Saul “Canelo” Alvarez didn’t just grab the torch of boxing superstardom from his former promoter Oscar De La Hoya and his first professional conqueror Floyd Mayweather. He also inherited the Cinco de Mayo weekend headlining gig from them. 

It only makes sense for Canelo to be the face of Cinco de Mayo boxing. This is, after all, a holiday celebrating an 1862 Mexican battle victory, and he’s a little more Mexican than Oscar and a lot more Mexican than Floyd.

When Canelo steps into the T-Mobile Arena ring this Saturday to square off against countryman Jaime Munguia, it will mark the 10th time in the last 15 years that he has fought on Cinco de Mayo weekend.

(Or at least within four days in either direction of May 5 — sometimes Cinco de Mayo lands midweek and hearty debates can be had over which weekend it should be celebrated on. To us gringos in ‘Merica, Cinco de Mayo is basically a party holiday centered around heavy drinking. So that means the correct answer to the debate over which weekend it’s celebrated on is “both.”)

Alvarez missed a few Cinco de Mayo weekends — for example, he was suspended in the spring of 2018, and we were all essentially suspended in the spring of 2020. But, 10 times in 15 years? Canelo owns this weekend.

Amazingly, though, he hasn’t exactly shined on it. Many of his greatest victories came later in the year, like his rematch win over Gennady Golovkin. We’ve seen a whole lot of Canelo executing competently in early May over the years, but not a lot of him at his very best. You’ll get what I’m talking about when you’re finished reading this countdown, ranking from worst to best (or least sufficient to most sufficient) Canelo’s nine Cinco de Mayo performances to date.

  1. L 12 Dmitry Bivol, May 7, 2022

A losing performance is not automatically a bad performance, and to some extent, Alvarez’s first defeat in nine years was a forgivable failure. Bivol’s size, length, and disciplined application of his skills were, we can say in hindsight, always going to trouble Canelo.

But Canelo also never went for it, even when Bivol was firmly in control of the fight down the stretch. He had 36 minutes to work with, and he just followed Bivol around, ate jabs, and didn’t quite get around to letting his fists fly. Maybe because of his only previous light heavyweight fight, a late knockout of Sergey Kovalev, he was overly confident in his power bailing him out and was overly patient as a result. Maybe he was counting on the judges to bail him out. (They did their best, each scoring only 115-113 for Bivol and giving Canelo the first four rounds.)

Whatever the reason, Canelo never went for broke. He sipped his tequila all night, when what we wanted to see him do was chug straight from the bottle, swallow the worm, and deal with the consequences in the morning. This has to rank as Alvarez’s worst Cinco de Mayo performance — though it would probably surrender that ranking if he finds a way on Saturday to lose to Munguia.

  1. KO 9 Jose Miguel Cotto, May 1, 2010

It’s wild to think that Alvarez came far closer to losing to Miguel Cotto’s brother than he did to losing to Miguel Cotto. Against the Hall of Fame-enshrined younger brother, Canelo turned in arguably the finest boxing performance of his 64-fight career. Against journeyman Jose, he damn near got knocked out in the first round.

A left hook wobbled Canelo badly, and it took him most of the round to get his legs back — and several more fights to restock his bandwagon. For those who were seeing Alvarez for the first time, as was the case for many fans since this bout on the pay-per-view undercard of Mayweather vs. Shane Mosley was only his second fight in the U.S., the natural assumption was that he was a chinless fraud with no future.

How very wrong every part of that phrase proved to be. And that speaks to how subpar this performance against Cotto was, even if the 19-year-old Alvarez showed heart as he battled back to score the win.

  1. W 12 John Ryder, May 6, 2023

Part of what makes the Alvarez-Munguia fight marketable is that one year ago, Canelo could not finish Ryder, and a little over three months ago, Munguia could.

Did Canelo soften him up? Did Ryder, now 35 years old, hit the wall between those two fights? Either or both are possible. Still, there’s no chance the 2015-2021 version of Canelo lets Ryder last the distance. This was a night that confirmed what the two previous fights — the loss to Bivol and the competitive win over a near-retirement Gennady Golovkin — suggested: that absolute apex Canelo Alvarez was no more.

  1. W 12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., May 6, 2017

I rank this one ahead of the Ryder fight because Chavez was a bigger name (with a better chin) and the fight was a bigger event, but really, the performances and results are comparable. Canelo was in the ring with another no-hoper and couldn’t put him away.

We remember this mostly for Chavez fighting lifelessly after making the 164-pound catchweight and for GGG’s ring entrance music coming on, Stone-Cold-glass-breaking-style, after the fight. There really isn’t anything all that memorable about Alvarez’s role in the proceedings. He counterpunched, he banged to the body, he won every round on all three scorecards, and he couldn’t get the KO.

Had this not been used to set the stage for the Golovkin fight that fans had been begging for, it would have gone down as a thoroughly disappointing evening at T-Mobile Arena.

  1. W 12 Shane Mosley, May 5, 2012

The Mosley win is a tricky one to place because “Sugar Shane” was hitting last-legs territory, but still represented something of a step up for 21-year-old Canelo, who at the time was stopping the likes of Kermit Cintron, Alfonso Gomez, and Ryan Rhodes. The result was a formality, but Mosley was a valuable name for Alvarez to get on his record. Canelo couldn’t stop him, but nobody ever did stop Shane, except Anthony Mundine the next year on an injury surrender.

Fighting in the co-feature to Mayweather-Cotto (the last time Alvarez would fight on Cinco de Mayo without headlining), Canelo won all but a round or two and didn’t do anything to disqualify himself from superstardom, but didn’t grab superstardom by the protective cup either. The exact midpoint of this list feels like the right place for this fight.

  1. KO 8 Billy Joe Saunders, May 8, 2021

Now we’re starting to get into what you’d call good, though not great, Canelo performances. These are fights where he at least met expectations.

Saunders was undefeated and slick, not given much chance to win but likely to put up some form of resistance. And in front of more than 73,000 people at the stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play in what was believed to be the largest indoor gathering since COVID-19 pandemic began, Saunders did just that, winning enough rounds to prevent social distancing on the scorecards. (Chris Mannix infamously had Saunders up five rounds to two through seven.) But Canelo got him eventually. A right uppercut to the eye, a busted orbital bone, and a corner surrender brought a TKO conclusion to what had seemingly been shaping up as a distance fight.

For good measure, Alvarez verbally KO’d Demetrius Andrade at the postfight presser, dismissively telling him to “get the f*** out” with his calls for a fight between the two of them, completing a productive Cinco de Mayo weekend.

  1. KO 6 Amir Khan, May 7, 2016

Sometimes, the ending is all that matters. This wasn’t Canelo’s finest performance for the first five rounds, but you had to figure it wouldn’t be. Khan had edges over him in length and speed and was a favorite to be able to get things done until the moment Alvarez found his chin. Then Khan fell for the subtlest of feints to the body, left an opening, and Canelo’s right hand struck, leaving Khan glassy-eyed on the canvas.

It’s not the most meaningful win of Alvarez’s career, because Khan was a smaller, relatively fragile fighter, and this is exactly how it was supposed to go. But it has to be the best highlight-reel knockout he’s ever delivered (with all due respect to his aesthetically pleasing KOs of Carlos Baldomir and Kovalev).

  1. W 12 Daniel Jacobs, May 4, 2019

This is a good win in exactly the opposite way of the Khan destruction. Jacobs was an elite, full-sized (at least) middleweight, more or less still in his prime, and he had a realistic chance of winning, so any victory over him was going to be meaningful. And Alvarez didn’t win with a whole lot of room to spare, prevailing 116-112, 115-113, and 115-113 at the end of a fight that was competitive all the way.

Canelo flashed some boxing skill, some elite defense, some power. He got outworked, as he often does, but he was accurate and efficient as his opponent switched stances and never caved under Alvarez’s pressure.

It was a fine win over a more than fine opponent, and that’s enough to rank it among the finest of Canelo’s Cinco de Mayo outings.

  1. KO 3 James Kirkland, May 9, 2015

I’ll be up front about this: This factually was not Cinco de Mayo weekend. We know this because there was a pretty significant fight on May 2, 2015 in Las Vegas that you may recall. It happened five years too late, there was a traffic jam of private jets, 4.6 million people bought the pay-per-view — you know the fight I’m talking about, even if the twelve rounds themselves were far from memorable.

But in my mind, Alvarez-Kirkland counts as a Cinco de Mayo fight. An American vs. a Filipino three days before the 5th of May doesn’t capture the spirit of the holiday quite like Mexico’s top star fighting four days after the 5th of May. I’m using some creative accounting. Consider this my Mayo culpa. And let’s move on.

Anyway, Canelo was at his absolute best at Minute Maid Park in Houston on this night. Kirkland was stylistically made to order but also still an exceedingly dangerous threat against just about any junior middleweight not named Canelo Alvarez. Kirkland’s decline would prove rapid, certainly, but at the time he was 32-1 and a viable contender. And Alvarez dazzled for every second of the fight, knocking him down three times in just over eight minutes.

Can Alvarez top that against Munguia on Saturday?

Probably not, if we believe that explosive version of Canelo doesn’t quite exist anymore.

But possibly so, if Munguia, not exactly a defensive whiz, has only offense on his mind and leaves the sort of openings Kirkland did.

If Canelo prevails, surely this won’t be his last Cinco de Mayo gig. Should boxing fans have anything to say about it, on May 3, 2025, he’ll be in against “The Mexican Monster,” David Benavidez — although Alvarez hasn’t exactly been giving off confidence-instilling vibes about that prospect.

At some point — probably in the next two or three years, if I had to guess — Canelo will pass the Cinco de Mayo weekend torch to another boxer. Perhaps he’ll do so directly, to Benavidez, who has as much superstar potential as any young Mexican or Mexican-American fighter and is 6 1⁄2 years Canelo’s junior.

If you’re inclined to believe Canelo’s recent talk about boxing for another five years and you want to look at someone even younger for a successor, maybe Cinco de Mayo will next belong to Diego Pacheco, or Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez, or perhaps even Emiliano Vargas, Fernando Vargas’s most highly regarded son.

And I guess I shouldn’t totally rule out Munguia as the next king of Cinco de Mayo. I’ll wait until Sunday morning to do that.

Eric Raskin is a veteran boxing journalist with more than 25 years of experience covering the sport for outlets such as BoxingScene, ESPN, Grantland, Playboy, Ringside Seat, and The Ring (where he served as managing editor for seven years). He also co-hosted The HBO Boxing Podcast, Showtime Boxing with Raskin & Mulvaney, and Ring Theory and currently co-hosts The Interim Champion Boxing Podcast with Raskin & Mulvaney. He has won three first-place writing awards from the BWAA, for his work with The Ring, Grantland, and HBO. Outside boxing, he is the senior editor of CasinoReports and the author of 2014’s The Moneymaker Effect. He can be reached on X or LinkedIn, or via email at