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Canelo’s Legacy: Five defining fights

Canelo is only 28, but his legacy is already in discussion as a superstar fighter.

Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has been a contributor at Bad Left Hook since 2018.

As we count down to Saturday’s highly anticipated rematch between Saul Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, the term ‘legacy’ has been debated in every conversation.

There is no doubt that this rematch will define both fighters legacy, with this ‘Supremacy’ rematch acting as a crescendo to impressive runs in their respective careers.

Canelo’s record speaks for itself: 49-1-2; an astonishing accumulation for the 28-year-old since turning pro in 2005. However, as we delve into the history books of his meteoric rise, how will Canelo be judged post-fight on Saturday in victory or defeat?

Excluding the first bout with Golovkin last September, here are five of Alvarez’s most defining nights in the sport.

5. James Kirkland - May 2015

Canelo Alvarez v James Kirkland Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

James Kirkland, a southpaw with phenomenal punch power, faced off against Canelo not long after the disappointing Mayweather–Pacquiao bout; it was clear these two were ready to put on a show.

Both men came out swinging early, but Canelo handled Kirkland’s aggression well and dropped him in the first and the third; the Mexican then produced a highlight reel knockout later in that third round. Canelo showcased his incredible counter-punching ability, landing 58% of his punches, as well as landing almost double the number of punches that Kirkland was able to.

This huge knockout all but retired the “Mandingo Warrior”, with Kirkland not returning to the ring since.

4. Erislandy Lara - July 2014

A controversial SD win for Canelo against Erislandy Lara in 2014 overshadowed what was an impressive display of body-targeting from Canelo against a slick and crisp Lara.

The official scores were 115-113 and 117-111 for Canelo, and 115-113 for Lara in a fight where a majority of the rounds were contested to the final seconds. Half of the rounds could be argued either way, with the 117-111 card considered wide.

Canelo brought the fight to Lara inside the MGM, and despite the arguments of his effectiveness and power (several swings and misses made Canelo look clumsy at times), the Mexican’s work rate and aggression arguably got him over the line.

3. Floyd Mayweather Jr. - September 2013

Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Canelo Alvarez Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

A reality check came in the shape of Floyd Mayweather in September 2013. “Money” made his challenger look ordinary at times over the twelve rounds, with the judges’ scorecards of 114-114, 116-112, 117-111 met with puzzlement post-fight. CJ Ross’s drawn card was unimaginable in a fight where Mayweather’s snappy jabs, incisive combinations and tight defence were too much for Canelo.

Gauging a fighter against the mastery of Mayweather can often prove futile, but in a fight where Canelo connected with only 22% of his punches (compared to Floyd’s 46%), it was food for thought in the future endeavours of the Mexican. Post-fight, Canelo admitted his flaws: “I had my plan and kept trying to work on it. He was very good and we did not have an answer.”

2. Austin Trout - April 2013

Canelo came into this fight at 23; it was to prove the toughest contest of his career at that stage.

Austin Trout was in his prime years, undefeated and coming off of a victory over future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto. Trout had a fantastic gameplan and boxed well over the first few rounds; this was until Canelo began to showcase his power.

Although the fight went the distance, Canelo handed Trout the first knockdown of his career in the seventh round with a well-timed straight right hand. He went on to dominate, negating Trout’s counters with his impressive head movement. Showcasing his punching ability, Canelo landed 43% of his power shots. Trout has failed to reach the same heights again since his loss to Canelo, with the Mexican gaining praise for overcoming a huge challenge at such a young age.

1. Miguel Cotto - November 2015

Miguel Cotto v Canelo Alvarez Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Miguel Cotto, a four weight world champion, is arguably the best win on Alvarez’s record to date. Canelo stepped up to middleweight to challenge for the WBC world title with the Puerto Rican on a three-fight winning streak, including beating the impressive Sergio Martinez and respectable Daniel Geale.

Although Cotto moved well, demonstrating good ring intelligence, Canelo used his brute strength and size to physically dominate him eventually winning by wide decision (119-109, 118-110 and 117-111). A lasting memory for me was seeing Canelo stepping back off of a straight right hand, landing a huge uppercut and slipping the left hook of Cotto seamlessly afterwards; underlining the Mexican’s superior skillset in a fluid motion.

Alvarez had become the first Mexican fighter to claim the title of light middleweight and middleweight world champion, with the ease of the victory cementing him in the pound-for-pound picture.

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