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Who's next for Canelo Alvarez as he moves up the all-time ranks?

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·5-min read

It’s almost getting unfair how good Canelo Alvarez has become. Sooner or later, if he fights long enough, they’re going to have to put him in a handicap match like they did for Andre the Giant or Haystacks Calhoun back in the day in pro wrestling.

One guy isn’t going to have much of a chance against Alvarez now, who since his 2013 loss to Floyd Mayweather has morphed into the best and most complete fighter in the world.

His brilliance — and that of trainer Eddy Reynoso — was on display for 36 minutes on Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, when he dismantled Callum Smith and put a brutal beating on him over 12 one-sided rounds. Alvarez won the WBA and WBC super middleweight titles from the previously unbeaten Smith by scores of 119-109 twice and 117-111.

Alvarez would be a 4-1 or 5-1 favorite against pretty much anyone in the world at this point, even though he’s fighting in talent-rich divisions.

He smirked when asked in the post-fight about a potential third fight with Gennadiy Golovkin, but that may be the only bout that could be made for Alvarez in which the odds would be close. Golovkin, who lost a close fight and drew a close fight with Alvarez, looked impressive himself in routing Kamil Szeremeta on Friday.

If Alvarez doesn’t want to fight Golovkin again, there are plenty of options for him. A bout with IBF super middleweight champion Caleb Plant would be entertaining, but perhaps the bout to make would be one versus unbeaten unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev.

Beterbiev is 15-0 with 15 knockouts and only four of those went into the fifth round. He’s an animal who is always on the hunt and he’s a highly skilled and accurate combination puncher.

At this stage, Alvarez is competing against history and moving himself up the all-time ranks. He’s beginning to make a case that he, not Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., is the greatest Mexican-born fighter ever. Even if we concede the point for now and continue to recognize Chavez, Alvarez is covering ground quickly.

He’s got the right approach and is always looking for the big fights. He’s become an excellent defender, something that didn’t happen by accident. He’s spent hours working and drilling with Reynoso to make his defense better, and on Saturday, he held Smith to an 18-percent connect rate.

Alvarez moved his head, slipped punches, twisted, turned, ducked and slid out of the way of them.

Offensively, he’s punching harder than ever and he’s throwing more in combination. His jab is no longer just a range-finder, but it’s become a power punch in and of itself.

There are few active fighters with the level of opposition that Alvarez has faced. Manny Pacquiao is one, but he shares the same sentiment that Alvarez does, that a win over an elite opponent is a lot different than just whipping up on the Tomato Can of the Month.

Alvarez is now making elite opponents look like tomato cans, because he outmatches them so badly. Smith entered the bout 27-0 and perceived as the man at super middleweight. Two minutes into the fight and it was plainly obvious that Smith wasn’t remotely close to him skill-wise.

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - DECEMBER 19: In this handout image provided by Matchroom, Canelo Alvarez celebrates after defeating Callum Smith (not pictured) during their super middleweight title bout at the Alamodome on December 19, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom via Getty Images)
Canelo Alvarez celebrates after defeating Callum Smith (not pictured) during their super middleweight title bout at the Alamodome on Dec. 19, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom via Getty Images)

Plenty to look forward to from Canelo

In many sports, fans tend to overrate the present generation and forget the greats who came before them. But in boxing, it’s the opposite. We tend to shrug our shoulders about today’s finest, but we romanticize some of the legends and make them into something more than what they were.

Alvarez is good enough that he would have played in every era. Anyone who is as quick as he is, who pushes himself in training as much as Alvarez and who has as high of a boxing IQ that he does would find a way to compete across all generations.

We are looking at an all-time great, and he has a lot of significant fights ahead of him. Alvarez-Golovkin III would be the glamor fight, but it would be more than just that. Many boxing experts believe Golovkin won both of those. Each of their first two bouts were excellent, and a third would be the same.

A super middleweight unification with Plant, the IBF champion, wouldn’t have the cachet that Alvarez-Golovkin III has, but it would be a fun fight. So, too, would a bout with David Benavidez, either at 168 or 175.

An Alvarez-Beterbiev would be a slugfest where the violence would be so great that people would be watching it slack-jawed.

He’s good and getting better, and he has the attitude that he wants only to compete against the best.

That means there is a lot to look forward to with Alvarez in the near future.

He’s either going to fight those guys, or he’ll have to fend off two guys at once. That’s the only way to make things fair.

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