It’s good to be Canelo Alvarez.


Not only does the cinnamon-haired Mexican star have a trophy room full of title belts and all the financial bells and whistles that come with it, he’s got a certain amount of career control, too.

As a four-belt champ at 168 pounds with a long-time claim to the sport's undisputed pay-per-view title, he has the unique ability to dictate nearly every detail from opponent to location to TV provider.

His eight-month injury hiatus ended Saturday night with a one-sided beatdown of John Ryder, which came by competitively appropriate scores of 120-107, 118-109 and 118-109. 

So now, what’s next?

Alvarez is expected to compete again in four months, resuming his preferred schedule of fighting in early May and mid-September – alongside yearly celebrations of Mexico's defeat of invading French troops in 1862, and its declaration of independence from Spain in 1810 – for the sixth time in the last 13 years.

And when he does, he’ll not be hurting for options.

The smart money seems to be on Russian light heavyweight Dmitry Bivol to renew hostilities after his shocking upset win last spring when Alvarez was in pursuit of the division’s WBA belt. 

But there’s been just enough haggling back and forth – Bivol claiming to want the fight at 168, Alvarez insisting it’ll be at 175 – to make it seem as if it’s not a guarantee to come off.

It was Alvarez’s first defeat since 2013 and kindled the sort of rivalry – at least from his point of view – he's not experienced outside of a trilogy with Gennadiy Golovkin that stretched from 2017 to 2022.

Still, just in case it goes south, it wouldn’t hurt to have alternatives ready.

And you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better one than David Benavidez, 

The 26-year-old with Mexican roots has never been hotter than he is these days, thanks to two past reigns as the WBC's top man at 168 and a recent bludgeoning of ex-champ and Alvarez victim Caleb Plant that made him the sanctioning body's mandatory challenger to a title Alvarez holds.

He's unbeaten, menacing, and eager.

“I just want to tell everyone that I have a lot of respect for Canelo Alvarez, but he has to give me that shot now,” he said after beating Plant. “That's what everyone wants to see. Let's make it happen.”

Benavidez has begun making his own Canelo-free inroads with a verbal chase of second-tier WBA champ David Morrell, an unbeaten Cuban who’d be quite the catch for Alvarez, too.

The 25-year-old defected to the United States in 2019. He's fought and won nine times in the subsequent 45 months, scoring eight KOs and picking up the dubious WBA jewelry along the way.

But none was more impressive than a violent first-round evisceration of Yamaguchi Falcao in the final bout on the Gervonta Davis-Ryan Garcia pay-per-view production two weeks ago in Las Vegas.

It was a concussive introduction for many, but only the latest step in a series for a confident youngster who's been talking himself up for a while.

“This division is mine,” he told in 2021. “The truth is that I am the best, but not legally because I do not have all the titles.”

Nevertheless, the vibe here is that Alvarez goes off the board.

Toward that end, Jermall Charlo may be the best fighter only the serious fans know.

He's 32-0, has had title reigns in two divisions, but hasn’t had a truly transcendent foe and hasn’t fought at all for nearly two full years since June 2021.

His shutout of Juan Macias Montiel was defense No. 4 of the WBC middleweight championship that Alvarez had surrendered in 2019. And it seems like Charlo is still chasing those footsteps.

Alvarez was reportedly weighing offers for either a one-off match with Charlo or the two-fight deal that he ultimately agreed to last spring that resulted in bouts with Bivol and Golovkin.

The guess here is that he restarts the conversation.

“I'll go out to fight in Mexico if that's what they wanna do,” Charlo told EsNews. “I wanna get in the ring and fight him, man, to shut everybody up, shut up all the naysayers. It's a matter of time, in due time.”

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This week’s title-fight schedule:  


Vacant WBO bantamweight title – Stockton, California

Jason Moloney (No. 1 WBO/Unranked IWBR) vs. Vincent Astrolabio (No. 2 WBO/No. 5 IWBR)

Moloney (25-2, 19 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Sixth fight in the United States (3-2, 1 KO)

Astrolabio (18-3, 13 KO): First title fight; Seventh fight outside the Philippines (4-2, 2 KO)

Fitzbitz says: It’s not gone well for Moloney on the highest levels, but his Filipino foe here – while impressive enough – is certainly not too big a mountain for him to climb. Moloney by decision (65/35)

WBO middleweight title – Stockton, California

Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (champion/No. 9 IWBR) vs. Steven Butler (No. 6 WBO/No. 42 IWBR)

Alimkhanuly (13-0, 8 KO): Second title defense; Fifth fight in California (4-0, 2 KO)

Butler (32-3-1, 26 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Second fight in the United States (1-0, 0 KO)

Fitzbitz says: Butler presents a tough enough challenge for the Kazakh champion, but Alimkhanuly is on a legit roll and has beaten a far better grade of opponent recently. Alimkhanuly in 9 (90/10) 

Last week's picks: 2-0 (WIN: Alvarez, Martinez)  

2023 picks record: 13-4 (76.5 percent)  

Overall picks record: 1,263-412 (75.4 percent)  

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.  


Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.