Well, the fight was about as non-competitive as I imagined it would be, but it did go longer than I anticipated. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez dominated Callum Smith over 12 rounds Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio to take Smith’s WBA super middleweight title as well as the WBC’s vacant 168 lb. strap. He is now, officially, a “for real” 4-division world champ.
I was in the definite minority in the days leading up to this bout as I flat-out stated that this one would not be competitive, despite Smith’s 7-inch height and 8-inch reach advantage and his near-consensus standing as no. 1 super middleweight in the world.
Smith, as I had noted, was a good (not great) fighter with good pop in both hands, but he lacked an ability to fight tall. He has a fairly slow, weak jab and can be bullied on the inside. He requires an opponent’s cooperation to look special– a cooperation that involves a lack of ring presence and conceding the ideal distance to him.
Alvarez, of course, would not cooperate with Smith’s needs and he handled him appropriately. But Smith’s weaknesses should not diminish the Mexican’s performance one bit. It took outstanding, focused execution from Alvarez to make a good fighter look absolutely pedestrian.
What we’re seeing in Canelo is something special– a fighter born without elite-level reflexes, athleticism, or power who has willed himself into being an elite-level fighter. What we’re seeing in him is not “juice,” it’s hard work, acquired skill, and a sharp mind for the game. It’s just too bad that many fans missed the early stages of this story, picking and poking at the legitimacy of a fighter who, despite having some gift-wrapped accolades (as all burgeoning stars do), was fighting better opposition at a younger age than any of his contemporaries.
Right now, like it or not, accept it or not, among active fighters, only Manny Pacquiao– with a ten-year head start– has a deeper body of work. It could be argued that NO active fighter has a more complex body of work. Complicated matchups against Austin Trout at 22, Floyd Mayweather at 23, and Erislandy Lara at 24– as well as a myriad of other different styles and approaches in the form of Miguel Cotto, Gennadiy Golovkin, Daniel Jacobs, Shane Mosley, James Kirkland, and Sergey Kovalev (etc.)– have given the guy a ring seasoning that’s at the PhD level.
It’s kind of like how the old school masters used to get their seasoning, right? Just don’t mention that to the legion of serial Canelo critic dingbats who are STILL demanding that the guy prove himself.
And while Canelo basks in begrudging acclaim over waves of insane “prove yourself” criticism, media darling and hero to fight fans with waning testosterone levels everywhere, Triple G, gets a collective tongue bath for “making history” the night before.
Gennadiy Golovkin, just 24 hours prior, returned to the ring after a 14-month layoff to curb stomp the steamed cabbage out of Polish pierogi Kamil Szeremeta.
To add a touch of absurdity to an absolutely pointless “mandatory” IBF title defense (for a guy who’s only ever lowered himself to face a mandatory opponent one previous time), this nonsense rout was billed as a “history making” accomplishment. The Kazakh, technically, made the 21st defense of a middleweight title, passing Bernard Hopkins’ 20 successful title defenses. “A” middleweight title, not “The” middleweight title…and not successively…and almost never against anyone with even a remote chance of beating him.
If anything, 21 defenses in a division that has mostly not had anything real for him to do is a testament to the futility and pointlessness of much of his career– a career spent pining away for two or three money fights while getting a free ride to face nothing but tailor made opposition in the meantime.
Golovkin is an outstanding offensive fighter and one of the better offensive fighters of the last quarter century, but come on. This “historic” 21-defense thing is not a thing. It’s pulled straight out of someone’s ass.
And, while we’re at it, people need to stop beating the drum for a third Canelo-GGG fight. I’d much prefer for both fighters to pursue other challenges rather than dance around a will they-won’t they drama for the next year or so. The 38-year-old Golovkin, especially, needs to stop spinning his wheels and move on to other things while he still can.
Saturday night, during his post-fight interview, Alvarez sure seemed to have already decided to move on, focused on unifying the super middleweight division. Golovkin would have to move up to 168 and win a world title there before Canelo might look his way again. But, of course, money talks in boxing and Canelo-GGG 3 won’t ever be dead until that potential money dries up.
Again, though, I’d prefer for both to just go their separate ways. Let’s see Canelo vs. IBF champ Caleb Plant and WBO champ Billy Joe Saunders. Let’s see Golovkin vs. WBO middleweight champ Demetrius Andrade and WBC middleweight champ Jermall Charlo.
But, whatever happens down the line, it would be a mistake to not appreciate Saul Alvarez in the present tense. I’m not declaring him an all-time great or any such nonsense. That’s not for me to decide, anyway. All I’m saying is that the guy deserves some real respect and, most definitely, your open-minded attention.
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