LAS VEGAS – Canelo Alvarez dedicated his life to being the ultimate sportsman. Now that he’s fully arrived, he’s changing the rules for how a boxing champion should operate.
Gone are the days of careful opponent selection and being shielded from foes by a link to a singular promoter. Extended layoffs to maximize the quality of vacations between fights? Deleted.
“This is my time. I feel in my prime,” Alvarez said.
His next fight is Saturday night’s DAZN pay-per-view bout against World Boxing Association champion Dmitry Bivol at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The fight marks a return to the 175-pound division after Alvarez captured the World Boxing Organization light-heavyweight belt in November 2019 by knocking out veteran Sergey Kovalev.
“I feel alive when I have this kind of challenge,” Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 KOs) said of his Saturday night bout vs. Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs).
After defeating three 168-pound champions within a year to become boxing’s first undisputed super-middleweight champion, Alvarez goes back to 175-pounds to meet another Russian.
Bivol is five years younger than 31-year-old Kovalev. He’s respected for his jab and ring poise, built from a distinguished amateur career. He proved as much three years ago when he defeated current WBO light-heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr.
“I’ve had a long trip to get to this moment, and now I have to do my job,” Bivol said during a news conference Thursday. “Every time I step to the ring, I believe in victory. Why not?
“I’ve been in boxing my whole life, and I’m the champion.”
This time around, Bivol brings his belt to a ring surrounded by a pro-Alvarez home crowd. Not only will Alvarez thrive amid the support of his Mexican countrymen, but Bivol’s nationality will also go unrecognized by the WBA amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian national anthem won’t be played and Russian flag-waving in the ring will not be permitted.
Alvarez is a comfortable -550 favorite to win over +330 underdog Bivol at Tipico Sportsbook. The total for rounds fought is set at 10.5. The over is -320, and the under is +210.
Alvarez could find Bivol with the same thunderous blows he planted on Kovalev (11th-round knockout), former 168-pound champions Billy Joe Saunders (broken orbital bones, quit on stool after eight rounds) and Caleb Plant (11th-round TKO).
Boxing statistician CompuBox reports Bivol has thrown less than 20 power punches in 44 of his last 51 rounds. Alvarez, meanwhile, threw 20-plus power punches in nine of 11 rounds against Plant.
“I need to feel these kinds of challenges for myself. I know a really good fight will put me in the boxing (history) books,” Alvarez said. “(Bivol) is a good boxer. He’s strong. He’s a solid champion at 175 and I need to do my best to win because he has the stamina for all the rounds.”
While the debate persists over whether four-division champion Alvarez or three-division champion Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. (107-6-2, 86 KOs) is Mexico’s greatest fighter, Alvarez charges headlong toward the battles he believes will win over the masses.
“What does Canelo have to do to be considered the best Mexican fighter of all time? Retire,” Alvarez’s Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn said. “He might be the greatest ever since Ali.”
And he’s far from retirement.
Should he defeat Bivol, Alvarez plans to settle his business with bitter rival Gennadiy Golovkin in a September trilogy.
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He’d then eye a December bout, either against 168-pound title challenge John Ryder in England or — more gloriously — a bid to break Chavez’s boxing-attendance record by winning a cruiserweight (200-pound) belt against WBC champion Ilunga Makabu, Hearn said.
Alvarez even expressed interest in a future heavyweight title fight against current three-belt champion Oleksandr Usyk at 201 pounds.
“I fight everybody, I don’t (expletive) care,” Alvarez told reporters this week.
Alvarez’s beat-everybody attitude inspired Hearn to blast rival promoter Premier Boxing Champions. The Al Haymon-headed organization handled Alvarez’s victory over Plant, but Hearn stepped in for the next two to three fights — and perhaps for good.
Earlier this week, PBC promoter Tom Brown bemoaned Alvarez’s turn to Hearn’s offering — which could include a May 2023 bout against the winner of next month’s Artur Beterbiev-Joe Smith Jr. light-heavyweight unification in New York.
Brown told a reporter he offered Alvarez a two-fight package that started with $45 million to fight PBC’s unbeaten middleweight champion Jermall Charlo, and then another $55 million to choose from either a 164-pound bout against either PBC’s three-belt welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. or their unbeaten former 168-pound champion David Benavidez.
“Embarrassing,” Hearn said of Brown’s comments. “If the offer was so good, why did (Alvarez) choose to come with us? You think Canelo is motivated to fight a welterweight at 164 pounds for no title. That’s like desperation … .”
Hearn reiterated Alvarez has met eight champions in his past 10 bouts.
“How can you say Charlo is a better fight than Beterbiev? Are you mad? How can you say Charlo’s a tougher fight than Dmitry Bivol at 175? Absolute rubbish,” Hearn said.
The promoter suggested PBC would be better served to have its best 168-pound fighters meet each other to determine the best possible foe for Alvarez
“I know Benavidez wants big fights, but it’s embarrassing who they’re fighting. Why don’t you make Charlo vs. Benavidez? Why don’t you make Benavidez versus Plant,” Hearn said. “You give them all these easy fights for all this money and they’re not selling … you’re just burning money.”
Effectively, Hearn says, try following the path Canelo charted — pursuing multiple titles in multiple divisions.
“When are you guys going to learn what Canelo Alvarez is all about? Legacy. Champions,” Hearn said. “Of course he wants to make money. But he wants to go in there Saturday as a challenger against Dmitry Bivol, rip the belt off him and take that back to the chamber room and say, ‘I beat another one.’”
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