There can come points in the careers of boxing’s biggest stars where one realizes they’re seeing them at the next level of their game, the moment where they have become the best version of who they will be in the ring.
Over his last five fights, it’s easy to make the case that we’ve arrived at such a time in the paid tenure of Saul Alvarez. His rematch victory over Gennady Golovkin, while close and in some corners disputed, was an improvement over the first performance against one of the best middleweights of the 21st century.
Since then, Alvarez has been in a bit of a zone. Four decisive victories, two by knockout, with the last of them a near shutout of Callum Smith on Saturday. Alvarez outjabbed, outsped, and beat up the towering Smith.
Eye tests are fun and all, but the body of work Alvarez is amassing trumps anyone else in the sport. With titles now in four weight classes, will Alvarez run the table at super middleweight?
He appears ready to try.
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Alvarez: Alvarez has options both in and out of the ring. As a network and promotional free agent, he could make a long term deal somewhere or do what Ray Leonard once did, going to the highest bidder on a fight by fight basis. DAZN can hope to make a unification with Billy Joe Saunders, a subscriber driving third fight with Golovkin, or perhaps even another foray to light heavyweight for Dmitry Bivol. Top Rank will surely bang the drums for their light heavyweight king, Artur Beterbiev. PBC can offer unification with Caleb Plant, a likely stadium attraction in Texas against Jermall Charlo, and former WBC titlist David Benavidez. We won’t see them all, but we’ll see our share. First, we may see a mandatory cleared in the form of Avni Yildirim with some speculation about a quick return for Alvarez for that action. Even welterweight titlist Errol Spence has said he wants in on the Alvarez docket, though dreams of Alvarez dropping back to middleweight are unlikely to be fulfilled. Alvarez doesn’t have to move for anyone and he has a wealth of options the envy of all.
The Future for Smith: For all intents and purposes, Smith has now lost two in a row and the price for the Alvarez loss could linger. An arm injury multiplied by the volume of hard shots he endured could mean a layoff at the least. Smith’s best option may be a move to light heavyweight but life isn’t going to get easier there. For all his size, Smith’s lack of speed and strength has been somewhat exposed by John Ryder and now Alvarez. He was game enough to stay up on Saturday and his toughness was commendable but there didn’t seem to be a plan to win. To be fair, Smith didn’t look like he could win even with a plan. Sometimes the other guy is just better. Alvarez was better by a lot.
Rold Picks 2020: 32-12
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com