I wasn’t excited when Jermell Charlo was first matched with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Two weight classes is a big jump.
Yet the fact that it was a Canelo fight meant I eventually got excited about it. I still didn’t see it as a greatly competitive match-up, but there remained the prospect of another Canelo fight week, even if in the end there wasn’t enough pushback from Charlo, and therefore drama, to end up seeing it as more than that. Canelo was typically cool, calm and collected; the weigh-in told another story again.
When I saw the two fighters weigh in my mind was made up. Charlo didn’t look impressive at the weight. At 154lbs he’s physically imposing, and looks hungry and mean, but I couldn’t see any of that last week. The swaggering Canelo, by comparison, looked like a tank – confident, and ready to fight. Canelo looked at Charlo like he was looking at food.
I can’t say whether Charlo didn’t think he could win when he signed to fight Canelo, but I’m certain that, throughout fight week at least, he knew he couldn’t. He was already resigned to attempting to make it to the final round.
There have been discussions for some time now about Canelo’s perceived decline. His performance was harder to judge against such an unambitious opponent, but he looked and sounded good, physically and verbally, post-fight. He was in phenomenal shape, and excited to be fighting; it was refreshing to hear him talk of his love for the sport, and it sounded genuine, as opposed to scripted, when he did.
Which isn’t to say I’m excited about seeing him fight Terence Crawford, in the way that so many others are. The size advantage Canelo has would be a major obstacle before the competitive nature of fight we’d ideally see; it’s also too late in Crawford’s career for him to come close to getting the type of size he’d require to win.
It’s another “dare-to-be-great” fight, and unlike Charlo, Crawford would really try to win by taking risks. But Canelo-Crawford is a money-grab – it’d attract crazy numbers and casuals, and crossover, but like Bob Arum said, Canelo could wipe the flaw with Crawford. I’m not saying that he’s 100 per cent right, but it’s certainly conceivable that the size difference is too much for it to be a competitive fight.
The fight that makes the most sense for Canelo is David Benavidez – as long as Benavidez gets past Demetrius Andrade, who’s a very talented fighter. Canelo-Benavidez would do huge numbers – it’s a Mexican versus a Mexican, and could take place on Cinco de Mayo weekend. It makes too much sense for that fight not to happen – not least because of what a good fight it would be. Benavidez pushes the pace; he’s young, hungry, talented; he’s got a great jab. If we want to continue to see fighters daring to be great then Canelo taking on the young lion in Benavidez fits that bill. Sometimes I think Canelo would win; others I think Benavidez.
A fight with Tim Tszyu is the one that makes the most sense for Crawford. I expect Tszyu to get past Brian Mendoza, and therefore for Crawford to be able to challenge for a world title in a fourth weight division. I’m very high on Tszyu, but he’d be a beatable opponent for Crawford – after which a fight with Charlo might again appeal.
On the eve of Canelo-Charlo, Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk was “announced”, but with Fury fighting Francis Ngannou later this month there’s no chance of that happening. Even January strikes me as difficult.
If there’s one way in which Fury is consistent, it’s in his inconsistency. I want to see an undisputed heavyweight champion – the sport needs one. But I’ll believe they’re actually fighting when they’re finally in the ring.
Should it get that far, I expect Fury to win. He can make it an ugly, physical, bruising fight – and would be smart to do so. If you have a 60lbs weight advantage over an opponent who’s a tactical technician, why would he attempt to box him? Usyk doesn’t know how to lose, but Fury’s special – he’s a big heavyweight capable of moving in a way we haven’t previously seen.
I hope that that announcement leads to other fights in the heavyweight division – ones I want to see even more. Anthony Joshua-Deontay Wilder – I love watching Wilder; I want to see him fight everybody – Wilder-Andy Ruiz, and Zhilei Zhang against another of the leading contenders, to see if he can compete with them, are among those that appeal.