They all fade away.
Ali, Duran, Leonard, Jones, Mayweather, Pacquiao, all of them. They climb majestically to the pinnacle of the sport, eventually plateau and then fall victim to the physical demands of the sport or old age, which leads to retirement and a place in boxing lore.
Is Canelo Alvarez at the latter end of that process? Is the undisputed 168-pound king’s defense against 154-pound champ Jermell Charlo on Sept. 30 his last stand?
Of course, we’ll know a lot more after the pay-per-view fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
But as things stand now, the majority of those who have followed the Mexican superstar’s career believe that his best days are behind him even though he’s only 33 years old, the same age as Charlo.
Why? Because of recent performances.
Dmitry Bivol, May 7, 2022 – Alvarez, who once stopped 175-pounder Sergey Kovalev, moved up in weight again only to be outclassed – arguably embarrassed – by the bigger champion in a unanimous-decision loss.
Gennadiy Golovkin, Sept. 17, 2022 – Alvarez, back at 168, won a clear decision over his rival but more was expected of him against a declining 40-year-old.
John Ryder, May 6, 2023 – Ryder is a solid, tough fighter but levels below Alvarez in terms of ability, which was reflected in the one-sided scoring. But Alvarez looked as if he went through the motions, lacking the spark and sharpness for which he had become known.
Alvarez had reached No. 1 on many credible pound-for-pound lists as a result of consistently strong performances against top opposition but fell from his perch after the loss to Bivol (from No. 2 to No. 7 in Boxing Junkie’s rankings), a clear sign of a loss of respect.
Prevailing wisdom is that many taxing training camps and fights over 18 years as a professional had worn down the great champion.
Alvarez says that’s not the case. He has repeatedly acknowledged the subpar performances but said he hasn’t been concerned because he understands why he wasn’t at his best.
He cited his health, principally an injured left wrist that required surgery after the Golovkin fight. He said he was still rehabbing during his camp for the fight with Ryder, which left him at less than 100%.
Now, he insists, he’s completely healthy. As a result, he expects to look more like the Alvarez of old than the fighter who has struggled the past few years.
“Critics are always looking for something, aren’t they?” he asked on Showtime’s “All Access.” “And obviously, I agree with them that I haven’t looked the last few fights like I used to. And I don’t want to just give a rebuttal; I’d prefer to show them. And in this fight, you are going to see the difference.
“I can’t wait for September 30. This fight, you’ll see I’m the king of boxing.”
Alvarez had better be at his best because Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs) is also a bona fide pound-for-pounder, No. 8 on Boxing Junkie’s list.
The undisputed 154-pound champion is quicker and more athletic than Alvarez, he’s a good boxer, he has explosive punching power and he has experience in big fights, although he has never been on a stage this big.
If Alvarez fights like he did against Golovkin and Ryder, if he’s even a step slower than he used to be, there’s a realistic chance that Charlo will score one of the bigger upsets in recent years.
And, of course, the critics would have a field day. Alvarez might never recover in terms of his reputation.
So who is going to win?
Alvarez. I believe him when he says that he’s healthy for the first time in several years, which, if true, will have allowed him to get the most out of training camp. And I’ve always bought into the adage that a good big man beats a good small man, which describes the principals in this fight.
The oddsmakers agree with me: The champion is about a 3½-1 favorite, which is a fairly wide spread by boxing standards. Alvarez should win.
A victory over Charlo – even a convincing one – wouldn’t completely rehabilitate Alvarez’s image. Those critics would give him credit but qualify their praise by pointing out that he beat a man who moved up two weight classes.
An impressive performance would stop the downslide, though. A one-sided decision or knockout would demonstrate that he has more to give the sport.
“I’m just going to do my job,” said Alvarez, sounding like a man who knows what it takes. “I just need to do my job. That’s it. My boxing skills, my experience, put everything together.”
Some people will have to see it to believe it.