Canelo Alvarez earns legendary status after unique path thanks to forgotten quality

The four-weight world champion takes on his compatriot in a Mexican festival of fighting for Cinco de Mayo weekend and has distinguished himself above his contemporaries thanks to a throwback journey

Steve Bunce
Thursday 02 May 2024 09:22 BST
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Canelo Alvarez was an old man in boxing long before his 18th birthday.

On Saturday, in Las Vegas, he leads a Mexican festival of fighting when he meets Jaime Munguia over 12 rounds for all four of the super-middleweight championship belts.

FOLLOW LIVE: Canelo vs Munguia – latest fight updates and results

Alvarez is still only 33, this will be his 65th fight, it is his 24th world title fight and he has won world titles at four separate weights. He was just 20 when he won his first world title.

Those would be staggering statistics for any fighter born after 1960, but Alvarez also turned professional at just 15, he fought 21 times before he turned 18 and had his first twelve-round title fight when he was just 17 and one month.

His record looks like he belongs in the thirties and not at a time when most good fighters will not even get close to having 35 or 40 fights. In 10 years, Alvarez will feel like a relic, the last of a breed.

His two defeats were in world title fights against unbeaten champions; in 2013, Floyd Mayweather beat him over 12 rounds and Mayweather had won all 44 fights at the time. In 2022, Alvarez moved to light-heavyweight – 21 pounds heavier than when he won his first world title – and lost to Dmitry Bivol, who was unbeaten in 19 fights.

He is now the boxer that people will refer to in 50 years’ time; he has lived inside his own boxing fairytale for nearly 20 years. Alvarez has achieved enough to be compared to the men who had 100 and even 200 fights in the forgotten days of the business of boxing; it was brutal, harsh, unforgiving... an unrecognisable business. Alvarez is in all conversations from now on.

Canelo Alvarez and Jaime Munguia shake hands at a press conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel in March
Canelo Alvarez and Jaime Munguia shake hands at a press conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel in March (Getty Images)

On Saturday, it is the latest test for Alvarez, and Munguia is the latest unbeaten fighter to be in the opposite corner. Alvarez likes unbeaten men; he beat three unbeaten men to collect the four belts at super-middleweight and he beat them all inside 12 months.

Callum Smith lost the WBA belt and was 27-0, then Billy Joe Saunders lost the WBO belt and was 30-0, and Caleb Plant was stopped in the 11th for the IBF belt and was 21-0. There was, by the way, an easy defence in the middle of the sequence. Those are statistics from the faded pages of the history books packed with boxing’s giants, men snapped immortal in black-and-white photographs, and also men who died penniless and hopeless.

Alvarez throws a left at Jermell Charlo during their super-middleweight title fight in Nevada in September 2023
Alvarez throws a left at Jermell Charlo during their super-middleweight title fight in Nevada in September 2023 (Getty)

Munguia is also a Mexican. He turned professional when he was 16, learning his trade on the same dubious circuit as Alvarez had a few years earlier. Munguia is 27 now, has won all 43 of his fights and knocked out or stopped 34 of his opponents. He has beaten some good men, and steadily been prepared in many ways for a cash-cow showdown with boxing’s cash king. The good names have been selected with care.

Munguia stopped Islington’s John Ryder in his last fight and Ryder immediately retired. The Londoner looked suddenly faded and vulnerable against Munguia, his legendary toughness had vanished. Just seven months earlier, outdoors in front of 50,000 in Guadalajara, Ryder survived the full 12 with Alvarez. The two results tell many tales and hopefully Munguia and his people are not foolish enough to think that two and two makes four; boxing never follows a sane route.

Munguia remains unbeaten after stopping Londoner John Ryder in their January bout
Munguia remains unbeaten after stopping Londoner John Ryder in their January bout (Getty)

However, Munguia’s youth, size and pride will pose Alvarez a lot of problems. Alvarez has ruined taller men, but Munguia’s physical assets and fearless attitude are a daunting combination. And, the pride factor on a weekend of Mexican celebrations should not be ignored.

Alvarez in Las Vegas is a three-day circus of noise, cowboy boots – his roots are rural – and celebration. He will enter the ring in the T-Mobile in front of just under 21,000 with Mariachi bands celebrating his fighting exploits. There will be tears on his cheeks – it is quite an event, trust me. His big fights in Las Vegas will leave a glowing, separate memory to the fights that have made him legend.

It is likely to be vicious at times and if Munguia has been fed too many easy touches, too many men at the right time in their careers, then Alvarez will discover the flaw. Munguia will need all his confidence to take risks and to put and keep Alvarez under pressure. The problem for Munguia is simple: Alvarez loves pressure.

Canelo vs Munguia will stream live on Dazn pay-per-view around the world, at a cost of £19.99 in the UK and $89.99 in the US. If new viewers purchase a £9.99 or $19.99-per-month subscription along with the pay-per-view, however, they will get their first month free. Purchase a subscription to DAZN here, with plans starting at £9.99 a month.

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