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  • Writer's pictureLiliana Ulloa

Canelo vs Benavidez: Crossroads of Legacy & Safe Plays

As the boxing world twiddles its thumbs, eagerly awaiting the grand reveal of Canelo's next opponent in the so-called "Canelo Opponent Sweepstakes," a storm brews over the legitimacy of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's right to cherry-pick his battles, sidelining sanctioning body mandates and the clamoring voices of fans worldwide. At the heart of this storm lies a deserving contender: David Benavidez, a Mexican/Ecuadorian fighter many believe Canelo is deliberately avoiding. 

Ryan Haley

Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions

What Got Us Here?

As a fan of Canelo, I always choose to give him the benefit of the doubt through the history of his negotiation shenanigans over the years. Once the B-side, willing to bend to the A-side's whims, Canelo's early career was marked by a willingness to play by the industry's unspoken rules, as he once  mentioned on one of HBO’s 24/7 specials. Following his impressive victory over Puerto Rican boxing legend Miguel Cotto, it seemed like Alvarez permanently claimed the A-side title along with the lineal belts. 

It was also after that victory where Alvarez officially announced the start of his era, and bravely, a lo mexicano, stated he would gladly put the gloves back on to fight Gennady Golovkin on the same night. I was hyped like all the drunk tios that night, yelling “viva mexico, cabrones!” and all. 

As we now all know, the Mexican redhead made us wait almost 2 years before finally facing Golovkin, while starting the pattern of making fights nobody asked for. Additionally, his stay at 160 to snatch some belts because “Eddy wants to be unified champion,” only to leapfrog to 175 for a WBA "Little Tikes” belt against Rocky Fielding, raised eyebrows. 

Benavidez Loses Belt: Again

When Benavidez lost his 168 belt for a second time, not to recreational substances again (saca la bolista), but to the scale, Canelo's swift move to dominate the 168 division seemed less about competition and more about opportunism. Moving up in weight before challenging Demetrius “BooBoo” Andrade for undisputed middleweight status further fueled “cherry-picking” debates and resulted in bombastic side-eye from the fans.

Regardless, he was Canelo and in the words of Ariana Grande, “What about it?”

Canelo’s Peak Part 1: EuroTour 

As DAZN continued to seek popularity, Alvarez capitalized the opportunity to take Eddie Hearn’s new platform and champions to further catapult in his career. In a matter of months, Alvarez beat two undefeated champions to steal their belts, and defeated checks notes WBC mandatory, Avni Yildrim. 

While Alvarez was already facing light criticism from some fans due to choosing to defend against the unknown mandatory as opposed to Benavidez, most fans collectively agreed that Benavidez’s indiscipline was what cost him the opportunity. 

Benavidez Enters the Chat

After two controversies leaving him categorized as an undeserving and undisciplined champion, Benavidez fought his way back to top contention, rebranding himself in the process while facing decent opposition. In the meanwhile, Canelo's gaze turned elsewhere — to Dmitry Bivol, a third bout with GGG, anyone but Benavidez. 

Canelo’s Peak Part 2: Other Side of the Street 

Though a bromance relationship was definitely brewing between Alvarez and Hearn with every one of his fighters he dominated, in order to get the last piece of the super middleweight puzzle, Alvarez took to PBC to challenge Caleb “Sweet Hands” Plant. In a spectacular performance where Alvarez showcased his ability to mentally break down a fighter and always remain a step ahead making him one of the best of this era, Alvarez stopped Plant in the 11th round of their Fiestas Patrias weekend. 

The Mexican ginger was on top of the world, making history as the first-ever undisputed champion at super middleweight in the four-belt era, as well as the first Mexican undisputed champion. Patriotism and tequila were running through my veins. 

Benavidez’s Shadow Begins to Haunt Canelo

In early 2023, Benavidez made the real statement when he too, like Canelo, defeated and hurt Caleb Plant. Though Benavidez didn’t get the knockout, his dominance over Plant mixed with his most recent demolition of Andrade, made him an immediate favorite to be Alvarez’s next opponent once and for all.

While the “Mexican Monster” increased his net worth and fandom, Alvarez was showing signs of decline and wear and tear in a lackluster performance against John Ryder and then a decent win over Jermell Charlo. The underwhelming homecoming followed by yet another meaningless fight no one asked for, have the fans extra eager for an engaging fight from the Jaliciense, and they know Benavidez can reciprocate. 

The Heart of the Matter

The point of this debate isn't about whether Canelo can choose his fights — of course, he can, and he has. The reasons, though first valid, have turned silly.

Alvarez has left press conferences, upset after Senior Journalist Sean Zittel brought up a fight with Benavidez. He can’t go from claiming Benavidez needs to prove himself worthy, while having no issue with the likes of Yildrim, Ryder and apparently, now possibly Berlanga.

He can’t claim he doesn’t want to put himself against another Mexican when asked about Benavidez, yet now be close to sealing a deal with Jaime Munguia for May. 

With some Mexican boxing fans hesitant about the pecoso since from the start because he didn’t quite adopt the phone-booth Mexican style of the previous Mexican legends, it seems that Canelo believes his trilogy with Golovkin was action-packed enough to earn him a place next to the top Mexican champions who got up from the canvas from multiple hard-fought battles in their extensive careers.  Pero los señores still quieren que el Canelo se faje, y pues, yo tambien soy señor.

As Canelo stands at the crossroads between legacy and calculated victories, the choice he makes will resonate far beyond the confines of the ring. It's a decision that will define not just his career but the very essence of what it means to be a champion in the eyes of those who hold the sport dear. Maybe when it’s all said and done, Canelo will be remembered as a great regardless of Benavidez, simply on his incredible resume alone. One can always argue that if it were so easy, why didn’t the other champions do it?

Canelo is definitely a special case because of his accomplishments in the sport. To fight Benavidez or to choose another path is more than a question of opponent; it's a question of honor, legacy, and the unwritten contract between a champion and the sport that made him.

In the end, Canelo's era might be defined not by whom he fought but by whom he chose not to. 

That's just me though.



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