Examining Canelo Alvarez: Is He Abnormally Protected, or Just Regular Strength Protected?

Vanes Martirosyan feels that Saul Alvarez fights only smaller fighters, and should be stripped of his WBC belt. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

154-pound contender Vanes Martirosyan feels that WBC titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is so busy facing inferior, smaller competition that he should be stripped of his title, and the belt put on the line for a fight between Martirosyan and Alfredo Angulo. From Rick Reeno at BoxingScene.com:

"I think it should be me and Angulo for the title. Alvarez is too busy fighting 140 and 147-pounders. They should just give him a title at 140 or 147. Either of us, me or Angulo, would beat Canelo by knockout."

Martirosyan (30-0, 19 KO) and Angulo (19-1, 16 KO) are in talks to stage a WBC eliminator. Angulo, who turns 29 on August 11, has his plate full right now with a visa issue that prevents him from entering the United States, let alone fight in the country, and he's been out of the ring since a July 2010 win over a faded Joachim Alcine. Angulo's win over Alcine actually was a WBC eliminator, Martirosyan's last fight, a stirring stoppage of Saul Roman on June 4, was a WBC "semi-final" eliminator.

Alvarez (37-0-1, 27 KO) is seeing increased criticism for his opposition, and it's not just from Martirosyan. Many fighters and those in and around boxing feel Alvarez is being protected against light hitters, and too often against undersized fighters to boot. He broke through and hit the radar of U.S. boxing fans largely due to his May 2010 win over Jose Miguel Cotto on the Mayweather vs Mosley undercard. Cotto fought Alvarez with a 150-pound catchweight, but Cotto started his career as a super bantamweight and reached his peak days at lightweight.

Since then, Alvarez has received U.S. exposure with the following fights:

  • 2010-09-18 vs Carlos Baldomir: Baldomir, a faded ex-welterweight champ, was made to order for Alvarez. He's tough, but also exceptionally slow of hand and foot, doesn't have much of a defense, and he can't punch. Of legitimate champions in the modern era, Baldomir may have been the worst, as he's a thoroughly mediocre fighter except for his granite chin. Baldomir agreed to fight Canelo at 150 pounds, but couldn't make the weight. Canelo, to his credit, didn't really care and went ahead with the fight anyway.
  • 2010-12-04 vs Lovemore N'dou: Another tough, old fighter, this time a guy who was best as a junior welterweight. This was also fought at 150. N'dou has little pop over 140 pounds, and like Baldomir was basically a tough veteran for the youngster to scalp. In both cases, we're talking about a kid fighting veterans. No real major issue yet. This happens all the time, and it's not like Baldomir and N'dou were unwilling or something. They knew the disadvantages they had.
  • 2011-03-05 vs Matthew Hatton: Hatton was reigning as European welterweight champ, but really has very little by way of truly quality wins on his sheet. Alvarez signed to fight at 150 again, but couldn't make weight. Hatton did care, and if Alvarez felt that he got a token for not making a big deal out of Baldomir not making weight, he was wrong. But the fight went ahead and it was a good scrap, one-sided but with Hatton game as they come. The kicker here? The biased WBC had put their vacant title on the line for this fight, and one of the guys (the winner, even) not make the contracted weight. Didn't matter. WBC gave him the belt anyway. This is where you start getting strong criticism.
  • 2011-06-18 vs Ryan Rhodes: Rhodes laid an egg, but that was not Canelo's fault. Well, it was, kind of, but in a good way. Rhodes was a legit 154-pounder, top ten to most, and figured to be a better test than he was. Canelo marched through him and kept his title.

So is it really that bad? Well, yes and no. The trouble comes with Alvarez's next fight, which is against light-hitting welterweight Alfonso Gomez, who is in reality a fringe contender but thanks to the emptiness of the 147-pound division, is back-end top ten. But he's not really a legitimate challenger. We've seen Gomez in against one world-class fighter, and that was Miguel Cotto, who ripped him apart in 2008 in one of the most horribly one-sided title fights you'll ever see.

But so far, Alvarez hasn't really done anything terribly unusual for a fighter who just a couple of weeks ago turned 21, or at least nothing unusual in a bad way. Yes, it appears he's being protected to some degree, and that nobody is exactly itching to match him with a puncher. That may or may not mean something right now. I've really seen no evidence that he has a bad chin, and usually by now, after this many fights with this many decent opponents, you'd have at least a red flag somewhere that makes you really ponder the chin. Alvarez hasn't had that, so more likely than his being protected from his weaknesses, I'd speculate it's just plain old protection of a young fighter. That the WBC chose to stick a belt on him is not Alvarez's fault. That's the WBC's doing.

Still, I do think Alvarez needs to fight a legit contender in his next outing after Gomez, assuming he deals with Gomez as easily as most expect he will. Some don't see the cause for hype with Alvarez, but I really do think he's a very good talent, plus he seems to have an exceptionally cool demeanor in the ring, and I think his boxing IQ looks like it could be truly special. He's gifted, you might say, when it comes to the mental side of the game. But yes, it would be nice to see him face someone who can punch and is a legitimate 154-pounder.

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