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Canelo Alvarez’s last fight in Mexico showcased a superstar on the rise, and he returns as boxing’s top name for perhaps a final time

Canelo Alvarez dominated Kermit Cintron when he last fought in Mexico in 2011.

Canelo Alvarez dominated Kermit Cintron when he last fought in Mexico in 2011
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Canelo Alvarez will return to the ring on Saturday, facing John Ryder at Estadio Akron in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico, and it will be the first time the undisputed super middleweight champion has fought in his native country since 2011.

On Nov. 26 of that, year Canelo headlined on HBO against Kermit Cintron. Sometimes when you think of the passage of time like that, it doesn’t fully hit you in the moment how long ago it was. So here’s a few things about how long ago it was:

  • Canelo was 21 years old, fighting at 154 lbs, making the third defense of his first world title, the WBC belt he won against Matthew Hatton in early 2011.
  • Canelo had yet to “step up” against a badly faded Shane Mosley, let alone gotten into any of his blockbuster fights. It was nearly two years from the fight with Floyd Mayweather; four years from the fight with Miguel Cotto; six years from the first time he fought Gennadiy Golovkin.
  • In the U.S., we were still in the first term of the Obama administration. The No. 1 song in the States was “We Found Love” by Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris. The No. 1 film at the U.S. box office was The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, its second of three weeks on top.
  • World of Warcraft was still on the Catacylsm expansion, we hadn’t even made it to Mists of Pandaria yet, let alone Warlords of Draenor, Legion, Battle for Azeroth, Shadowlands, or Dragonflight. This one is for a very specific and probably narrow crossover audience, yes.

Canelo first “broke through” with the U.S. audience on May 1, 2010. On the Mayweather vs Mosley pay-per-view, there was a 19-year-old Mexican kid slotted into the “chief support” role against Miguel Cotto’s brother, Jose.

While Mayweather responded to an early scare against Mosley to dominate that fight so thoroughly that Sugar Shane looked bewildered by the middle rounds, a lot of people came away from that event most wanting to know more about the young redheaded Mexican kid from the undercard. Canelo had already started attracting good crowds in Mexico, and he just had a star appeal about him, some sort of “it” factor, and it was clear that he was a young man who could fight.

Over time, of course, Canelo has won world titles at 154, 160, 168, and 175, currently now, at age 32, reigns as the undisputed champion of the super middleweight division, and has beaten a lot of good fighters over the years. He became the sport’s marquee draw following the retirement of Floyd Mayweather, and still holds that honor for the time being, though the years will pass and he will be replaced, as everyone always is eventually.

That last time he fought in Mexico seems like a long time ago because it was.

Canelo, again, was 21 years old, came in with a 38-0-1 (28 KO) record. After the win over Jose Cotto, Canelo went back to Mexico and beat Luciano Cuello, then in Sept. 2010, demolished Carlos Baldomir in Los Angeles. He beat Hatton for the vacant WBC belt at 154, then defended successfully against Ryan Rhodes and Alfonso Gomez.

Cintron was the veteran, a 32-year-old Puerto Rican who had grown up in Pennsylvania and was fighting at the time out of Houston, where he trained with Ronnie Shields. At one time, Cintron was seen as a welterweight destroyer, power-punching his way to an interim WBO title in 2004, before he was thrashed by Antonio Margarito in 2005.

He did win the IBF title after that, though you would be forgiven for considering it a largely paper belt, and Margarito smashed him again in 2008 to take that one, too. A 2009 draw with Sergio Martinez (who hadn’t yet hit his peak) was followed by losses to Paul Williams and Carlos Molina in 2010-11, though he did hand Alfredo Angulo his first loss in 2009 to keep his career kicking.

Cintron came in 33-4-1 (28 KO) and a clear underdog. But with Canelo still being so young and Cintron a puncher, there was some intrigue in him facing Alvarez, or at least enough intrigue for promoters and HBO to try to sell you.

What if the youngster doesn’t take a good shot so well? Cintron wasn’t the puncher at 154 he had appeared to be at 147, but he was certainly a better puncher than Baldomir, Hatton, Rhodes, or Gomez.

But he wound up being little threat at all.

Though the first two rounds were cautious from both fighters, the standing of the two men at that time represented different things. For young Canelo, this displayed patience and maturity beyond his 21 years. For the more weathered Cintron, you hate to use the word “fear,” but he was tentative. Perhaps more than that, he’d “learned how to lose” by then, and it felt as if he were just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In the third round, the tide started to turn, and in the fourth, Alvarez hurt Cintron, who took a knee. At the end of that round, the young man badly hurt his opponent again, and Cintron was held up at the ropes for around 10 seconds after the bell sounded to end the frame, before he even tried getting back to his corner for instructions, whatever anyone could offer.

Cintron, to his credit, tried to throw power shots in the fifth, but this just gave Canelo more to work with, and with Alvarez landing clean to the body and head, referee Hector Afu stopped the fight at 2:53 of round five.

Post-fight, Canelo called out Floyd Mayweather, a bold move and dismissed by many as a fight Canelo couldn’t win — and when he got it two years later, he couldn’t.

But it signaled the sort of career Canelo Alvarez wanted to have. Here in 2023, you’d have to say he’s had that career, and now he’s back home as a genuine mega-star, the sort of headline fighter who simply doesn’t fight in Mexico anymore, because the big-time money is all elsewhere.

He turned pro in a ring as a 15-year-old boy at Arena Chololo Larios in Tonala, Jalisco, beating Abraham Gonzalez via fourth round TKO on Oct. 29, 2005. For his career, Canelo is 35-0-1 (26 KO) in Mexico. Saturday may be the last time he fights in a Mexican ring. Expect a determined Canelo, one who wants to give his people a great performance to remember.

Bad Left Hook will have live, round-by-round coverage for Canelo vs Ryder on Saturday, May 6, starting at 7 pm ET.

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