LAS VEGAS — Canelo Alvarez says he's the best fighter in the world, despite what Terence Crawford has done, and the Mexican superstar, who defends his undisputed super middleweight title Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas against undisputed super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo, has a pretty good case for himself.
Alvarez is 59-2-2 and has two wins (as well as a draw) with Gennadiy Golovkin and wins over Hall of Famers Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley as well as Billy Joe Saunders, former undisputed welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir, as well as Austin Trout, Erislandy Lara, Amir Khan, Liam Smith, Daniel Jacobs, Sergey Kovalev, Callum Smith and Caleb Plant.
A Charlo win would be a huge upset. Alvarez is sizable -425 favorite at BetMGM, with Charlo at +325 on the buyback.
Charlo is a highly skilled fighter, though the one accurate knock on him is that he hasn't fought the same level of opposition as Alvarez.
So let's take a look at this fight from a number of different angles.
Is two-weight class jump too much to overcome at this level?
It's never happened before in the four-belt era — this is the first a pair of undisputed champs that will meet in the ring — so the closest analogy to this is the Nov. 7, 1988, bout here between Sugar Ray Leonard and Donny Lalonde. By 1988, even at only 32 Leonard was on the homestretch of a fabulous career, while Lalonde was a largely unknown light heavyweight belt holder.
Leonard had held titles at 147, 154 and 160 pounds heading into the fight, and with Lalonde holding the WBC light heavyweight belt, it gave Leonard the opportunity to win a belt in a fourth class. But Leonard came up with a brilliant idea: He convinced the WBC to create a super middleweight division, and if Lalonde could make 168, then both belts could be on the line. There is no rule in a title bout how much one could be under the weight limit once the bout was sanctioned.
Lalonde agreed to make 168 and the WBC agreed to sanction it, and so both titles were at stake, giving Leonard access to a potential fifth weight class title. The only significance of that was for the record books.
The legendary Angelo Dundee declined to work Leonard's corner in a dispute over pay, so Janks Morton and Dave Jacobs handled Leonard. Leonard dropped Lalonde twice and won by ninth-round TKO.
Lalonde weighed 167 and Leonard 165, but Leonard said he went to the weigh-in on the morning of the fight with silver dollars in his pockets. He said he weighed 159.5.
Leonard proved the smaller man can win. And Charlo goes into this bout with not as big of a size disadvantage as one may think. Alvarez is not a huge super middleweight, and doesn't have to cut as much weight as other champions in the division have had to do. And Charlo has been a big super welterweight. His identical twin brother, Jermall, holds a middleweight belt and had Jermall not been boxing, it's likely Jermell would be a middleweight now.
That would be only a one-class jump up. Showtime's Stephen Espinoza pointed out to Yahoo Sports when the fight was announced that they are closer in weight than it may seem.
"Not that long ago, both of them were at 154," Espinoza said. "And Jermell has been talking about going to 160 for a while. You understand that Jermell is a very big 154-pounder. It will be a challenge, but he's optimistic and believes he'll be able to do it."
So, ultimately, what is the impact of the weight? It's an advantage to Alvarez, to be sure. He's comfortable and strong at 168, and Charlo hasn't fought in that class yet. But it's not a momentous disadvantage and it's one Charlo can overcome if he fights well and avoids major errors.
Do Alvarez's losses give us a clue?
Alvarez has officially lost twice, to Floyd Mayweather in 2013 and to Dmitri Bivol in 2022. Mayweather boxed rings around Alvarez, who was just reaching the elite level and wasn't nearly experienced enough to compete on even terms with a wily veteran like Mayweather. Bivol is also a very good boxer, though not nearly as skilled in that regard as Mayweather.
Bivol's primary advantage in the fight was his size. He was able to absorb Alvarez's punches better than most, and he was able to control the inside game when Alvarez cut the distance. But mostly, it was Bivol's strong jab that led him to victory.
Alvarez had another explanation: He told GQ Sports his effort was lacking.
“The truth is that there is not much to say. I lost the fight because I got tired. It was definitely that, the weight, a lot of things that happened. He didn’t beat me by being better than me. I just didn’t give 100 percent."
There's nothing good Charlo can take from those Alvarez losses. In his draw with Golovkin in 2017, it was much the same. Golovkin's success came from boxing behind a punishing jab.
Charlo's not the kind of boxer those guys are, so he'll have to rely on something else to win.
Could Alvarez look past Charlo?
That's never been an issue for Alvarez in his career, though his admission to GQ Sports about his effort suggests it has happened at least once.
The clear thought in this fight is that if both men are on their games, Alvarez is simply too good. The conventional wisdom is that Alvarez will have to be a little off and Charlo will need to raise his game to pull off the win. Alvarez has fought 63 times as a pro and has been ready to go in most if not all of them.
But Freddie Roach, a multiple-time Trainer of the Year and a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, sees a path to victory for Charlo which doesn't have anything to do with Alvarez being off.
"Canelo needs to stay away from Charlo's left hook," Roach said. "The question is, can Canelo stay away from Charlo's left hook? I don't think he can, which is why I am picking Charlo by stoppage. I can't wait for this one."
Can Charlo win a decision in Nevada?
There has been a narrative that has played out for far too long that Nevada judges favor Alvarez and it's hard to win a decision over him in Vegas. The first two fights between Alvarez and Golovkin were extremely close, and Golovkin could have won both. The first was a draw and the second was an Alvarez win, which added fuel to that fire.
But upon closer examination, that theory doesn't hold water. Alvarez's two losses came in Las Vegas, and both were by decision. C.J. Ross turned in a ridiculously bad 114-114 scorecard in the Mayweather-Alvarez fight. And Adalaide Byrd had an equally as bad card in the first Alvarez-Golovkin fight, favoring Alvarez 118-110.
But Mayweather won the other two cards by margins of 117-111 and 116-112. Bivol won a unanimous decision by scores of 115-113 on all three cards.
Plus, further debunking that conspiracy theory, none of the judges nor the referee are from Nevada. New Jersey's Harvey Dock, who appears to have become Nevada's go-to man in big fights, will referee Alvarez-Charlo. The judges are Max Deluca of California, Steve Weisfeld of New Jersey and David Sutherland of Oklahoma.