Ladies and gentlemen, Canelo Alvarez is back in the building.
And now that he's capped his Gennadiy Golovkin trilogy with an intermittently impressive unanimous decision victory, the cinnamon-haired Mexican can get back to his other vocation.
The pay-per-view stalwart has his pick of the litter when it comes to his next event, which he suggested Saturday may occur next spring to allow time for rest and surgery on a damaged left hand.
Given a flexible history with weight classes, the landscape is particularly open for Alvarez, who's reigned in four divisions and held belts at either 168 or 175 pounds in every calendar year since 2018.
But when you factor in variables such as competition, significance, and promotional accessibility, there’s one would-be opponent who rises above the rest.
His name? David Benavidez.
The why is simple.
Alvarez has said 168 is his most comfortable weight, and, with the Golovkin win, he boosted his super middleweight record to a pristine 7-0.
Benavidez checks off all the boxes for a compelling match, including youth (25), unbeaten record (26-0, 23 KOs), title-holding pedigree (two reigns as WBC champion) and mandatory challenger status.
And make no mistake, it's a fight Benavidez covets and believes he should get.
“I feel like I was the No. 1 contender already when I won the title eliminator. Now, I won the interim title," he said after stopping ex-middleweight claimant David Lemieux in May. "So, it was two fights. I was the No. 1 contender, so I do feel like I deserve it. I put the work in.”
Whether he will get it is another matter.
Like several other prospective foes, Benavidez is taller by four-and-a-half inches and has a four-inch reach edge over Alvarez, but his 88.5-percent KO rate adds an element of real danger not as apparent with any other would-be opponent in the weight class.
And because Benavidez never lost his titles in the ring – he surrendered one after a failed drug test and another after missing weight – he still considers himself a legitimate champion.
It may not be the most likely choice for Alvarez, according to SiriusXM radio host and former Ring Magazine editor Randy Gordon, but it's got the goods to be the best.
"The biggest fight at 168 is Canelo vs. David Benavidez," he told Boxing Scene. "While Canelo is still in his prime, he should go after that fight and stop hoping Benavidez goes away.
“That could easily be 2023's fight of the year."
Beyond that, it comes down to body language.
Not surprisingly, Alvarez instantly claimed a rematch with light-heavyweight nemesis Dmitry Bivol is the fight he wants most upon returning from hand surgery, claiming it was vital to his legacy, his pride, his country, and his family.
"I will beat him," he said.
That's easier said than done given the one-sidedness of Bivol's victory in May, which was judged 7-5 in rounds across the board, but seemed more like 9-3 to even the most liberal of observers.
The disparity leaves some to suggest Alvarez might talk about a Bivol fight rather than making it happen, and instead pursue and accept matches against less tricky and/or more lucrative foes.
"Canelo won't acknowledge there is a 'he'll never beat' list. Too proud for that," former HBO blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley told Boxing Scene. "Windows are closing, so get the money."
And nowhere would the money be bigger than at heavyweight.
Or at least against a heavyweight, with a catch.
The idea of a full-on leap past 175 for a date with three-belt heavyweight king Oleksandr Usyk is certainly the sort of challenge that’d guarantee a career-defining windfall.
Alvarez floated the idea of a Usyk bout shortly before his loss to Bivol in May, and both he and Usyk were still chatting it up leading into the Golovkin finale on Saturday.
"It's difficult, but I don't care. I like that kind of challenge," Alvarez told FightHype. "It's going to be difficult, I know, but I love boxing. I love being in that kind of situation."
Though he's a smallish heavyweight, Usyk would still stand seven inches taller than Alvarez and possess a seven-plus-inch advantage in reach, alongside the technical acumen that allowed him to strategically school Anthony Joshua for most of their 24 rounds together.
The financial payout would probably veer toward remarkable, but whether that's enough to warrant the competitive risk, though, is what it'll likely come down to, according to Lampley.
"The real money is in the Usyk fight," he said. "But I think Canelo prefers winning to money."
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBC/WBO super featherweight/junior lightweight titles – Newark, New Jersey
Shakur Stevenson (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Robson Conceicao (No. 2 WBC/No. 27 IWBR)
Stevenson (18-0, 9 KO): Second WBO title defense; Held WBO title at 126 pounds (2019, zero defenses)
Conceicao (17-1, 8 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Lost WBC title fight at 130 pounds (UD 12) in 2021
Fitzbitz says: Conceicao has plenty of street cred and an Olympic gold medal to boot but he’s climbing awfully high on the ladder in meeting Stevenson, who’s a genuine elite. Stevenson by decision (99/1)
Last week's picks: 2-0 (WIN: Alvarez, Rodriguez)
2022 picks record: 28-12 (70.0 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,237-404 (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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.