Malignaggi: Canelo Dishonoring Ali's Legacy

The most valuable point to be made about Saul “Canelo” Alvarez balking now at the most obvious opponent he can fight is a subject the undisputed super middleweight champion knows well:

Boxing history.

In a segment on Monday’s “Deep Waters” episode on ProBox TV, analyst and former welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi said Mexico’s Alvarez is dishonoring the legacy created by greats of the past – most notably Muhammad Ali – by stiffing a spring date with David Benavidez.

“Canelo is like the [defending NBA champion] Denver Nuggets skipping some of the good teams this year [and saying], ‘We want to play the team that lost in the Eastern Conference finals [in the NBA Finals],’” Malignaggi said.

By selecting unbeaten former junior middleweight titleholder Jaime Munguia (43-0, 34 KOs) for his May 4 Cinco de Mayo weekend opponent over Benavidez (28-0, 24 KOs), an unbeaten former super middleweight titleholder, Alvarez has stirred criticism and a debate over the demands of boxing greatness.

“It’s Canelo’s fault because he needs to do the right thing. He’s a sportsman,” Malignaggi argued. “The hamster wheel has to turn. If you jam it, you set a bad precedent for everyone else. That’s why we have a generation that hasn’t fought anybody.”

Alvarez, of course, has challenged some of the sport’s most daunting figures, starting with when, at age 23, he faced Floyd Mayweather Jr.; then beat current Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto two years later; followed by his trilogy with Gennadiy Golovkin and his 2022 fight (and loss against) unbeaten light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol.

But now, for reasons that have yet to be effectively communicated, Alvarez, 33, has balked at the 27-year-old Benavidez.

“Imagine if Muhammad Ali acted like Canelo,” Malignaggi said. “Muhammad Ali fought everyone in their prime, and that’s why boxing became so big. In the 80s, boxing was all over network TV, with [strong] ratings. Why?

“Because in the previous generation, Ali did what Ali did. He didn’t win every fight, but he took on every tough opponent – the biggest risk he could find. George Foreman, Ken Norton … the way he did it is the way a champion does it. He was not bigger than the sport. He didn’t act that way.”

But when all was said and done, starting with his upset of Sonny Liston to become champion, throughout his brilliance in the Joe Frazier trilogy, even after his battering at the hands of Larry Holmes, the respect for Ali endured. 

“Everybody looks at him as the greatest of all time, for multiple reasons,” Malignaggi said. “You have a responsibility when you’re at that level. It’s not, ‘You’re at that level, take advantage of it.’”

In response, Malignaggi’s fellow “Deep Waters” analyst, former two-division titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr., said Alvarez has indeed taken a difficult fight by agreeing to meet Tijuana’s Munguia at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“Jaime Munguia is a dangerous fighter for Canelo at this point in his career – the volume of his punches, he’s bigger, how much harder he hits,” Bradley countered. “If [Munguia] develops a really good jab … that’s how you defeat Canelo. Keep that jab on him all night.” 

Munguia is trained by Hall of Fame cornerman Freddie Roach.

Bradley said he’ll be watching to see in the early going if Munguia can weather Alvarez’s best punches. If Munguia remains upright, “he can become damn dangerous, because he has a motor, too.

“This is going to be a great fight. I’m telling you right now – extremely entertaining. Don’t sleep on this man Munguia.”