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For Your Consideration: Canelo Alvarez

Canelo Alvarez is headed back to HBO in one of the biggest boxing stories of 2014. What lies ahead for the 24-year-old superstar, and what do we know about him?

Josh Hedges
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

This is going to be a new feature here at Bad Left Hook, and it's meant simply as a place to discuss certain fighters. We're going to start off with Canelo Alvarez, who is returning to HBO on December 6 to face Joshua Clottey. Alvarez has emerged as boxing's brightest star of the future in recent years, even counting a loss to Floyd Mayweather, and his defection back to HBO was huge news for the industry.

Let's take a look at where Alvarez has been and where he's going. Chime in with your own two cents or twenty bucks or however much you want to spend on your thoughts. Whatever you think they're worth.

Best Wins

  1. Erislandy Lara (2014-07-12)
  2. Austin Trout (2013-04-20)
  3. Jose Miguel Cotto (2010-05-01)
  4. Ryan Rhodes (2011-06-18)
  5. Lanardo Tyner (2009-12-15)

I want to make clear that I don't think the latter three are bigger names or better fighters than Shane Mosley, for instance, which is another win Canelo has on his record. But relative to where Alvarez was in his career at the time of the fights, I think those wins are better than Mosley or Kermit Cintron. I'll explain more.

Canelo two best wins were in fights that some felt were scored advantageously in his direction. Lara went about 50-50 with Alvarez earlier this year, a split decision win for the Mexican that could have gone Lara's way, but that's hardly an indictment of Alvarez's performance. Lara is himself a top fighter, very skilled and a tricky, awkward matchup, and the fight played out that way, which most expected.

Lara getting one of the three cards (115-113) and losing the other two (115-113, and an admittedly wide 117-111) tells me that Lara's style lost him the fight as much as anything. He waited a lot, didn't engage, and at no point was he "schooling" or dominating Alvarez with his boxing. It was a tactical fight on both sides. Alvarez got the nod.

Alvarez's fight with Trout was much the same, though Canelo dropped Trout in that fight, which ultimately made it look a little more convincing, perhaps. The WBC's open scoring was in effect, alerting those in attendance and watching on TV that Trout was up against it the entire way, and Canelo eventually won on scores of 115-112, 116-111, and 118-109 -- again, two reasonable scores, one that is too wide.

The latter three wins are more "career timing" influenced. Canelo's win over Jose Miguel Cotto in 2010 established him as a star on the rise for American audiences, as the 19-year-old was in the co-feature to Mayweather-Mosley, which was a big pay-per-view hit. I did radio about that fight afterward, and on all of the shows, the hosts wanted to talk about Alvarez as much as Mayweather-Mosley. Canelo made an impression, and that's not just "at the time" thinking, either. The impression he made as legit, and his legitimate superstardom today reflects that.

The win over Rhodes was dominant, and it was a fight where some thought that the young Alvarez might struggle. Rhodes was a crafty veteran who had been on arguably the best run of his career, but Alvarez simply overpowered him and beat him down. And the win over Tyner in 2009 was another fight that indicated we might have a true star on our hands, as he routed a very solid veteran fighter.

The Loss

Floyd Mayweather is boxing's best fighter and by quite a big margin, and I think it says a lot that at a weight higher than he should be fighting, Mayweather made it look a lot easier against Alvarez than he did two welterweight fights this year against Maidana.

It's not that it says a lot about Mayweather, necessarily, but about how much Alvarez still can, in theory, improve. Maybe he won't; it's possible he's as good as he's going to get. But Canelo was out-coached, out-boxed, out-thought, and truly given a lesson that night from Floyd Mayweather. The fight was never remotely close, and once the intrigue died down after two rounds, it was as forgettable a major fight as we've seen in recent memory. The fight was an easy sell and broke money records, doing a huge gate and killing it on pay-per-view, but once the talk and hype was over, it was obvious that in terms of experience and skill and craft, Mayweather-Canelo was a mismatch, and that was on Canelo and his team.

Up Next and Beyond

Joshua Clottey has re-emerged on the American boxing scene after a dominant win over Anthony Mundine in Australia, and on December 6, will return to HBO airwaves for a fight against Canelo at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Four-and-a-half years ago, Clottey, now 36, took a dump on HBO PPV against Manny Pacquiao, turtling up the entire night in a fight that was both one-sided and unbelievably boring. With Clottey keeping his hands high and not absorbing true punishment, the fight became 12 rounds of Manny Pacquiao throwing rights and lefts at an inanimate object. The idea that Brandon Rios is a "punching bag" is laughable when one considers that fight. Clottey was stationary, didn't throw much back at all, and never gave himself any remote hope of winning.

The Ghanaian was all but blackballed from American boxing after that, not returning until November 2011, when he fought club fighter Calvin Green in Texas. He was again out for a long time, coming back in September 2013 to beat club fighter Dashon Johnson in New York. (Johnson, as a side note, would go on to build up a bogus 9-0 record in MMA before losing a pair of UFC fights this year.)

The reactions to Canelo vs Clottey have all seemed a bit extreme to me. The idea that Clottey is a live dog against Canelo is a little absurd, I think. That said, I also don't feel it's some terrible offense of a fight. Clottey is going to be a huge underdog, and should be. He hasn't beaten anyone good (all Mundine jokes aside) since his win over Zab Judah in 2008, and hasn't been competitive against anyone good since a close loss to Miguel Cotto in 2009.

Yes, at one time, Clottey was a legitimately tough out. As a welterweight. And no more recently than five years ago. Clottey was hot garbage against Pacquiao, and while the win over Mundine was solid no matter what you think of "The Man," it's a far cry from Alvarez, a young, in-prime, physically strong junior middleweight.

If Canelo wins as expected, 2015 could be a very interesting year. He's stated a desire to "take back" the Cinco De Mayo and Mexican Independence dates in May and September that Floyd Mayweather has owned the last two years. These are dates that haven't featured a Mexican fighter as an A-side on a PPV since Oscar De La Hoya fought and lost to Mayweather on Cinco De Mayo 2007.

(De La Hoya was also the A-side for his May 3, 2008 win over Steve Forbes, but that fight aired on HBO, and was essentially an exhibition.)

With a victory over Clottey, Canelo could be looking at a fight with current WBC and lineal middleweight champion Miguel Cotto, which has been simmering for a few years now. Every time it's seemed close to being made, something else happened. Cotto was knocking on that door when he lost to Austin Trout in 2012.

With Alvarez back at HBO, he won't be fighting Mayweather in a rematch next year, which seemed possible before Canelo defected from Showtime, where Floyd still has two fights on his contract, and then may hang up the gloves.

As it stands right now, Alvarez appears the surest bet to be boxing's next "biggest star." He's still young at 24, and Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are nearing the end of their careers, with a sharp decline in interest in either of them the last few years, too. That's not to say Canelo's career will rival either of theirs, because they're both first ballot, no doubt about it Hall of Famers, the two biggest stars of their generation, and probably the two best fighters, though Juan Manuel Marquez may quibble with the idea that Pacquiao is better than him.

Canelo's return to HBO signals the network's understanding that they need a new flagship star sooner than later. Locking up the best bet is the right idea. Manny Pacquiao isn't what he was in 2008-10, either in the ring or at the box office, and that is not a trend likely to reverse itself. Alvarez will have first crack at being The Man at HBO Sports once Pacquiao is retired, and there's even the faint possibility that there could be a torch-passing fight at some point, much like Pacquiao had in 2008 with Oscar De La Hoya.

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