Nothing says “I run boxing” like currently having four divisions on hold with fighters crossing their fingers to be your next dance partner in the boxing ring.
Though this year’s ESPYs Best Boxer award winner Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has yet to announce an opponent for his usual Mexican independence weekend date in September, speculation has taken over the boxing community as several fighters from junior middleweight up to light-heavyweight divisions are rumored as possible candidates to face the newly crowned WBC “Franchise” Champion.
While some fighters called out the Mexican middleweight champion in their post-fight interviews-which was the case for Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade and Jermall Charlo, Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev took to Instagram to write a condescending caption directed at the “redhead” to the get the fans drooling over a possible fight against the hard-hitting Russian.
The others? Just a wish list boxing fans continue to push and validate as possible opponents for Alvarez for the remainder of the year. So let’s discuss the possibility of Alvarez choosing each of these rumored possible candidates and how the fight would play out if made, shall we?
Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade (28-0, 17 KOs): We might as well start the list off with the possible opponent which makes the most sense and would be the easiest to make official. When I asked Alvarez why the sudden interest in belts once again, he said his mission was to engrave his name in boxing history. In order to do that, he needed to become undisputed. Andrade got the WBO middleweight belt in a silver platter when his title shot against former middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders was postponed when Saunders was busted for a banned substance and stripped of his title. By Andrade also being under contract with DAZN, surely it would facilitate the negotiation process; you know, as long as Andrade assumes his place as the “B-side.” So with the undefeated southpaw being the last obstacle in Alvarez’s path to becoming undisputed middleweight champion of the world, Alvarez should be rushing to make the fight against Andrade happen, right? Well, not exactly. With Andrade using his defensive style to prevent Maciej Sulęcki from landing a double-digit amount of punches per round in their fight this past June 29, it is evident his defensive style is the kind Alvarez struggles against the most. I mean, what boxer looks good against tactical fighters who rarely engage in the middle of the ring and uses the jab to maintain distance without following up with combinations? I’ll wait. But perhaps the biggest con of Alvarez facing “Boo Boo” besides the clash of styles, is that with Daniel Jacobs being his last opponent, back-to-back fights with defensive fighters can be harmful to Alvarez’s career. If you recall, many boxing fans, especially Mexican, were far from content with Alvarez’s performance against Jacobs, even going as far as saying Jacobs had won the fight. So while the fight makes the most sense for “Canelo” to become undisputed, very few boxing fans have expressed interest in this matchup as they want Alvarez to fight explosive battles, which wouldn’t be possible with a defensive counterpuncher like Andrade and fans are already predicting a snoozefest should the fight be made.
“Forget the WBC shit,” said Andrade post-fight. “Whatever that ‘Franchise’ belt is. Let’s go, Canelo. Let’s unify this division. Let’s have one champion. It’s right here. Let’s do it. No more running, no more games. Let’s put it all on the line and see who is the best. Mano a mano. Viva Mexico!”
Jermall Charlo (29-0, 21 KOs): Alvarez has been ducking both of the Charlo Bros. since he was active in the junior middleweight division. Well, at least that’s what some boxing fans like to argue. With Jermall Charlo becoming “interim” WBC champion back in 2018, fans already salivated at the thought of possible fight against Alvarez. The desire for this fight intensified after Alvarez defeated Gennadiy “GGG” Golovkin in their second bout, becoming the new WBC middleweight champion with Charlo as his new mandatory. However, given the history between Alvarez and the WBC trying to force him on his mandatories, it seems as the self-proclaimed “most prestigious” boxing organization decided to avoid the situation by creating the “Franchise” belt for Alvarez, designed for his interest in conquering different weight classes. Charlo has now been promoted to the WBC (real?) middleweight world champion prior to his unanimous decision victory against “The Contender” winner Brandom Adams on June 29, but still took to calling out Alvarez in his post-fight interview with Showtime’s Jim Gray.
“Canelo has done a great job of being a champ, Golovkin also,” said Charlo. “Those guys are at the top but there’s always a young underdog and a lion ready to take over. That’s me.”
Though a fight with Charlo would still be very much welcomed by boxing fans, it seems the majority started favoring Alvarez after Charlo struggled in his fight against late- replacement Russian contender Matvey Korobovfor his last December fight which was originally planned against Willie Monroe Jr. Though all three scorecards favored the “Hit Man,” many fans expressed disaproval of the scorecards being on the wider side. With Alvarez looking highly competitive in his fights against the top middleweights Golovkin (x2) and Jacobs, Charlo’s dominant performance against Adams still left the majority of boxing fans picking the ginger should the fight come to fruition. The Texas’ native, however, does have a style that could possibly make Alvarez uncomfortable and holds the longer reach and height advantage.
But what if the fight does happen? Will Alvarez be able to win his WBC middleweight title back should he rise victorious? Or will Charlo be able to win the “Franchise” belt should he pull off an upset? If Alvarez chooses Andrade and defeats him, does that mean he still wouldn’t be undisputed until he defeats Charlo for his former belt? These are all technicalities I hope the WBC makes clear sooner than later.
Callum Smith (26-0, 19 KOs): Since moving up in weight to conquer Rocky Fielding’s WBA Super Middleweight title back in December, there’s been much discussion of whether Alvarez would continue to fight in the bigger division or if it was a single occasion to secure a label of three-division world champion against what many referred to as “the weakest” champion. Though fans threw names like fellow paisanos David Benavides and “Zurdo” Ramirez, most boxing enthusiasts seem to prefer World Boxing Super Series’ Muhammad Ali Trophy winner Callum “Mundo” Smith. After his vicious KO victory against Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam in the undercard for Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz and his impressive seventh-round knockout of George Groves, Smith has cultivated himself in the minds and mouths of boxing fans as top opposition in his weight class. Speaking of Joshua vs. Ruiz, who wouldn’t love another United Kingdom vs. Mexico matchup?
Of course, Smith holds the height and reach advantage over the Mexican middleweight who already has a small frame for his weight class, but with U.K fighters crumbling against overseas opponents in the recent years, there is still some doubts of legitimacy amongst a lot of U.S boxing fans. Doubts I’m sure Smith would love to settle, while also avenging his brother Liam, who Alvarez defeated with a lethal body shot in his last fight in the junior middleweight division in 2016. Now, should Alvarez add another belt to his collection by defeating Smith, it would be the second time he disposes of boxing brothers, as was the case when he edged out a competitive match against Miguel Angel Cotto 5 years after scoring a knockout victory against his older brother Jose Miguel.
Even though some boxing fans discredit U.K opposition regardless of their undefeated records and outstanding performances, we should at least keep in mind that though Smith is British, he ain’t no Rocky Fielding.
*Since I posted this, Kovalev has announced he will be defending his time against mandatory contender Anthony Yarde in Aug. 24 in Russia. Should they still reach a deal, Yarde would be paid step-aside money. *
Sergey Kovalev: Remember when Alvarez vs. Khan was officially announced and most of us thought, “What!? Don’t weight classes exist for a reason?” Apparently not in the Canelo Alvarez Era. According to Chris Mannix, Golden Boy Promotions has been negotiating with Main Events over a possible fight against their most prized possession. You’d think the powerful Russian would have signed that contract yesterday, but as is often the case in this boxing game, it all comes down to money. Main Events not only wants more than the $6 million offered but also a multiple-fight contract with DAZN.
While it is valid for Main Events to demand a bigger cut of the pie knowing Jacobs made double their offer when facing Alvarez and trying to secure a multi-fight deal for their best fighter past who is also past his prime, it is also a risky move to challenge Golden Boy Promotions in negotiations. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Canelo Era, it’s that he is never the “B-side” even when he IS the “B-side.” Fighting the unified middleweight champion of the world with the most title defenses behind Bernard Hopkins? Not the “B-side.” Going up a weight class to rob a super middleweight of his belt? Still not the “B-side.” Jumping one more weight class to challenge one of the most dangerous punchers in boxing who was basically undisputed in the light-heavyweight division for 3 years? You guessed it. Alvarez is still not the “B-side.”
Though it is easy to understand why Kovalev would benefit from a multi-fight deal with DAZN, it is hard to imagine he’d make better money against literally anyone else. Since this is the case with anyone against Alvarez, it’s the reason why he is the A-side. Still, If there’s anyone on this list who has a shot at not only beating but hurting Alvarez, it’s definitely “The Krusher.” Of course, Kovalev would have the reach, height and size advantage; but while most of his career he’s been praised for his vicious power, his tactical boxing ability is often underrated. Kovalev has one of the most effective jabs in his division, and while it is easy to argue Andre Ward laid out the blueprint to defeat him (and his former trainer John David Jackson exposing his weakness), the size difference could be the deciding factor.
Kovalev congratulates Alvarez on his ESPYs win and tells him he’s ready to fight. (@canelo Instagram)
We can see the Canelo Team observing an older Kovalev decline mentally after his back-to-back fights with Ward and think going to the body would suffice. Ataca el cuerpo y la cabeza cae sola. However, Kovalev proved in his rematch against Colombian heavyweight Eleider Alvarez that he could box if he needed to, and need to he did, to avoid being brutally knocked out again.
To cut this short, I envision Alvarez vs. Kovalev to play out similarly to Spence vs. Garcia. Looks good on paper, but the smaller fighter would find it almost impossible to step into landing range without risking getting met with heavy leather. And boy, would it be heavy against Krusher. In the end, that’s what makes this fight so intriguing, especially to the Canelo haters who finally want to see him taste the canvas. Should Alvarez take the second loss of his career against Kovalev, he could at least say he dared to be great and continue to be “Franchise” champion.
Last, and kind of least, if we’re being honest, is Jaime Munguia.
The young Mexican champion first appeared in the radar of most boxing fans when his name was brought up as a possible replacement for Golovkin following Alvarez’s clenbuterol-related suspension which canceled their scheduled Cinco de Mayo rematch. The organizations declined Munguia as an opponent since he had not fought a 12-round fight in that time and was at a lower weight class. The fighter out of Tijuana, Mex. was instead offered a title shot against Sadam Ali who he completely destroyed in under four rounds to become the new WBO light middleweight champion of the world.
Though Munguia since has created a highlight reel of ferocious knockouts and beastly punches, he has not looked spectacular in his last two title defenses. He doesn’t necessarily look bad, just not up to par with any other champion in the division. The word most often used to describe him is too “green” for the big names, but this doesn’t stop the 22-year-old from calling out his paisano for a Mexican-on-Mexican war. As with the previously mentioned possible opponents, Munguia also holds size, weight, reach and height advantages over his fellow Mexican. Unlike the others, however, has a style tailored-made for Alvarez. As a natural counterpuncher, Alvarez would pummel the body of Munguia, who has displayed he lacks defense and decent enough footwork to hang in there with someone like Alvarez. Should the fight be made, I believe Munguia would have only prolonged the result of an approved fight to face Golovkin back in 2018.
Regardless of who Alvarez chooses to fight in two months, it is certain everyone will be watching and it is certain he will be the A-side regardless of the betting odds. Until then, we can’t do anything else but wait, just like these boxers are waiting for their phone to ring for confirmation or even an offer. Though most fighters in this list would be putting their undefeated record in the line, it must be easier to know if you do receive your first loss, at least you’ll make a lot of money in the process. Much more than if you were to lose to anybody else.
Let’s not forget that though the Canelo Team has remained indifferent on a trilogy against Golovkin, that could very much still be a possibility for September, if not December. As much as Oscar de la Hoya wants to insist Golovkin needs a belt for Alvarez to even look his direction, many fans feel the first two fights were as entertaining as they were controversial and demand closure with a third and final fight.
I was going to add the Ukranian middleweight contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko, but since I feel he has the less possibility of facing Alvarez due to decent risk with no marketability reward, I will leave him as an honorable mention. Yes, he is technically Alvarez’s IBF mandatory; but as we have already settled, Alvarez doesn’t take kindly to organizations dictating who and when he fights next.