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What next for Canelo Alvarez after Smith win? Golovkin, Spence, Plant, and many more are possible

Canelo has won world titles in four divisions and looked as good as ever on Saturday. So what now?

Canelo Alvarez v Callum Smith Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom via Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

With Canelo Alvarez now past Callum Smith via wide decision victory on Saturday night, we now shift to what could come next for the Mexican superstar, who has the unique position of no ties to a promoter or a broadcaster, and thus can rather easily do exactly whatever he wants next.

We all know what we’re doing here, so let’s not beat around the bush.

Gennadiy Golovkin

Gennady Golovkin v Kamil Szeremeta Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Golovkin fought Friday in Florida, destroying an over-matched Kamil Szeremeta. We’ve already talked about next options for GGG. Like Canelo, he has lots of possibilities.

I still think Canelo-GGG 3 is the biggest fight available to either man. You can argue reasonably that this is the opportune time for Canelo to score a clean and clear win over GGG and settle the debate, at least in his own mind — nothing will really ever change how people saw the first two fights — what with Golovkin closing in on his 39th birthday in the spring and having lost a step.

But there is the chance that GGG is just That Dude for Canelo, like Juan Manuel Marquez always was for Manny Pacquiao. And we know how that rivalry ended, at precisely the time everyone figured Marquez was finally just going to be too old and Pacquiao would finally be the clear better of the two of them. If Canelo got the fight at 168 or, say, a 165 catchweight, the whole thing could parallel even tighter.

I’m down for it. I honestly want it before it gets obviously too late.

Errol Spence Jr

Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions

There is dual interest in doing this fight at 160; Canelo and team have talked about it, and Spence was in attendance in San Antonio and said he wants it, too. It’s a weird fight, but weird fights happen when there’s money in them, and there is money in this idea. It could do a monster crowd at AT&T Stadium or the Alamodome or anywhere in Texas. It could demand a huge site fee in Vegas. All of this is once crowds can return in full, obviously.

The thing about this idea is that it probably has to happen ASAP. Alvarez will fully grow out of being able to make 160 sooner than later, because he’ll be training for optimum performance at 168 long enough that changing his routines to make 160 again could be a disastrous mistake.

As I said before, I’m kinda 50/50 on this fight. I’d be curious and a little excited about it if it happens, but if the idea is that Canelo at 160 is ineffective enough anymore to bowl over the naturally smaller Spence, is that so great? I don’t know. You make the call. I’d talk myself into it to a degree, at any rate.

Further Unification at 168

Caleb Plant v Vincent Feigenbutz Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

With the WBC and WBA titles in Canelo’s possession, he did say post-fight that he wants to further unify at 168, eventually become undisputed. Fighters say this all the time and almost never actually do it or get to do it, but Alvarez is in the unique position of not being beholden to any promoter or broadcast partner now, so he can do what he wants.

The division’s other belts are held by Caleb Plant (IBF) and Billy Joe Saunders (WBO). Plant is set to return Jan. 30 against Caleb Truax, a fight he’ll be expected to win, but I wouldn’t totally write it off. Truax has pulled off a title-winning upset over a Plant-level fighter before, after all. Sure, he’s older and maybe it was a little fluky, but Truax isn’t a scrub. And there had already been talk that Canelo and Plant discussed fighting on Dec. 19, in fact. Didn’t happen, but it’s at least been out there.

Saunders just defended against Martin Murray to get busy and active, and he wants the big fights. He was all but set to fight Canelo on May 2 before COVID scrapped the spring months in the sport. Promoter Eddie Hearn wants to keep Saunders active to avoid him maybe going out of shape or losing focus on his career, as has happened multiple times now. And the time for Billy Joe to strike is now if he can.

Either Plant or Saunders would be perfectly acceptable, logical fights. They wouldn’t have anyone going crazy with excitement, but they’re every bit as good as the Smith fight.

Other Candidates

Jermall Charlo v Dennis Hogan Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
  • If there’s any interest in fighting again at 160, the bigger options would be a trilogy fight against Golovkin (which, again, Canelo does not have to take at 160) or the curious matchup with Spence. But for the sake of including them, WBC titleholder Jermall Charlo and WBO titleholder Demetrius Andrade would certainly be names to consider. Charlo might take the fight, it’s hard to say. I err on the side of thinking he would at this point. Andrade spent most of the Canelo-Smith broadcast trying to plead his case to even be considered in the same league as Canelo’s achievements; in the future, and with respect to Andrade who has every reason to try and get the big fights on a public platform, it might be better to not have thirsty would-be rivals do any sort of commentary on live boxing shows. Got a little old on the third or eighth bit.
  • Canelo has also expressed interest in going to Japan to fight Ryota Murata, who holds the WBA’s secondary belt at 160, which is good enough to count as a world title for most people. Murata may also be willing to move up in weight to fight Canelo; it’s a huge money opportunity and chance to fight the biggest name in the sport, and Alvarez is by all accounts willing to be the road fighter to do it. Murata is a big-time boxing and sports star in Japan because he won a gold medal at London 2012, which was the country’s first boxing gold medal since 1964, and their first-ever medal in a class other than flyweight or bantamweight.
  • If Canelo moves back up to 175 (he won’t), there’s Artur Beterbiev, and titleholder Dmitry Bivol has expressed a willingness to fight Canelo or others at 168. I do think there’s a chance Canelo will fight Beterbiev eventually, but it’ll probably be if/when they think the somewhat injury-prone Russian may have lost a step or two. Bivol just doesn’t have the name value. Canelo fought at 175 because he and his team saw a reduced Sergey Kovalev as someone they could pick off for a belt in a fight that DAZN would sign off on for full purse. It worked. I’m not going lunatic nutty about it, mind you, it just is what it is. It was a well-researched decision.

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