Saul Alvarez may be a star already, but he remains a prospect more than anything. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
While it's cliché to go with the already very popular "Canelo" Alvarez of Mexico, I feel it's also important to remember that he's still just 20 years old, still really just a prospect, and still isn't a complete fighter. Alvarez (36-0-1, 26 KO) has been featured on major cards, has headlined on HBO, and is hugely popular in his home country. At 5'9" with a 71" reach, Alvarez is built wide, and while it may have been preferable for him to stay at welterweight longer, eventually they're going to have to face facts and stop saying he can fight at welterweight, when he's failing to make 150-pound catchweights. Kids at 20 don't go down in weight.
He's got power and he's highly entertaining, and has a natural charisma he doesn't have to force. Alvarez has controlled aggression offensively that seems to get more controlled as he faces tougher competition. While he basically trucked through Jose Miguel Cotto last year, and then eventually thrashed Carlos Baldomir, he's been smart and effective against Lovemore N'dou and Matthew Hatton in his last two. It's a good thing -- neither N'dou nor Hatton were making him do anything drastic, and he didn't take stupid risks just to impress. He has the ability to take stupid risks, though. That's also a good thing. He punches well in combination, closes in on wounded foes nicely, and never can be caught admiring his own work. His body work is very good when he zeroes in.
He's got huge holes defensively, isn't particularly quick with his hands, goes wide with his shots, and his footwork seems iffy to me at times. Though he's 20, more is expected of him -- and that's never good, frankly. The guys he's faced in recent bigger fights have been all very carefully selected. Sooner or later, people are going to expect him to fight serious competition. The next fight is not a hand-picked opponent (Ryan Rhodes), and could be trouble. We'll see how he handles a strong, fairly slick southpaw. It's a big test.
Other Junior Middleweight Prospects
Erislandy Lara (15-0-1, 10 KO) will have a chance in July to prove his worth against Paul Williams. Big, big fight for him. 25-year-old New Mexico southpaw Austin "No Doubt" Trout (22-0, 13 KO) beat Canelo's brother Rigoberto last time out for a weak title, then got caught up in the demise of of the bogus "Empire" boxing promotions. He's moving on with his career, and really deserves more exposure.
23-year-old Prince Arron (21-3-1, 4 KO) doesn't have a pretty record and seems punchless on paper, but the 6'3" Brit has made huge strides in the last couple of years, and recently claimed the British title with a terrific win over Sam Webb. He's learned to get more power out of his punches, and he's learned to fight with his height. He'd be somewhat out of left field, but don't be shocked if he winds up being a serious contender -- if he keeps improving.
Belarus' Sergey Rabchenko (17-0, 12 KO) was a big amateur star, but has done almost nothing professionally, and barely got past Bradley Pryce recently. Yudel Jhonson (10-0, 7 KO) has some thinking he's the top Cuban prospect at 154, and not Lara. Poor Vanes Martirosyan (29-0, 18 KO) is still basically a prospect, isn't he? It's not for his lack of desire to get good fights.