Is Canelo still a pound-for-pound fighter?

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez returns this Saturday, September 30th, on pay-per-view, and signals his first fight on a new contract with Premier Boxing Champions. 

This time against Jermell Charlo in a battle marketed as a battle of undisputed world champions, Canelo who holds all four belts at super middleweight and Charlo holds all four belts at junior middleweight until the bell rings on fight night in which the WBO will strip him of his title. 

Now a bigger question needs to be asked. Aging is real, and it has been more than a decade since Canelo has been a headliner in the sport of boxing. Amassing a king’s ransom of riches, and living a life that many can only dream of - where does the 33-year-old, Canelo, stand in the sport, currently after life-changing money, injuries, and a loss to Dmitry Bivol? 

With former sparring partner Ahmed Elbiali recently talking to the 'And Still Podcast' stating ‘Canelo is lazy now’, questions have persisted about what is this version of Canelo Alvarez. Even more than that, questions now need to be asked as if Canelo isn’t the same which gives Jermell Charlo a real shot in this bout as Charlo appears to be in his prime. 

Let’s revisit both why Canelo is and isn’t a pound-for-pound fighter currently in the sport of boxing.

Why He Is…

The easiest thing to point to is his resume, which is the past. As we will talk about in his cons to why he might not be a top-ten fighter in the world currently, one can poke holes in his resume, but that doesn’t stop the fact that he beat Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout, Gennadiy Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev, and many others. Now when he beat them is a different story, but still…Canelo on paper has one of the best resumes in the sport of boxing.

Canelo is a four-division world champion winning world titles from junior middleweight to light heavyweight. His magnum opus was 2021 in which he concluded becoming a super middleweight undisputed champion that saw him defeat Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant in the same calendar year, as he held two of the four belts prior to that accomplishment. Despite a win over Golovkin and Lara, Canelo’s undisputed run is the most impressive feat of his career.

Canelo is a bit underrated when it comes to his experience and ability to blend defense into offense and offense into defense. When Canelo was in his prime, which it seems like he no longer is, but we will see after this fight, he would put a lot of pressure on his foes while slowly landing big shots. If that still exists, he is easily a top-ten fighter in the world, if it doesn’t he isn’t it is that simple. 

A Mexican legend. Though it doesn’t matter how he fights, Canelo is a cultural icon and a natural treasure of Mexico. The impact you have on the world as a fighter matters, and Canelo has one of the biggest footprints if not the biggest of any fighter currently. The cultural capital he leverages and his relevancy in the sport also could factor into being a top-ten fighter.

Why He Isn’t 

The last few years have been strange for Canelo Alvarez. He has made a great run in 2020-2021 defeating Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders, and Caleb Plant, but prior to and after that questions persist. One could believe that Canelo saw Dmitry Bivol as a vulnerable champion at light heavyweight, and took that fight believing he’d further his legacy - the end result, he lost. 

After that, Canelo fought a 40-year-old, Gennadiy Golovkin who had to wait nearly five years after the second fight to face Canelo in a snoozer that Canelo won. Canelo’s first fight in 2023 against John Ryder, a solid world-class fighter, but one most would assume wouldn’t go twelve rounds - went twelve rounds. 

Canelo seems to be getting tired in fights. In the Bivol fight it seemed he was tired after four rounds in the Golovkin fight it was after six rounds, and in the Ryder fight it looked as though he never had a second gear. Now we have to wonder as the story of the fight persists: is Canelo injured in the past like he said, or is he regressing?

This fight somewhat serves to tell us where he stands, as some in the media are now removing Canelo from their top-ten pound-for-pound lists, and those who keep him are placing him toward the backend in the six to ten spot. This is two years removed from Canelo being the consensus pound-for-pound number-one fighter. 

Another hurdle for Canelo seems the general reluctant to fight Benavidez, Morrell, or any of the top names in his division at the super middleweight division. Jermell Charlo is a great fighter, but the unsung story of this bout is the fact that Charlo is moving up to fourteen pounds to fight Canelo. It is another instance of Canelo having a slight advantage over his opponent, this time not just in promotion, ticket sales, and marketing, but actual weight as well.

That comes to the crux of the argument. Canelo has been an icon for a lot of our lived lives as boxing fans. It is hard to rate a star as stars do what they please. When he fought Floyd Mayweather and went on his run, he was probably underrated as he was viewed as more of an attraction than a boxer. Now, the roles may have reversed as after his run to become undisputed any doubts about his credibility have been silenced. 

Part of the issue as mentioned above could also be a career in boxing leading to injuries. Canelo seems to be tired, and fighting through injury after injury after making millions of dollars. Another big question is the motivation still there? 

So what does this mean?

The fight on Saturday, September 30th, signals an answer to this question. If Canelo doesn’t look the same that will tell us where he stands. If he has an amazing performance, he can still lay claim to be a top-five fighter in the world. 

A big story for this bout is simple - does Canelo still have it?