In The Corner With Russ Anber: Canelo has to fight Benavidez next

I was at David Benavidez’s recent victory over Demetrius Andrade, and can’t see a single reason he shouldn’t be fighting Saul “Canelo” Alvarez for the undisputed super middleweight title next.

He's established himself, beyond a doubt, as Canelo’s biggest threat. However, Canelo’s the “face” of boxing, and because of that and the money he delivers to the four recognised sanctioning bodies he’s being given more freedom than is good for the sport. It’s just greed.

Terence Crawford hadn’t had a chance to defend the undisputed welterweight title he won against Errol Spence before the IBF stripped him, but the same rules don’t seem to apply to Canelo.

People’s jaws were dropping in Las Vegas when they were watching Benavidez. Most were expecting him to come on strong against a tough opponent during the second half of the fight, but his performance was outstanding throughout. I’ve watched Andrade since he was a talented teenaged amateur, but Benavidez was far too big for him, and from early on forced him to fight at a pace he didn’t want to fight at.

It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that Canelo doesn’t recognise how dangerous Benavidez is. Look how long he made Gennady Golovkin wait to fight him – and it looks like he’s trying to do the same thing again. Floyd Mayweather also did that – he made worthwhile opponents wait to fight him. Canelo himself suffered defeat at the hands of Mayweather’s timing when they fought back in 2013. He then succeeded Mayweather as the world’s leading fighter, and he’s living by the same “golden rule" of “He who has the gold makes the rule”. He’s the golden goose, and therefore does what he wants.

In The Corner With Russ Anber: Canelo has to fight Benavidez next
Ryan Hafey / Premier Boxing Champions

Canelo’s been a great fighter who’s fought the best, and is someone I’ve a lot of respect for. If you consider the number of fights he’s had, that he was 15 when he turned professional, and both his heart and the fact he’s never quit in the ring, it’s impossible not to respect him.  His performances and what he’s achieved put him in the same conversation with his predecessors – Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward – as the world’s leading super middleweights. But, like them, his approach has also been very calculated.

I couldn’t possibly say if Benavidez struggles to make 168lbs, but he already has the frame to fight at 175lbs today. He’s big, and he’s strong – I work with both Artur Beterbiev and Callum Smith, two of the world’s leading light heavyweights, and he’s easily as big as, if not bigger, than both.

Even before his victory over Andrade, Benavidez looked a more suitable opponent for Canelo than Jermell Charlo, who was moving up from 154lbs, and who was really disappointing that night in September – which again comes back to the sanctioning bodies. He had done nothing to earn the right to jump two weight divisions and ahead of every super middleweight in the world in the queue for that fight. 

Now there’s speculation about Crawford fighting Canelo – a welterweight who first won a title at 135lbs against a super middleweight who has won at 175lbs. Crawford would go down swinging, that’s for sure, but the sanctioning bodies shouldn’t sanction that fight. Anything less than a reigning champion moving up one division to challenge another champion seems asinine – not that they’re not going to continue to cynically do as they see fit. 

It’s insane to think that that fight could happen before Canelo-Benavidez, given that Benavidez has already beaten every other super middleweight – and enhanced Caleb Plant’s reputation in the process. It’s even more insane when you consider that Jaron “Boots” Ennis has earned his shot at Crawford, but would also be getting denied. 

The permutations surrounding Canelo’s next move have far-reaching consequences, which in years to come will be forgotten about. But judging by Benavidez’s progress, what won’t be forgotten if he doesn’t get the chance to fight Canelo is another of the potentially great fights not getting made in this day and age of avoiding fights.

Russ Anber is the founder/CEO of Rival Boxing, as well as a highly respected trainer (of both pros and amateurs), a gym owner, a cut-man, an entrepreneur, a broadcaster and one of the best hand wrappers in the boxing business. Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, Artur Beterbiev and Callum Smith are among the many top boxers Russ works with.