Who’s next for Canelo? Five choices

After cruising past Jermell Charlo in what turned into something of a damp squib in Las Vegas on Saturday night, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is once more in the catbird seat as he contemplates the next opponent in his Hall-of-Fame career. We already know that he plans to return, as is his tradition, on Cinco de Mayo weekend; and while just about every title holder and contender from 160 to 175 pounds will be looking to put his name in the frame – we're looking at you, Anthony Yarde, Chris Eubank Jr., and David Morell, among others – Canelo has the luxury of picking only those challengers who can enhance his legacy, earn him even more eye-watering sums of money, or entice him with something a little different. So, with apologies to the aforementioned (particularly Morrell, a super-middleweight star in the making), here are our five suggestions for the next spot on the Canelo docket:

Jermall Charlo, 32-0, WBC Middleweight Champion

The other Charlo twin was the original choice to meet Canelo on Saturday, but attention almost immediately switched to Jermell when it was clear that Jermall’s personal issues – which have kept him out of the ring since June 2021 – meant he would not be remotely ready for a challenge of that nature. The ‘revenge of the brother’ storyline would have had some interest had Jermell been competitive in defeat on Saturday; but the lackluster way in which he capitulated, combined with ongoing uncertainty about Jermall’s health, mean this one is a non-starter for now.

Dmitriy Bivol, 21-0, WBA Super World Light Heavyweight Champion

Bivol took Canelo to school in May 2022 in a performance that first raised questions about whether Alvarez might be declining. Although all three judges turned in 115-113 scorecards in the Russian’s favor, the general consensus was that they were generous to Alvarez, who was rarely in the contest. Canelo has made clear his desire to scratch that itch and avenge that defeat; given the dominant return to form he showed against Charlo, is the prospect of a second go-round with Bivol now more attractive and sellable?

Artur Beterbiev, 19-0, WBC/WBO/IBF Light Heavyweight Champion

If not one Russian light-heavyweight champion, how about another one? Beterbiev has rolled through every one of his professional opponents, racking up 19 KOs in his 19 victories, and his relentless pressure and power on paper makes for an enthralling and exciting matchup with Canelo’s body punching and powerful right hands. Whether the risk is worth the reward for Alvarez, given that Beterbiev is not especially well known outside the cognoscenti is a different matter. If he looks impressive in a January defense against Callum Smith, however, don’t be surprised to hear his name mentioned more often.

David Benavidez, 27-0, WBC Interim Super Middleweight Champion

The Arizonan has been at the top of many fans’ lists for some time, and Canelo’s seeming lack of interest in facing the man seen as his most serious super-middleweight challenger has led to speculation that the Mexican sees it as too dangerous an undertaking. Given Benavidez’s size and heavy-handed pressure style, that wouldn’t be surprising; but Canelo has never shirked from a challenge, but merely waited until the stars were perfectly aligned. Unless he loses to or looks poor against Demetrius Andrade on November 25th, expect Benavidez to be at or near the front of line for next May 4th.

Terence Crawford, 40-0, Undisputed Welterweight Champion

After casually swatting aside the junior middleweight champion, the notion of going down one more weight division for his next opponent might be a hard sell for even Canelo’s most ardent fans. But Crawford is not Charlo; the shockwaves from his destruction of Errol Spence are still reverberating through the sport and Crawford is now universally acclaimed as the number one fighter, pound-for-pound, in the world. That was a title Canelo held before his Bivol loss, and it’s a crown he’d like to wear again. There can be little doubt that Crawford, far more skilled than Charlo, would welcome the challenge and surely put up a better one than the man from Houston just did; but the lack of competitiveness on Saturday may – perhaps unfairly – work against him, and he may need to step up in weight and beat Charlo even more comprehensively than Alvarez did to make his case to the broader public.