Canelo Álvarez’s Rise to Glory

After winning his recent super middleweight bout against Billy Joe Saunders, Canelo Álvarez, the top pound-for-pound boxer in the world, is on the verge of securing his position as one of the all-time greats.

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Like many in the sport of boxing, Canelo Álvarez comes from humble beginnings. He was once a shy kid, bullied for his red hair and freckles. At age 13, he turned to boxing as a way to defend himself against bullies. His training slowly began to take over his life, and by age 15, Álvarez was a professional boxer. For the first eight years of his boxing career, Álvarez seemed invincible as he took on grown men and seasoned boxers. However, the impressive start to Álvarez’s career would end the night that he faced Floyd Mayweather Jr., arguably the greatest boxer of all time.

In his bout against Mayweather, Álvarez was completely outclassed and outboxed. At one point, Mayweather mocked Álvarez in the middle of the fight after easily dodging a power punch. Mayweather won comfortably via majority decision, and Álvarez was forced to do some soul-searching after such a significant defeat. Despite winning comfortably, Mayweather recognized early on that Álvarez was a talented boxer and said, “I take my hat off to Álvarez. He’s a true champion. A true champion can take a loss and bounce back.”

Mayweather was correct in his prediction as Álvarez went on to secure the World Boxing Council middleweight belt. Soon after his fight with Mayweather, he booked a match against Gennady Golovkin, his greatest challenge since the Mayweather bout. The first fight went poorly for Álvarez as he was outboxed and outpunched by Golovkin. The vast majority of boxing fans agree that Golovkin comfortably won the fight, but in an extremely controversial decision, the judges ruled the fight as a draw. Álvarez escaped without getting another loss on his record and had a rematch scheduled against Golovkin later on in the year. However, Álvarez tested positive for clenbuterol, a banned substance, on a drug test, something he attributed to eating contaminated meat. He received a six-month suspension but went on to fight Golovkin the following year. In the second bout, Álvarez and Golovkin went to war, with both of them proving that they are elite fighters. Neither of them backed off at any point during the fight. They fought 12 grueling rounds, with both showing an intense desire to win. The fight was very close, but Álvarez narrowly edged Golovkin to secure a split decision victory.

The start to Álvarez’s career was far from perfect. However, one thing it definitely showed is that he learns from his failures and bounces back like a true champion. It was these failures against Mayweather and Golovkin that drove him to start the second phase of his career, jumping up two weight divisions to super middleweight and becoming one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

Álvarez is approaching becoming the undisputed super middleweight champion after giving world champions Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders their first defeats. Álvarez, once the victim of bullying as a child, looked like the bully in these bouts. Despite being six inches shorter, Álvarez chased Smith down the ring, winning via a unanimous decision. Against Saunders, Álvarez broke Saunders’s eye socket with a single uppercut. Saunders, who said that he “would rather die on a plane crash on the way home than lose,” was forced to give up because the injury he sustained in his eye could have been career-threatening. In both fights, Álvarez didn’t appear hurt by the punches from his opponents, but the punches he threw caused major damage. Álvarez now has one belt left to win before he becomes the unified super middleweight champion.

Right now, Álvarez seems invincible. Any punch that hits him looks like it doesn’t faze him, but every punch he throws strikes fear in his opponents. The scariest facet of his game is that he seems to be constantly learning and getting better after every fight. There are few recognizable flaws in Álvarez’s ability, and he continuously comes back with something new to show in every bout. In one fight, it may be his patience and composure. In another fight, it may be his head movement and footwork. Even when he is on top of the world, he is constantly getting better. Over the next few years, Álvarez will likely be at his peak and define his legacy. If he continues to mimic his recent performances against more opponents, his legacy may be on par with some of the all-time greats of boxing.