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LAS VEGAS — Boxing is teeming with talent these days. It has plenty of issues, to be sure, and never was that more evident than Saturday, when boxing fans who paid as much as $1,700 a ticket were forced to wait for the start of the main event until a UFC fight on the other side of the country had ended.
There are, however, few real promoters in the sport any more. Boxing needs all of the marketing and promotion it can get, but when budgets are cut, it’s often the PR and marketing budgets that get the ax.
But for all of the problems it has, the quality of the in-ring action is as good as it has been in a long time.
Guys like Terence Crawford, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Naoya Inoue, Manny Pacquiao, Oleksandr Usyk, Devin Haney, Jose Ramirez and Deontay Wilder are a joy to watch.
None of them, though, can compare to Canelo Alvarez.
Alvarez proved he’s the best there is, and one of the best to ever do it, in a decisive 11th-round technical knockout victory over Sergey Kovalev on Saturday before 14,490 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena to claim the WBO light heavyweight title.
I’ve erred — egregiously — over the last few months by not having this brilliant fighting machine atop Yahoo Sports’ pound-for-pound list. He’s the best there is.
“Canelo Alvarez is the best fighter of his time, I believe, and he continues to prove that,” Kovalev promoter Kathy Duva aptly said.
Alvarez’s win made him the 20th fighter in history to win titles in four separate weight classes. Now, with the proliferation of championships in the sport today, that’s not always that significant, but with the exception of his gift title at 168, Alvarez has fought the cream of the crop wherever he’s been.
He’s a genius in the ring and is taught by one of the sport’s elite trainers, Eddy Reynoso. They totally neutralized Kovalev’s vaunted punching power and left him throwing soft jabs.
Remarkably, Kovalev threw 400 more punches — 745 to 345 — but Alvarez landed 18 more. Kovalev kept his right elbow pinned to his side that largely neutralized Alvarez’s plan to attack his midsection.
“That was very difficult for me to get to the body,” Alvarez said at the post-fight news conference. “But we practice for many other strategies [in case our strategy doesn’t work]. Thank God we practiced other strategies.”
Alvarez is versatile and quick on his feet, and he adapts to what he sees in the ring like a quarterback deftly changing a play when he recognizes the defense.
He said afterward that Kovalev hit hard, but he didn’t fight that way. He was the one on the attack, and he was up on two of the three judges’ scorecards and even on the third because he landed virtually every hard punch of the fight.
An extraordinary number of Kovalev’s punches were soft jabs which Alvarez parried and was able to counter.
Alvarez finished Kovalev with a chopping right and then a crunching left hook that sent the big man crashing down, where he got tangled in the ropes. It was the type of ending that those picking Kovalev to win expected him to do.
Duva said Kovalev was taken to the hospital out of an abundance of caution. Kovalev, though, called Alvarez “a really great champion.”
Alvarez promoter Oscar De La Hoya can often spew nonsense at these types of affairs, but he was on point when he noted that Alvarez is the best there is in a very good field in the game today.
“Give him that acknowledgement,” De La Hoya said. “Canelo moved two weight divisions to fight at light heavyweight. You can’t tell me that Crawford or Lomachenko or anyone else in boxing is daring to be great like Canelo.”
That last bit is not fair, but let’s give De La Hoya a break here. He’s standing up for his guy at a time when there is unprecedented tension between them. They barely acknowledged each other in public all week, though Alvarez offered his hand to De La Hoya when he came up to the dais for the post-fight news conference.
If the Golden Boy got a little exuberant in light of the big victory, we can excuse that.
His larger point, though, is on the money.
“He wants to be great and he wants to leave a legacy,” said De La Hoya, who left a great legacy as a fighter but something much different in his post-fight career. “That’s what legends do. They take risks and build a legacy.”
No one does it better than Alvarez.
With all due respect to Crawford, Lomachenko, Inoue and some other worthy fighters, no one comes close to Alvarez at this point.
He’s the best, and he proves it again and again where it matters most.
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