If you watched Canelo Alvarez brutally, clinically knock out one of the world’s top few light heavyweights Saturday without ever flinching at one of his punches, you might hardly believe the following tale is true:
Fighting in Las Vegas in just his fourth pro fight, Alvarez took on Jose Miguel Cotto, the lesser known person named Miguel Cotto in his family. The bout was a 150-pound bout over the welterweight limit, a division Cotto had only recently voyaged to after spending most of his career at 135 pounds. In the very 1st round, Cotto badly wobbled Canelo, not some stunned for a second thing. He might have gone down if the ropes hadn’t caught him, and was in rough shape for a good 20 seconds.
So to say Alvarez has come a long way isn’t just a statement on him fighting about 30 pounds north of his original weight.
Here’s how far he’s come, exactly: He’s the best in the world, now. Some might argue it’s still Vasyl Lomachenko, but Canelo’s beaten a larger roster of top fighters. He’s looked damn good doing it. What more is there than that?
The man he beat to earn that honor was a faded Sergey Kovalev, but even a faded Kovalev was good enough to be the #3 light heavyweight, still. And, sure: There’s a little bit of Manny Paquiao moving up to stop Oscar De La Hoya, here. Canelo, the middleweight champ, might not be a true light heavy, the same way Pacquiao wasn’t a real welterweight. And Oscar was over the hill the same way Kovalev is.
You just can’t knock the achievement entirely, and not simply for the aforementioned Kovalev ranking. It was an impressive win, in significant measure because of how Canelo did it. In the 11th, he unloaded what might end up as the Knockout of the Year via left hook, straight right combo.
Canelo’s chin has become pretty legendary, rightfully so. On paper, the real threat here was Kovalev, a fearsome puncher even now, would detonate it. He didn’t. He never even really had a chance. Canelo caught Kovalev’s punches on his gloves, and didn’t give him much else to look at besides. Canelo’s defense is pretty remarkable. The rest was all body punching and quick, short, technically beautiful combinations.
If there’s a hole in the Canelo game, it’s his tendency to let things get closer than they need to be. He’s patient to a fault. This fight was closer than it had any right to be, since Canelo was basically able to do what he wanted whenever he wanted. Well, there’s another knock, but it is more reputational than anything related to his ring performance: Failing some drug tests last year was a bad look.
As if crowning a new pound-for-pound king wasn’t enough excitement for the night, the DAZN card brought a star-making performance from lightweight Ryan Garcia. You know whose undercard Canelo was fighting on against Cotto back in 2010? Then pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather.
(Canelo Alvarez, right, slumps Sergey Kovalev; Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy)