Weekend Review: Canelo Alvarez looked like a fighter in decline
A critical look at the past week in boxing
Of course, Alvarez was a winner in his homecoming fight against John Ryder on Saturday in Mexico. The undisputed 168-pound champion had his hand raised after dropping the challenger and winning a wide unanimous decision. That should lead directly to a second fight with Dmitry Bivol in September, which has been Alvarez’s goal. At the same time, another mediocre performance – after his loss to Bivol and victory over Gennadiy Golovkin – fed the persistent notion that the 32-year-old star is in decline. He controlled the fight by landing one, occasionally two punches at a time and hurt Ryder on a few occasions but he looked a little slower, a little less energetic, a little less effective. He never raised his level of activity or intensity, even when Ryder was hurt. I expected him to step on the gas down the stretch to give his fans what they wanted – a knockout – but it didn’t happen. That, combined with Ryder’s resilience, played a key role in his inability to stop a far inferior opponent. Alvarez looked OK but OK isn’t a good look for one of the best fighters in the world. It’s fair to ask: If Alvarez was so-so against Ryder with a healthy wrist and the support of his hometown fans, how can he expect to turn the tables on a bigger, much better Bivol in their rematch? The answer: He can’t. Alvarez just isn’t what he used to be.
Alvarez vs. Bivol II
Alvarez (59-2-2, 39 KOs) deserves our admiration for demanding that the potential rematch with Bivol take place at 175 pounds, not 168, as Bivol prefers. The smaller man wants to prove he can reverse the result of their first fight under the same conditions. You have to love that. The problem for him is that it might be mission impossible. Bivol won their first fight last May so convincingly – in spite of poor scoring – that it’s difficult to imagine a different outcome. Alvarez can argue that he fought the Russian with an injured left wrist, on which he later had surgery. That’s true. However, he said the wrist felt fine against Ryder and he still looked subpar. Bivol is bigger and simply better than this version of Alvarez. If they fight again, whether it’s at 175 or 168, you can bet the Southern California-based Russian will outbox him again and win another decision. I’ll add this, though: Great fighters have a way of doing great things. A healthy, inspired Alvarez might surprise us by delivering what would be the greatest victory of his career. Just don’t count on it.
BIGGEST WINNER II
John Ryder (right) was more determined than effective. Ulises Ruiz / AFP via Getty Images
Boxing fans admire winners. They also admire courage. Ryder (32-6, 18 KOs) doesn’t have the ability or punching power to give a fighter of Alvarez’s ability a genuine challenge, as we saw on Saturday. He didn’t travel to the Guadalajara area merely to survive, though; he tried to win until the final bell. As a result, he had to endure some daunting punishment, from what might’ve been a broken nose in Round 5 that bled profusely throughout the fight to a harrowing Round 9 in which he seemed to be on the brink of being stopped but refused to accept that fate. My favorite moment might’ve been when he pounded his gloves late in the ninth, as if to say, “C’mon, give me more. I’m not going anywhere.” And remember: He was going toe-to-toe with one of the most celebrated fighters in the history of the sport in hostile territory. Ryder lost the fight but his fighting spirit, his bravery arguably superseded an expected victory for Alvarez. Ryder should be proud of himself.
Is 168-pounder David Benavidez a more beatable opponent than Bivol for Alvarez? Probably. Would Alvarez win that fight? Probably not. Benavidez’s aggressive style would suit Alvarez well; in theory, the younger man would march directly into the cauldron. Benavidez doesn’t fight recklessly, though. He’s too clever to serve as a punching bag, even against someone of Alvarez’s ability. And the Mexican arguably hasn’t faced the kind of fire power Benavidez brings since the first two fights with Golovkin. I believe a young, hungry Benavidez would be too much for Alvarez. One thing I’m certain of: It would be fun to watch. … Alvarez and Co. put on a better show for his walk-in than he did in the fight. In particular, the reported 150-member mariachi band was something to see and hear as the fighter made his way to the ring. Kudos to Alvarez for giving his devoted fans something special. … Alvarez continued his domination of British fighters. He’s now 8-0, having taken down Matthew Hatton, Ryan Rhodes, Amir Khan, Liam Smith, Rocky Fielding, Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Ryder. … Flyweight titleholder Julio Cesar Martinez (20-2, 15 KOs) overcame a slow start to stop Ronal Batista (15-3, 9 KOs) in the 11th round on the Alvarez-Ryder card. The seventh round stood out to me. Martinez put Batista down but it was initially ruled a slip by referee Celestino Ruiz. However, between rounds, ringside officials reversed Ruiz’s decision after watching replays. Does that jurisdiction even have a replay policy? Or did they implement one on the fly? It was a strange moment. And the fact they stopped the action to announce their decision was unnecessary. They could’ve handled that between rounds, which wouldn’t have interrupted the flow of the fight. It was a bad look overall for the Mexican authorities even if justice was served.
Watch it: Canelo Alvarez makes it clear he wants Dmitry Bivol ... but under his terms
Photos: Canelo Alvarez defeats John Ryder by unanimous decision
Canelo Alvarez fails to stop resilient John Ryder but wins wide decision
Julio Cesar Martinez survives slow start to stop Ronal Batista in 11th round