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What’s next for Canelo Alvarez after knockout of Sergey Kovalev?

Canelo Alvarez has world titles in three divisions right now. What’s next for the cash cow?

Canelo Alvarez v Sergey Kovalev Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

With a knockout win over Sergey Kovalev on Saturday night, Canelo Alvarez is not just a four-division titleholder in his boxing career, but the 29-year-old holds titles in three weight classes at once.

Combine that with the fact that Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KO) is boxing’s biggest money generator, and the fact that he tends to surprise fans with the fights he takes, and we’ve got plenty of possibilities for the 29-year-old Mexican superstar.

Gennadiy Golovkin

It’s the one people are going to keep asking about, because Canelo hasn’t entirely, completely shot it down yet. Part of the remaining intrigue is because they’ve fought 24 rounds and there’s still almost nothing between them. Some look at where this is now, with Canelo 29 and perhaps peaking, and Golovkin 37 and definitely past his very best days, and they start to think that perhaps Canelo is actually right when he says it no longer would be a challenge for him.

Gennady Golovkin v Canelo Alvarez Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

And he may be right. But sometimes, fighters are just made to give one another hell. Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez come to mind.

When Pacquiao was 25, he and a 30-year-old Marquez fought to a disputed draw. When Pacquiao was 29 and 32, and Marquez was 34 and 38, they met again, with Pacquiao winning two disputed decisions. When Pacquiao was 33 and Marquez was 39, Marquez knocked him stone out in another incredibly competitive fight.

There were 42 rounds fought between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Before Marquez knocked Manny out, the combined judges scores between them were Pacquiao 1,165 to Marquez 1,155. No matter how old Marquez got, or how far they moved up in weight — which it was felt Pacquiao handled better — Marquez was just absolute hell for the Filipino.

Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KO) could be that for Canelo. I hear you, 29 vs 34 isn’t the same as 29 vs 37, and Golovkin just came off a very hard fight with Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

Between fights one and two, Marquez had lost to Chris John. Between fights two and three, he had lost to Floyd Mayweather and gone through hell with the likes of Juan Diaz, Joel Casamayor, and Michael Katsidis. It didn’t matter. Nothing that seemed to conclude that Marquez would now be Too Old to hang with Pacquiao ever proved to be so.

I’m not saying this is exactly the same or that it would even turn out the same. The smart money IS on Canelo now being too good for the aging Golovkin. All I’m saying is there’s plenty of reason to still be interested, and people are.

Demetrius Andrade

“The truth is he hasn’t fought anyone, and he’s also boring, very boring,” Canelo recently said of WBO middleweight titleholder Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade.

I mean, it’s sort of hard to argue. Andrade (28-0, 17 KO) has won world titles at 154 and 160, but what are his best wins? Maciej Sulecki, Jack Culcay, and Vanes Martirosyan? And no, he’s not a crowd-pleasing fighter. He’s never going to be an action star. Andrade’s skills pay his bills.

Demetrius Andrade v Artur Akavov Photo by Bill Tompkins/Getty Images

We say these same things every time Andrade comes up in one of these Sunday morning write-ups, but we also say that he’s, like, exactly the dude top names traditionally try to avoid. Skilled. Southpaw. Not a big name, due to some earlier career promotional issues that never quite got him the exposure he needed, and despite DAZN’s current attempts to make him one.

He’s not fun to watch and he’s gonna be a pain in the ass for anyone to beat. He’s not a huge name who’s going to draw a crowd and he’s gonna be a pain in the ass for anyone to beat. Canelo, earlier in his career, actually kind of made a point to fight a couple guys like this, Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara. But back then, Canelo was trying to prove himself a worthy star. Now? He’s got a $365 million contract. He genuinely doesn’t have to fight a guy like Andrade if he just doesn’t want to, and it’ll be hard to make him.

In the cases of both Golovkin and Andrade, it also should be said that there’s no guarantee Canelo ever fights at 160 again. The question was posed to him at the post-fight presser, and he admitted that making the weight could be difficult now that he’s fought as high as 175, but he thinks he can still do it, too. In Canelo’s case, he doesn’t appear to have added any significant bulk to move up to 175, he seems perhaps to have been fighting at the weight he generally walks around at, or at least pretty near it. So maybe that’s not going to be some “Roy Jones Jr going from heavyweight back to 175” thing if he tries it.

Callum Smith

Alvarez holds a paper title at 168 and if he wants the claim that he’s won a world title there to have any legitimacy, any real legacy, he should fight the man who holds the grown-up adult version of that WBA belt, and that’s Callum Smith.

Boxing - Madison Square Garden Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

Smith (26-0, 19 KO) is a Matchroom and DAZN fighter, so the fight figures to be easy enough to get done. But while there’s been smoke around this idea before, I’m not sure there’ll ever be fire. I’m not trying to dump on Canelo or take away the legitimacy of his achievements (OK, I don’t much buy into his claim to having won a title at 168, but other than that), but let’s be serious: he fights tough opponents when he thinks they’re ripe for the picking. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it, it’s just how it is.

Miguel Cotto and Sergey Kovalev jump out, obviously. Both were still good, credible fighters when Canelo fought them, but not exactly at their best. Canelo “avoided” Golovkin for a while — he even gave up a title to not fight GGG — before agreeing to face him. Even go back to when he was young — Carlos Baldomir, Kermit Cintron, Shane Mosley were all on the slide when he fought them as “step-up” opponents. They were name value opponents more than steps up.

A lot of fighters do this. That’s life.

Callum Smith is not on the slide and Callum Smith is a big sumbitch at 168 pounds. He’s a more intimidating guy than Kovalev at this point — he’s taller, perhaps more powerful, has much sexier arms. And at 29, Smith is also right in his true prime years.

Do I think Canelo is scared of him? No. Do I think Canelo and Golden Boy would very carefully examine the risk-reward of it all? Absolutely.

Billy Joe Saunders

Hey, if Canelo doesn’t want to fight Smith for a legitimate title at 168, he can fight Saunders (28-0, 13 KO), who has just joined the Matchroom team and also has a ... title at 168. Saunders had the WBO belt gift-wrapped for him, as his old team managed to wrangle the vacant belt for a fight between Saunders and Shefat Isufi, who could be charitably described as a fringe contender.

Boxing at The Lamex Stadium Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images

I may jab and joke at the legitimacy of Saunders’ title, but at least it’s not a “secondary” version of some other, better WBO title, and also I do not jab and joke when it comes to Saunders’ skills, which are real and considerable.

When dialed in, and Saunders appears dialed in again, Billy Joe is a fantastic boxer. Like Andrade, he’s a crafty southpaw who can do more than just spoil, he can really box at a very high level. It’s been a while now, but about two years ago, Saunders went over to Canada and just completely outclassed and shut down David Lemieux. You may recall at that time people suggesting that neither Canelo nor GGG would ever want a damn thing to do with that version of Saunders.

Saunders, 30, is set to make his US debut this coming Saturday, as he’ll defend his belt against Marcelo Esteban Coceres on the KSI-Logan Paul circus show. If he looks good, he can’t be ignored. A Smith-Saunders unification may be more realistic than Canelo fighting either, which wouldn’t be a bad “consolation prize” for them or us.

Artur Beterbiev

I know Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KO) is a Top Rank fighter and that generally speaking, making fights between promoters with different content deals can be tough. Golden Boy and Top Rank have made it work a couple times this year, though, with Golden Boy guys fighting on ESPN platforms, and Top Rank has also shown a willingness to let their fighters go to DAZN for the right fight.

So let me be really clear: I don’t know this for certain, but I’d be willing to place a significant bet that if Top Rank were called about Canelo vs Beterbiev, they would be very open to the idea. Doesn’t matter if it’s on DAZN, doesn’t matter if it’s in Las Vegas or Guadalajara or Canelo’s living room and Canelo gets to pick the judges, and they don’t even have to be professional judges, they can be his actual blood relatives. Top Rank would at least consider it.

Light heavyweight world title unification boxing bout Beterbiev vs Gvozdyk in Philadelphia, US Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

Sergey Kovalev was a good, credible fighter at 175 still, but, again, clearly past his peak. Artur Beterbiev is turning 35 in January, so he’s not much younger than Kovalev, but Beterbiev does not have the years of fights and training camps on him that Kovalev does. And Beterbiev is a goddamned beast at 175 pounds.

I’ll throw this out there: I’d give Canelo a pretty good chance against anyone at 175 except for Artur Beterbiev. I think Canelo might win some rounds against Artur Beterbiev. I think he might do some decent work against Artur Beterbiev. And then I think Artur Beterbiev would eventually maul him out of there.

Beterbiev is not just some brainless zombie lurching ever forward, either. His raw aggression somewhat hides a solid technical base, at least offensively. He’s defensively flawed, but he can bang, and he’s relentless. And he can take a hell of a shot, too. I don’t know what Canelo could do with this guy. I’d kind of like to see him try, and that’s not out of some desire to see Alvarez lose. If you wanna talk about taking risks and being gutsy, this would really take the cake.

Dmitry Bivol

Another 175-pound titleholder, and a guy I think Alvarez would have a much better shot against. Bivol is a broadcast free agent, although his two fights since the fall of HBO have both been on DAZN and he has a co-promotional deal with Matchroom.

Oleksandr Usyk v Chazz Witherspoon Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

I’d frankly rather just see Beterbiev-Bivol than either of them against Canelo right away, but I wouldn’t be mad at Canelo against either one, and Bivol is probably the less daunting physical task. Bivol’s actually a little taller than Beterbiev, but he doesn’t test the will of opponents like Beterbiev does, either.

Bivol, though, is a fine boxer-puncher who doesn’t make many mistakes and doesn’t force things that aren’t there. If a KO comes to him, he’ll take it, but he’s past the part of his career where he’s just destroying guys, because he’s not fighting Trent Broadhurst and Cedric Agnew anymore. Even a guy like Lenin Castillo is craftier and survives better. So Bivol has gone the distance in four straight fights.

I don’t know how I’d see this matchup, but it’s closer to 50/50 than Kovalev was simply because Bivol is 28 years old and hasn’t been humbled or beaten up yet. It could be really interesting.

So who WILL Canelo face next? I don’t know. I didn’t expect him to fight Amir Khan in 2016 or Rocky Fielding in 2018 or Sergey Kovalev in 2019, but he did. Sometimes his choices come out of left field, for better or worse.

Maybe he’ll move up to cruiserweight and fight Kevin Lerena for the IBO belt. Maybe he goes the other way, back down to 160, and Golden Boy pulls the trigger on the Jaime Munguia fight before Munguia inevitably loses to a much lesser name and never quite gets to make that money.

Whatever it is, it’ll be an event.

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