When I arrived in Vegas a few days ago, if you asked someone in boxing to decide who would win this weekend’s huge fight between undisputed champions Canelo Alvarez, who has cleaned up at 168, and Jermell Charlo, who has done the same at 154, their faces would have been filled with painstaking thought as they weighed up pros and cons.
Increasingly, through fight week, there has been a hefty shift towards favouring Canelo, and just about more so than any fight I can recall.
It’s gone from perhaps leaning slightly towards Canelo, into a full swing where it has become progressively hard to find anyone picking the Texan.
Online polls are now heavily tilted towards the Mexican, Charlo is running out of supporters and I’m not exactly sure where the shift has come from, but it has been noticeable.
I suppose we need to assess why he was initially such a live dog to get to where we now are.
Canelo has not impressed in his last three fights, convincingly losing to Dmitrii Bivol, looking stale against Gennadiy Golovkin and getting into the trenches with John Ryder.
The thought was that perhaps the Mexican icon was in decline and the time is now for him to be toppled from the pound-for-pound list.
Then, of course, there are boxing’s ever (mildly) entertaining conspiracy theories, that it’s Canelo’s first fight with PBC and they want to get him knocked off and anoint one of their own fighters at boxing’s top table.
In the ring, Charlo is fresher. He is more athletic. He is different to Ryder and you’d have to say, as a star on the peripheries of pound-for-pound lists, he’s better than Ryder, and if Alvarez toiled to beat the southpaw Gorilla, what will happen against an operator like Charlo?
Plus, if Charlo didn’t really fancy the job, why would he leap up TWO weight classes for the fight?
As fight week has progressed, however, observers started to tumble from the bandwagon, and even those who thought he would be taxing for Canelo now think he could score a stoppage late on, and here are some of the things I have seen and heard.
Charlo said this week about the discord with his twin, Jermall, who showed up to the weigh in yesterday. That’s drama a fighter doesn’t need. When the boxers have come face-to-face this week, some think Charlo appears uncomfortable and that he doesn’t look as sturdy moving up in weight as they thought he would.
At the weigh in, one old head told me he thought Charlo looked twitchy, nervous and that the occasion was getting to him.
Also, despite his fine work at 154, he has never faced anyone close to someone with Canelo’s pedigree, and he’s not been on this kind of stage before, either.
Canelo has strongly made his case this week, too, and he’s been convincing when he’s told us he still loves the sport, he’s motivated to show the world – and specifically Jermell – that he is still a generational talent and star. That was interesting on Thursday, when Canelo repeated his claims over and over about how he has been quietly offended by Charlo’s insistence over the years that they fight, interpreting it that Charlo doesn’t rate him.
Physically, too, Canelo told us that the left hand he injured in camp for Caleb Plant four fights ago has been trouble-free for the first time since 2021, and that he is punching hard once more and he does not throw it with caution, apprehension or fear that it will hurt as a result.
Of course, this could just be fight talk. There were rumours from his Lake Tahoe camp that he had not been throwing the punches, that things were not going well, and maybe Canelo’s tired fight quotes that we get every week from every fighter about having “the best camp ever” are hyperbole and a bluff.
And even if his hand is just fine now, it only takes one bad shot in the wrong place and it could go again, of course.
However, the swing to Canelo has been noticeable. Charlo is running out of time and he is running out of backers.
A near-on 50-50 fight seems to have gone awry and the feeling in Las Vegas is very much that Canelo is not ready to cede his throne just yet, not to a super-welterweight and not to Jermell Charlo.