This is one of Canelo Alvarez’s most interesting matchups in years.
Jermell Charlo, the hot 154-pound champion, is moving up two weight classes to challenge a 168-pound king many believe is in decline on pay-per-view Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
That information alone could lead to all kinds of realistic scenarios, including ones in which each man has his hand raised after the fight.
Boxing Junkie does its best to break down the fight and give our prediction below.
CANELO ALVAREZ (59-2-2, 39 KOs)
VS. JERMELL CHARLO (35-1-1, 19 KOs)
Date: Saturday, Sept. 30
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Division: Super middleweight (168 pounds)
At stake: Alvarez’s IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO titles
Current win streak: Alvarez 2, Charlo 1
Ages: Alvarez 33, Charlo 33
Stances: Alvarez orthodox, Charlo orthodox
Trajectory: Alvarez plateauing or declining, Charlo rising
Also fighting: Jesus Ramos Jr. vs. Erickson Lubin, junior middleweights; Yordenis Ugas vs. Mario Barrios, welterweights; Elijah Garcia vs. Armando Resendiz, middleweights; Frank Sanchez vs. Scott Alexander, heavyweights
Worth watching (up to five stars)? *****
Alvarez is a good, quick-handed athlete who was born with the demeanor of a fighter, which is why he was competitive the minute he turned professional as a 15-year-old. However, his most significant gifts are his toughness and innate work ethic. Those strengths have allowed him to make the most out of his natural ability, which has led to a first-ballot Hall of Fame career.
Charlo is quicker and more athletic than Alvarez and he, too, is a born warrior. His God-given nasty streak and killer instinct when he has an opponent hurt are evidence of his fighting spirit. He probably doesn’t have the discipline or focus of Alvarez – he should’ve won the first fights with Harrison and Castano – but you don’t build a resume like his if you don’t work hard.
Alvarez and his team built him into an elite boxer through the aforementioned discipline, as he improved fight by fight even in his championship years. He’s excellent at cutting off the ring and landing punishing blows. He also became a good defensive fighter, which lifted his all-around game.
Charlo is known for his explosiveness and ability to hurt opponents but he’s also a talented, well-schooled technician under respected trainer Derrick James. He has become something akin to a knockout artist in recent years. However, his ability to break down opponents is a product of his skill set at least as much as his punching power.
Alvarez has delivered some spectacular stoppages but he’s not a one-punch knockout artist in the mold of Deontay Wilder, which is reflected in the fact that most of his biggest victories have come by decision in recent years. His combination of relentlessness and heavy hands typically wears down opponents, which accounts for many of his 39 KOs.
Charlo also isn’t a Wilder-like puncher but he might be a harder hitter than Alvarez pound-for-pound. Eight of his last nine victories have come by knockout, which is impressive given the level of opposition in those fights. Charlo’s problem in this fight is that he has been stopping fellow 154-pounders. Alvarez is a 168-pounder with an exceptional chin.
No active fighter can top Alvarez in this category. He has taken part in 22 fights in which major world titles were at stake, winning 19 of them. And all of his bouts over the past decade have taken place on the sport’s biggest, highest-pressure stages, meaning nothing – not even a fight as important than the one on Saturday – is going to faze the veteran.
Charlo is no slough in this department. He has been fighting one elite opponent after another for a decade, including Gabriel Rosado, Vanes Martirosyan, Erickson Lubin, Austin Trout, Tony Harrison (twice), Jeison Rosario and Brian Castano (twice). And he has beaten everyone he has faced, including knockouts of Harrison and Castano in rematches to avenge a loss and draw.
The fact Alvarez is still an elite fighter after 18 years of grueling training camps and fights is a testament to his durability. He was born with an unusually strong chin, which is why he has never been off his feet in 63 professional fights. He also takes care of himself between fights and works hard in the gym, which has enhanced his natural ruggedness.
Charlo was dropped by a perfect right hand against Charles Bellamy in 2014 but I wouldn’t read too much into that. He wasn’t hurt, he won a one-sided decision in that fight and he hasn’t gone down again in the subsequent decade even against top opposition. He’s a tough, durable guy who can take a punch, although he hasn’t taken one from a 168-pounder in a fight.
I’m assuming that Alvarez’s subpar performances in his last three fights can be attributed in part to an injured left wrist that has been surgically repaired. If that’s true and he’s healthy, this matchup becomes a good big man vs. a good little man. And we know what generally happens in that scenario. I envision Alvarez doing what he has typically done, stalk his opponent, cut off the ring, wear his opponent down with punishing punches and either score a late stoppage or win a clear decision. If Alvarez isn’t 100% healthy or his apparent decline is the result of other factors? He could be in trouble. I don’t think Charlo can hurt Alvarez but he can outbox and outwork the favorite if he’s vulnerable. I just don’t see that happening.
Alvarez KO 10