Canelo Alvarez and Why It’s Good to Be King

In the perplexing and riveting case of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, many seemingly conflicting facts are true all at once.

– Fans and followers are incredulous that Alvarez is bypassing the ripest fight since 2010, when pound-for-pound kings Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao failed to strike a deal and instead launched an aggravating five-year waiting process before their letdown of a showdown.

– At 27, unbeaten former super middleweight world champion David Benavidez (28-0, 24 KOs) has done enough to deserve a shot at boxing’s top draw.

– Alvarez’s alternate option is set to be announced at any time, a likely May 4 date against unbeaten Mexican countryman and former world champion Jaime Munguia. That fight should stand as one of the year’s best live-gate and pay-per-view successes.

– At 33, Alvarez is empowered to script the remainder of his career, just as Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard before him.

– Maybe his broadcast partners are expressing less willingness to write him a $35 million check as they once were. But it’s good to be king, and boxing’s king usually gets what he wants.

– Yes, Alvarez exhibited past willingness to fight the complex types, including Mayweather, Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout and Gennady Golovkin, which helped define his career as that of a sure-fire future Hall of Famer.

– And now Alvarez is taking a different tack, one that may or may not produce the fight everyone wants to see.

Be honest: If you were Canelo, what would you do at this moment in time?

Of course, Alvarez could dive without fear into a date with Benavidez, a 27-year-old Phoenix product coming off a destructive dismantling of one of the sport’s most evasive former champions, Demetrius Andrade.

But Alvarez is less than two years removed from a humbling unanimous decision loss to Russia’s unbeaten light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol.

Before that, Alvarez’s trainer-manager, Eddy Reynoso, toyed with the idea of sending Alvarez to attempt a fifth weight-class belt at cruiserweight.

In the loss to Bivol, which seemed far more one-sided than the three 115-113 scores favoring the Russian, Alvarez learned that even the all-time greats have to stay grounded in reality.

In this case, that means continuing operations in the super middleweight division, where Alvarez has ruled against the likes of outgoing champions Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant while posting lopsided triumphs over the likes of those just satisfied with “Canelo money” – the aged Golovkin, to close their trilogy; England’s badly overmatched John Ryder; and disinterested 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo.

Benavidez, meanwhile, is a powerful 168-pound invader whose greatness may ultimately be achieved at light heavyweight and beyond.

Veteran broadcaster Jim Lampley, of, has hyped that Benavidez may ultimately stand as the rarest of all – a heavyweight champion with Mexican bloodlines.

For now, given the rebuffed treatment from Alvarez, Benavidez will meet Ukraine’s Oleksandr Gvozdyk in June for the WBC’s interim light heavyweight title, a spot that will leave him first in line to meet the winner of the undisputed light heavyweight title fight between three-belt champion Artur Beterbiev and Bivol.

Among the many things Alvarez fully understands is boxing history.

And although the sport has been checkered throughout by proud champions opting not to race directly toward a brutal challenger – Mayweather-Pacquiao, Leonard stalling Marvin Hagler or even Muhammad Ali waiting out his Vietnam draft situation before his first bout against Joe Frazier – Alvarez understands the power of marination.

If Alvarez-Benavidez is big now, as my friend Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated noted on our podcast talk this week, how immense will it be a year from now if an undisputed Canelo meets an undisputed 175-pound Benavidez?

Or maybe Benavidez opts to keep climbing weight divisions. Or perhaps he even loses to the Beterbiev-Bivol winner.

The king moves slowly and wisely.

Alvarez has decided to stack up the funds while taking two more fights this year that should assure that his crown remains intact. He can be expected to return next year to survey the landscape from the lofty perch he inherited from others who were similarly averse to relinquishing their great power.