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Editor’s note: This article was originally posted this past November. It has been updated to include 2021.
Canelo Alvarez has known almost nothing but success over the past decade-plus.
The Mexican star has beaten one ranked fighter after another, won major titles in four divisions and is on the cusp of becoming an undisputed champion for the first time. Alvarez (57-1-2, 38 KOs) challenges Dmitry Bivol in a pay-per-view bout Saturday from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
In this special feature, we take a look at Alvarez’s performances year by calendar year and then rank those years – best to worst – beginning in 2010, when he was introduced to American audiences on a significant scale.
The current year is not including because it hinges on Saturday’s fight. If he wins, it will be among his best years. If he loses, it will be down the list.
Here is what we came up with:
Opponents: Daniel Jacobs (UD) and Sergey Kovalev (KO 11)
Background: The victory over Jacobs seems to fly under the radar but it was impressive. Jacobs was talented, polished, a big middleweight and at the top of his game when he met Alvarez in a title-unification bout. And the Mexican was up to the challenge, outboxing Jacobs to win a unanimous decision in a competitive fight. … Six months later he made a bold move by deciding to move up to light heavyweight to challenge beltholder Kovalev, who was somewhat past his prime but still dangerous and bigger than Alvarez. The Russian fought Alvarez on roughly even terms until the challenger dropped the hammer in Round 11. Two big fights, two big victories.
Opponents: Gennadiy Golovkin (MD) and Rocky Fielding (TKO 3)
Background: The victory over Triple-G in their rematch was arguably the greatest of Alvarez’s career. The two best 160-pounders in the world had fought to a disputed draw a year earlier and there was every reason to believe the second fight would be just as close and perhaps disputed. It was, as both men held their own. However, unlike the first meeting, Alvarez pushed the action much of the fight and was rewarded for that on two of three cards. Golovkin was unbeaten and had made a record-tying 20 successful defenses going into the fight. … Throw out the Fielding fight. That was a secondary 168-pound title grab against a second-tier opponent.
Opponents: James Kirkland (KO 3) and Miguel Cotto (UD)
Background: The victory over the wildly aggressive Kirkland wasn’t as meaningful many other Alvarez triumphs because of the Texan’s limitations. However, Alvarez’s brutal knockout might’ve been the most breathtaking of his 38 stoppages, which added considerably to his growing star power. … Cotto, 35, was past his prime and a smallish 154-pounder but his unquestioned ability and experience made him a threat to Alvarez, at least on paper. In the end, the slick Puerto Rican did give Alvarez some difficulty but he ended up on the wrong end of a clear decision.
Opponents: Alfredo Angulo (TKO 10) and Erislandy Lara (SD)
Background: Some might forget that Angulo was a solid, durable boxer who was coming off a strong performance in a loss to the respected Lara when he fought Alvarez. Yet Alvarez dominated his fellow Mexican in his first fight since losing to Floyd Mayweather. He outboxed Angulo for nine rounds and then stopped him in Round 10. … Some of Alvarez’s handlers didn’t want him to fight Lara, a tricky Cuban southpaw who could make anyone look bad. And that’s how it played out. Alvarez had to scrape and claw to eke out a split-decision victory that many believe was a gift from two of the three judges.
Opponent: Avni Yildirim (KO 3), Billy Joe Saunders (KO 8), Caleb Plant (KO 11)
Background: Alvarez realized a goal by becoming undisputed super middleweight champion in a busy year last year. He fought the limited Yildirim in February only because he was his mandatory challenger. He then faced capable beltholders in Saunders (in May) and Plant (November), who held their own against Alvarez until he caught up with them, broke them down and ultimately stopped them. He turned 31 in July 2021. He obviously hadn’t slowed down.
Opponent: Callum Smith (UD)
Background: Alvarez fought only once in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic but made the most the 168-pound title-unification bout. Smith was a legitimate opponent on paper, tall, skillful, experienced. He was an underdog but some believes he could be competitive against Alvarez. He wasn’t. Alvarez had his way with the Englishman in part because the latter didn’t have the power to knock Alvarez off his game, the result being a one-sided decision in a one-sided fight. The victory gave Alvarez two of the four major super middleweight titles, after which he set his sights on the last two.
Opponents: Amir Khan (KO 6) and Liam Smith (KO 9)
Background: Alvarez’s knockout of Khan rivals his stoppage of James Kirkland. Khan, a quick, capable boxer who had moved up from 147 pounds to a catch weight of 155, held his own for five-plus rounds and then BAM! A right hand from hell put Khan down and removed him from his senses. … The Smith fight was as much about the crowd size and venue – 50,000-plus at the home of the Dallas Cowboys – as the opponent. Smith, the brother of Callum Smith, was a solid all-around fighter but had no where near Alvarez’s ability. The Englishman was overwhelmed in the end.
Opponents: Shane Mosley (UD) and Josesito Lopez (TKO 5)
Background: Mosley, 40, was well past his prime when he met Alvarez but the fight was important for the rising star because Sugar Shane was the first major figure on his resume. And he didn’t disappoint, even at 21 years old. The younger, faster man outboxed his overmatched elder from beginning to end to win by a near-shutout decision. Taking down a future Hall of Famer is a significant step in any fighter’s career. … Lopez was and remains a gutsy warrior but he was too small for Alvarez, who put him down three times in a one-sided junior middleweight fight.
Opponents: Matthew Hatton (UD), Ryan Rhodes (TKO 12), Alfonso Gomez (TKO 6), Kermit Cintron (TKO 5)
Background: One could argue that the limited Matthew Hatton. Ricky’s brother, didn’t have the credentials to be fighting for a major belt. However, the fact is he and Alvarez met for the junior middleweight title vacated by Manny Pacquiao. And it wasn’t much of a fight. Alvarez, levels above Hatton, would’ve won every round on all three cards had he not lost a point for hitting after the break in Round 7. He had won the first of eight titles at the tender age of 20. Rhodes, Gomez and Cintron were all solid fighters carefully selected to help Alvarez develop into one of the best fighters in the business.
Opponents: Brian Camechis (KO 3), Jose Cotto (TKO 9), Luciano Cuello (TKO 6), Carlos Baldomir (KO 6) and Lovemore Ndou (UD 12)
Background: 2010 was most notable because it was the year in which Alvarez fought on a major U.S. card for the first time. The 19-year-old redhead from Guadalajara stopped Jose Cotto, Miguel’s brother, in the ninth round on the Mayweather-Mosley card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Cotto hurt Alvarez with a left hook in Round 1 but the teenager battled through it and ended up winning by knockout. Camechis, Cuello, Baldomir and Ndou didn’t give the evolving young star much resistance, which was a pattern that would continue when Alvarez faced second-tier opposition.
Opponents: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (UD) and Gennadiy Golovkin (SD D)
Background: A showdown between Alvarez and Chavez had been discussed for years. When it finally happened, it wasn’t much of a fight. Alvarez outclassed (embarrassed?) the son of a Mexican legend, winning every round on all three cards. … The first fight between Alvarez and Triple-G was the ultimate middleweight matchup, between a long-reigning knockout artist (Golovkin) and a rising superstar (Alvarez). The Kazakhstani used effective aggression to win over most observers in a competitive fight but he had to settle for a controversial draw. Indeed, Alvarez was fortunate he didn’t leave the ring with his second loss.
Opponents: Austin Trout (UD) and Floyd Mayweather (UD L)
Background: The 22-year-old Alvarez took a significant risk when he decided to fight the skillful Trout, who was left-handed, unbeaten and coming off a defining victory over Miguel Cotto. The gamble paid off. In his finest performance to date, he outboxed Trout to win a clear decision. … The decision to fight Mayweather was even bolder. And it didn’t pay off, at least in terms of results. The pound-for-pound king schooled the upstart, who didn’t have the tools to compete with a boxing wizard like Mayweather. The good news for him is that the setback sharpened his resolve to get better. He did.
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