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How Canelo Alvarez, boxing’s final throwback, can further cement his sporting legacy

Jermell Charlo is the Mexican’s latest opponent after twin Jermall proved unavailable to fight

Steve Bunce
Sunday 01 October 2023 04:37 BST
Topless Tyson Fury tries to get Francis Ngannou to take shirt off

The seemingly endless boxing road for Saul Canelo Alvarez continues in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

Alvarez is the boxing wunderkind, turning professional at just 15, winning a world title for the first time in 2011 and now, at 33, set to have his 24th world title fight. Alvarez has fought 63 times, the type of number that a champion will simply not repeat in the future.

At the T-Mobile Arena, the big house of fights just off the strip but now firmly established as the city’s number-one venue, Alvarez defends his four super-middleweight world titles against Jermell Charlo. It is a tricky fight, the latest risk in the long career of the Mexican idol.

Charlo holds the four belts at light-middleweight and is naturally the smaller man; he has lost just once in 37 fights, but is smart, slick and fresh. Jermell has an unbeaten twin called Jermall, who holds a middleweight world title and was Alvarez’s first choice. However, Jermall had not fought since 2021, is dealing with a lot of personal issues and had to refuse the offer; Jermell jumped straight in.

A fight with Jermall next year will make perfect business sense if Alvarez wins. If he loses, there will be a rematch with Jermell. Every move that Alvarez makes is smart – he is a fighting industry, a man with the ability to demand and receive whatever he wants.

Alvarez last fought when he put on a masterclass over the championship distance to beat Islington’s John Ryder in Guadalajara in May. It was a delayed homecoming for Alvarez, a night to enjoy with over 200 members of a mariachi band serenading their fighting icon as he walked to the ring in front of 50,000 devoted fans, all howling under a starry night sky. Ryder, incidentally, was the eighth British boxer that Alvarez has beaten in world title fights.

Charlo is clever enough to create problems for Alvarez, but the weight will be a factor; Alvarez is naturally a stone heavier and on the night in the ring he will be a lot more. Charlo will rely on speed and Alvarez has struggled on occasion with slick movement. Charlo has beaten some quality fighters, but Alvarez poses his own unique problems and simply imagining that some extra lateral movement and fast feet will be enough is a fantasy.

“He (Alvarez) makes good fighters do exactly what he wants,” said Joe Gallagher, who took Liam and Callum Smith to fight Alvarez. “He makes really good fighters doubt their own ability.”

Alvarez has lost twice in his career; in 2013, Floyd Mayweather was simply too wise, too good and won on points. It was not close. In the first half of 2022, Alvarez jumped back to light-heavyweight, where he had previously won a world title, and was given a surprise boxing lesson by the brilliant Dmitri Bivol. It was an odd fight, and it was obvious that Alvarez had not done his homework. The rematch was expected, but Alvarez has fought twice since and there appears to be no rush to get revenge. Bivol is still waiting and happy to fight Alvarez again; everybody wants to fight Alvarez – he is boxing’s cash cow.

Alvarez punches John Ryder of Great Britain during their May fight in Mexico (Getty)

There is no doubting that Alvarez is a throwback fighter, a man from a distant time when boxers like Sugar Ray Robinson had 201 fights, Roberto Duran 119 and even Muhammad Ali had 61 fights.

There will not be men of that quality with that quantity of fights ever again. Alvarez might just be the last man standing.

“He’s a great fighter, but I can beat him,” insisted Charlo. “I know how to beat him. I have the motivation and the skills. He will want a rematch; I know he will. This is my time.”

Alvarez is calm, he is always calm before a big fight, and he seems just a bit more focused for this fight. “People have been saying negative things about me for a long time, expecting me to lose in every fight,” he said.

“I ignore what they say – this feels different, I’m chasing history.”

Alvarez has his place in boxing history secure, he is now chasing greatness and a win against Charlo will add to his legacy. It will not be easy, Charlo is being underestimated, but it will happen and probably against a chorus of screams.

Alvarez vs Charlo ring walk expect at around 4am BST on Sunday morning, fight and undercard live on DAZN

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