Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, the 22 year old Mexican boxer, WBC light middleweight title holder and veteran of 42 professional fights, is looking for a fight. He informed RingTV.com in September of his wish list following his domination of Josesito Lopez. The list is three names long and is a signal of intent from Alvarez and a long-needed step in the right direction.
For such a young fighter, Alvarez has been in a lot of fights.
However, when you consider the limited amateur background he has—just 20 amateur bouts—he is actually behind many fighters in terms of in-ring experience. Floyd Mayweather Jr. had 90 amateur bouts before turning pro.
Alvarez is a talented young boxer whose rise to prominence was a carefully crafted piece of maneuvering by his management team that took place before he had faced a level of opposition to justify it.
One thing that Alvarez's intentions appear to signal is that he is ready to show the world that he is what he has been hyped to be. The three names on the list are definitely a sign that he is not happy to sit back and count his cash while facing lesser opposition; he wants to face the best.
The three he has apparently requested in his meeting with Golden Boy Promotion executives are Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez. He has also signaled he would like to fight one of these opponents on May 5th. If granted the opportunity against one of these fighters, who should Canelo face?
Lets start with the biggest of the three, Floyd Mayweather.
Love him or hate him there is no denying the greatness of Floyd Mayweather Jr. He is undefeated as a professional boxer, a title holder over five divisions and a defensive boxing master. Mayweather has long been considered one of the top pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
Mayweather combines blistering hand speed with a superb defensive technique, lightning-quick reflexes and pinpoint-accurate counterpunching. OK, in case you couldn't tell, I think Mayweather is the best active boxer around. However, at some point age may begin to creep in and dull one or more of these senses and make the playing field a little more even.
It's not the first time Alvarez has spoken about wanting to face Mayweather.
He stated as much before his bout with Shane Mosley. The fight against Mayweather never happened, but the desire to test himself against the best hasn't gone away.
Mayweather will not have fought in a year come May 2013.
While that is not unusual for Mayweather, a portion of that year was spent in a small cell during his incarceration from June to August of this year. I expected Mayweather to fight in November or December of this year to shake off the rust before taking on a big opponent in May. Maybe he feels he is in great shape and is just planning a May date for a blockbuster fight.
It is hard to tell with Mayweather.
Cotto appears to have vanquished the demons he carried following his controversial loss to Antonio Margarito, a loss made controversial by Margarito being caught with loaded gloves prior to his defeat at the hands of Shane Mosley.
Looking back at the way Margarito brutally wore down Cotto in their first bout has me questioning whether his gloves were loaded going into the fight, a fight in which Cotto didn't send a member of his team to monitor the wrapping of Margarito's hands.
Following a blue patch that included the Margarito loss, a bloody battle with Joshua Clottey and a brutal beating by Manny Pacquiao, Cotto has returned to the top of the game. Moving up a weight class, winning a world title (again), successfully defending the title twice, avenging the Margarito loss and earning a fight with Mayweather has brought Cotto back to the top.
The loss to Mayweather hasn't hurt Cotto's reputation. After all, there's no harm in losing to the best when you drag them through a 12-round battle with you.
Coming into his own later in his career, Martinez has shown himself to be a tremendous fighter in the last few years. His hand speed, movement, accuracy and power have allowed him to defeat bigger men than him in the Middleweight division and achieve several titles in the process.
In his most recent bout against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Martinez dominated the first 11 rounds against his much bigger opponent. He also showed great heart late in the fight to not only get up from a late knockdown but continue to take the fight to Chavez after the knockout. Many would have back peddled to ensure they win on points and not be knocked out.
Martinez, like Alvarez, has also stated his desire to face Mayweather. Will either one get that fight, or will they face each other?
Any one of these fights would be considered a test to Alvarez, who, in spite of holding a title and being an undefeated fighter with over 40 bouts, has yet to face competition of this level. Kintron and Mosley were shadows of their former selves. Rhodes, N'Dou and Baldomir are not even close to the level of competition of the three names on his wish list.
Each fighter brings a different threat to Alvarez.
While both Mayweather and Martinez would bring great hand speed to negotiate, Mayweather also has a defense that many have tried to get through and few have succeeded. With Alvarez's action-packed style, Mayweather could simply sit back and deflect blows before landing perfectly placed counters that will slow Canelo round by round.
Mayweather would also take advantage of the stiff upper body Alvarez often fights with.
With his constant pressure, Alvarez is a pretty static fighter with little lateral movement and almost no body movement. He provides a constant target to a fighter like Mayweather. Mayweather doesn't even have to be half as accurate as normal to hit what's always going to be right in front of him.
For me, a matchup with Mayweather right now is just a bad idea all around for Alvarez.
Mayweather will handle him with ease and Alvarez will be slated as overrated by everybody when the praise should really go to Mayweather's excellence, but that's another story all together.
Like Mayweather, Martinez will exploit the lack of movement Alvarez presents.
Unlike Mayweather, Martinez will also be there to hit. Martinez's defense is simply nowhere close to Mayweather's, and he gets caught by a lot of punches a man with his speed and athleticism should be able to avoid.
If Canelo can avoid Martinez's blows, or even keep so much pressure on Martinez that he cannot get any offense going, Canelo has a chance to knock Martinez out. Chavez almost managed it. Canelo has dedication to the craft and could follow through to the finish.
Cotto is not the fighter he once was, and I mean that in a good way.
The Cotto of old was predictable. He was going to lower his head and bull through you. He swung to the body with fury and then worked the head. Today, Cotto still pressures when the timing is right but has learned to sit behind his boxing and wait for the openings to present themselves.
This calmness and calculated attack that Cotto has added into his game makes him a dangerous opponent for Canelo, who reminds me at times of the young Cotto. Canelo can get ragged at times as he looks to apply more pressure, and this could be his undoing against somebody like Cotto, who is now content to sit and wait.
I think the most sensible fight for Canelo at this point in his career is Sergio Martinez.
Martinez will be coming back from a knee and hand injury, which could take the edge off his speed and a little snap from his punches. He is also fairly easy to hit and has been decked several times in his career, although he recovers quickly from knockdowns and takes the fight to his opponent as he recovers.
Against the other two, I see defeats for Canelo that would be damaging to his reputation.
Against Martinez, however, I think he has a better than even chance of winning. Even if he loses, it will be passed off as Martinez once again being underrated rather than Canelo being overrated.
My choice is Martinez vs. Alvarez.
My prediction is a ninth-round knockout victory for Alvarez.