather Jr., is regarded by some as the greatest boxer ever, though the consensus among boxing historians is that for all of his greatness, Mayweather isn’t in the all-time Top 5.

Mayweather spanked Alvarez when they met in 2013 and it wasn’t close. Alvarez has defiantly said he’d knock out Mayweather if they were both at their physical primes, but it’s something we’ll never know.

But there is little doubt that Alvarez is far better today than he was in 2013 when, as a 23-year-old, he was badly outboxed by Mayweather, one of the game’s defensive savants.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - MAY 06:  Canelo Alvarez looks on against Billy Joe Saunders during the press conference for Alvarez's WBC and WBA super middleweight titles and Saunders' WBO super middleweight title at Live! by Loews hotel on May 06, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Canelo Alvarez looks on against Billy Joe Saunders during the press conference for Alvarez's WBC and WBA super middleweight titles and Saunders' WBO super middleweight title at Live! by Loews hotel on May 6, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The three best fighters he’s faced in his career are Mayweather, Gennadiy Golovkin and Miguel Cotto. He was 2-1-1 against them, defeating Cotto in 2015 and earning a hotly disputed draw and an equally as disputed majority decision win over Golovkin in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

He is 15-1-1 against men who have held a major world title — either an IBF, WBA, WBC or WBO belt — and has won seven of those bouts by knockout. And in an era when fighters routinely avoid the best in their division, Alvarez has been the opposite. He’s always sought out the best opponent and there is no one that made sense for him to face that he has not met.

He’s still just 31 years old and, given the kind of condition he keeps himself in, it’s feasible that he could win as many as 10 or 15 more bouts before he hangs it up. He’s 55-1-2 with 37 knockouts now, so if he wins 10 more without a loss, he’d be 65-1-2. Going 15-0 from this point forward would make him 70-1-2.

At that point, there would have to be serious consideration given to including him as one of the game’s Top 15 or Top 25 fighters of all time. That’s a list populated by legends like Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Chavez Sr., Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and, yes, Mayweather.

It would be hard to deny him that kind of spot in history were he to end his career with 65 or 70 wins without another defeat.

He’s been remarkably consistent throughout his career and outside of the Golovkin fights, he’s had perhaps one other bout that was close. That was his 2014 win over Erislandy Lara, which he won by split decision.

Other than that, he’s blown out an impressive list of opponents. Against Hall of Famer Shane Mosley, he won 11 of 12 rounds on two official cards and 10 of 12 on the third. He faced Austin Trout at the peak of Trout’s career, when Trout was 26-0 and a world champion with an awkward style. Alvarez dropped Trout and won that by scores of 118-108, 115-112 and 116-111.

Cotto was near the end of his legendary career that landed him in the Hall of Fame when he fought Alvarez in 2015. But the judges gave Alvarez nine, 10 and 11 of the 12 rounds when he fought.

When he briefly moved up to light heavyweight, he stopped Sergiy Kovalev after Kovalev had registered back-to-back impressive wins over Eleider Alvarez (no relation to Canelo) and Anthony Yarde.

Against fighters who were unbeaten when he fought them and who had at least 15 fights, Alvarez is 6-1-1 with three knockouts. Against fighters with zero or one loss who had 15 or more fights at the time he fought them, Alvarez was 14-1-1.

Lastly, his record against fighters who had 20 or more wins at the time he faced them is 28-1-1.

All those numbers show is that he’s been beating up on a higher caliber of opposition than most of his peers.

He has work yet to do, but it would be no shock at all in a few years if we were talking about Alvarez as one of the elite of the elite. It’s entirely conceivable he could wind up regarded as not only the greatest Mexican boxer ever, once considered unfathomable given Chavez’s grip on the country, but he could also go down as one of the 20 or so best to ever do it.

We throw the word great around more loosely than we should, and I’m as guilty as anyone.

In this case, though, there is no argument: Canelo Alvarez is one of the greatest to ever do it, and he still has a number of impressive mountains to climb.

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