Sunday, December 12, 2021

Canelo Alvarez: A Legend Only on Record?

By Mike I.

After winning his fourth title, Canelo Alvarez now wants to jump up in weight class and fight at cruiserweight in order to pursue a title in yet another weight class. When we think of some of the true greats in boxing history, the boxers that we may consider legends can be a little unrealistic in their pursuits. They then become folkloric figures after some time.

This may be the case with the current pound-for-pound king Canelo Alvarez. I'd like to start off by saying, I am a huge fan of Canelo’s ability. I think he shows a great fainting style that rings true to legends of the sport such as Roberto Duran. I will never forget when Alvarez fought Miguel Cotto, and in one of the rounds he fainted a right hand and threw a left upper cut that landed perfectly. I remember thinking I've only seen Roy Jones and Roberto Duran pull that move off in a fight, seconds later, the great Roy Jones himself said this exact same thing as he was watching the replay of this move during an HBO broadcast. Jones said, “I thought only me, and Roberto Duran could do that.”

This article is not meant to put Canelo down at all. The goal of this article is to put down the new way of business, and the way legends are built in the sport today. Boxing has always had its conmen, criminals, and bad politics. Yet, the sport has also always had legends who were built on amazing commitment and talent. Since the days of two specific legends, Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Marciano, many fighters have believed they must be undefeated, or even break Marciano’s record or 49 wins and zero defeats. There is another group of fighters who strive to be the Sugar Ray Robinson of their time, which means becoming the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world.

Unfortunately for Canelo, he will never be able to beat the record of Marciano because of his one loss to Mayweather. But as a non-heavyweight, he is doing all he can to be the pound-for-pound king. How is he doing that? He is trying to win as many titles in different weight classes as possible, the same way another all-time great legend of the sport did, Henry Armstrong. Armstrong was the first man to win and hold three consecutive titles at the same time. In 1938, he held the featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight titles. Armstrong later tried to win the middleweight title, but he just barely came up short in this bid.

Now, Canelo may be winning multiple titles and is considered the pound-for-pound king now, but let’s put all of this into perspective for the dignity and integrity of the sport of boxing, which I hold more loyalty to than any boxer.

When it comes to being the best boxer pound-for-pound, most will never touch Sugar Ray. He fought 40 fights before losing to Jake LaMotta who he had beaten before that rematch. LaMotta was one of the toughest middleweights ever, and Robinson came right back to beat LaMotta about a month later. Then he fought and beat LaMotta four more times. So, everyone can be a pound-for-pound great in their era, but to be like Sugar Ray, many would have to fight guys who are way better than most greats are allowed to fight today due to boxing's politics.

That does not take away from other boxers, it is just meant to put the pound-for-pound "title" into perspective when comparing contemporary fighters to those of the past. Can Canelo truly say he will fight on the same level of Sugar Ray? Alvarez will never duplicate Robinson's record, but he can fight dangerous fighters like David Benavidez, who will be way more of a challenge and potentially his version of a Jake LaMotta. Furthermore, Benavidez will likely be more of a challenge than the cruiserweight he wants to fight for the WBC title. Size means very little at this level of competition, unless we are talking about truly significant size advantages, like that between featherweights and heavyweights. A great boxer can go knock out much bigger guys in a bar room all night. As far as I can see, this is a notch off the record books for Canelo becoming a boxing legend.

The other thing I would like to address is obsession with records, I love the genius of Floyd Mayweather, but him beating Conor McGregor to break Marciano’s record was like Marciano knocking out the famous wrestler of his time Gorgeous George to make his record 50 and 0. It would have been a win against another great athlete, but at the end of the day, it is not as great of a feat that it would sound like. A record has to mean something deeper than numbers in the record book. Canelo is trying to reach the status of legend the way he can with the pound-for-pound crown and multiple belts. As I said earlier, Henry Armstrong held three titles at once, and he did so at a time when you only had eight champions total. And, it was a time when if you were the champion, it meant something significant. Again, this is not to knock Canelo down, this is to talk about reality. Boxers have become obsessed with being undefeated, holding multiple belts, and being the pound-for-pound king. What they have lost track of is how they achieve these goals.

I don't believe Canelo will be in the same class as the other great fighter I mentioned earlier by winning a cruiserweight world title. It is Canelo wasting amazing his talent against an average opponent instead of fighting the best fighter he face next. This will set himself up to be nothing more than being a “paper champion” and even worse, a paper Legend.” He could be so much more, and boxing history has shown it will remember the legend and how they earned this title. Alvarez should remember the old saying, “champions are not born, they are made.” Take that quote for what you will, but I think it sums up my idea about what Alvarez is capable of doing in boxing. I hope for his sake he will have a real streak of honor shoot up his back into his head, that will push him to take on challenges rather than entertaining a minor obstacle to earn a somewhat faux legendary status. His current goals will render him a legend only on record, rather than in reality.

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