A week after Saul “Canelo” Alvarez retained his undisputed super middleweight championship via a unanimous decision win over Jaime Munguia, a sample of boxing insiders consulted by BoxingScene doubts that the Mexican will face the likes of David Benavidez or Terence Crawford next – unless, perhaps, he is offered a huge amount of Saudi cash to do so. Equally, however, each of the insiders – none of whom are directly connected to Alvarez in any way – agrees that Canelo’s legacy is secure, regardless of whomever he chooses to face between now and his eventual retirement.

Overall, Hall of Fame broadcaster Al Bernstein was impressed with Canelo’s outing against Munguia, noting that “he showed flashes of excellence, and his defensive work – which has improved throughout his career – came to the forefront, as well. And the other thing I think is significant is, he didn’t get tired at the end. He fought well down the stretch in general, and I think that part should give him kind of a good feeling. But there is no question that he is in the latter part of his career.”

That sentiment was echoed by manager and matchmaker Jolene Mizzone, formerly matchmaker for Main Events and now president of Fighters First Management.

“At some point, every fighter is going to hit a wall,” she told BoxingScene. “And I’m seeing Canelo has hit it. Not in a bad way; it’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s not old, but he’s old for boxing, with the number of fights he’s had.”

In contrast, Bob Santos, voted the 2022 Trainer of the Year by The Ring and Sports Illustrated, and the co-trainer of potential Canelo opponent David Morrell, watched the fight against Munguia and saw an all-time great who is still at the top of his game.

“It was a tremendous performance against a young, hungry, big, strong guy,” he said. “I didn’t see any decline in Canelo. He never ran out of gas. Again, he never stopped trying. He kept pressing the body, he threw a lot of punches. He showed great stamina, great counterpunching. He showed me the whole package. As long as he can stay healthy and he wants to continue to do what he needs to do, I think he could be at a high level for a while.”

Santos is unmoved by any criticism of Canelo (61-2-2, 39 KOs) for racking up four consecutive distance wins, despite dropping his last three opponents.

“People have to understand, this is a guy who turned pro as a 140-pounder,” he noted. “So, I mean, is he going to be the most devastating puncher in that weight class? Probably not. Is 160 probably a much better weight class for him to be a knockout-type guy? Most likely, because he’s not a big guy. But he definitely knows how to set up his punches and keep guys honest, even at that weight. And he’s not the biggest guy. That’s the reason for that. I don’t think it has anything to do with age.” 

Both before Alvarez announced Munguia as his May opponent and in the aftermath of his win, the drums beat for him to face David Benavidez, widely regarded as his most dangerous possible opponent at 168 pounds – although the American is, at least in the interim, moving up to light heavyweight to take on Oleksandr Gvozdyk on June 15. Canelo has publicly blown hot and cold on the idea of squaring off against Benavidez, alternating between claiming he would face him and Munguia on the same night and demanding a $200 million purse for the challenge.

Welterweight champion Terence Crawford, who is stepping up to 154 pounds to face Israil Madrimov in early August, has also been touted as a possible Canelo foe in a clash between two future first-ballot Hall of Famers, while heavy-hitting contender Morrell is another name that has been mentioned in the Canelo sweepstakes. None of those insiders contacted by BoxingScene expressed a great deal of optimism that we are likely to see any of those matchups anytime soon.

“It is going to be a very specific kind of fighter that will give Canelo the biggest problems,” offered Bernstein. “We saw that with Dmitrii Bivol, who was bigger and able to be at distance, throw a good volume of punches and not get hurt. So if we look at that in the hundreds, in the context of 168 pounds, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the one person who right now could be his kryptonite is Benavidez, as he has those attributes. That doesn’t mean that Canelo can’t beat him. But it means that a combination of the Benavidez height, reach, ability to throw multiple punches at a time, and power, is an issue for Canelo.”

“He’s in a tough spot right now in that who is there for him to fight? The easy solution is, have him fight Benavidez,” said Mizzone. “But if I’m Canelo’s people, I’m not fighting Benavidez. In my opinion – maybe this is just me – but I think right now Canelo beats Benavidez. But it’s a very hard fight. It’s a very mentally draining fight for Canelo. Why do it? If you’re gonna pass the torch? Now’s not the time to do it. I just don’t believe – and again, people can hate me for this – that Benavidez has done enough to be passed the torch yet. Two fights from now? Yeah, maybe.”

Were she on Team Canelo, Mizzone says, she would be singularly unmoved by the idea of facing Crawford.

“If I’m Canelo’s manager, or the matchmaker for Canelo, I’m not fucking fighting Terence Crawford,” she said. “Get the hell out. You know, the good thing in boxing is, you have two stars in Canelo and Crawford. Why do they have to fight each other? Every time there’s a star, all of a sudden, it’s ‘move up in weight and fight this guy.’ Just stop!”

The counterpoint is that Canelo may consider the smaller Crawford beatable; and the money on offer would be substantial. When it comes to Morrell, however, Mizzone reckons the risk/reward equation is “not even close” to justifying it from Canelo’s side.

“And it’s a dangerous fight,” she underscores. “I think Morrell is a top guy. I think he’s above Benavidez, in my opinion. That’s not taking anything away from Benavidez. But I think Morrell is the real deal.”

Even Santos, Morrell’s co-trainer, wouldn’t take the bait when asked how his fighter could land the Canelo sweepstakes.

“I mean, we’re not gonna get that fight,” he said. “It is what it is. Canelo has earned the right to pick and choose what he needs to do. I just don’t think that’s a fight that he’s gonna do. Would we love to get that fight? Of course we would. I just don’t see it happening. I think Benavidez is a fight that could possibly happen, for sure. But Morrell? I don’t think so.”

The one element that could alter the equations instantly, of course, would be a massive influx of Saudi money. And in recent days, Turki Alalshikh, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, has mused openly about throwing bags of riyals at Alvarez and Crawford to make that contest happen. Equally, however, Alvarez has so far proven resistant to the lure of Riyadh’s millions and may not be receptive to the idea of being bribed into taking a fight that he has previously characterized as being a “no-win” situation for him. Besides, not everyone is convinced it’s as enticing a matchup as others think.

“I think people are delusional if they think Crawford’s going to be able to go up to 168 without a catchweight,” Santos said. “He’s going to be [Jermell] Charlo No. 2: in survival mode. One-sixty-eight is a whole different ballgame, buddy.”

Bernstein doesn’t entirely agree, particularly if Crawford completely dominates Madrimov.

“If he does that, that would set the stage, and I guess for Canelo the path of least resistance would be, say, Crawford in May, and before that probably Edgar Berlanga,” he said.

The unbeaten Berlanga, who is 22-0 with 17 KOs, started off his career with 16 straight stoppage wins before being taken the distance in his next five outings. He returned to the KO column with a sixth-round stoppage of Padraig McCrory in February. He was floated as a possible Canelo opponent before Alvarez settled on Munguia, to a generally underwhelmed response from boxing fans and media. But both Mizzone and Santos think it’s a sellable and – importantly – highly winnable fight for September.

“If I was managing Canelo, I think the next fight we would probably do is someone like Berlanga,” said Santos. “You just had a good, solid win against Jaime Munguia, who is a tough, hungry lion. I would probably go to a guy like Berlanga. That way, you have a secure opponent lined up and you can weigh your options from there.”

“You could swing it from a promotional or marketing side as Berlanga being an up-and-coming guy, and why doesn’t he deserve the shot?” Mizzone said. “And after him, maybe see how someone like Diego Pacheco is looking. But right now, if I’m Canelo, I’m fighting Berlanga any day of the week.”

Mizzone emphasized that that strategy is not based on the assumption that Canelo is reluctant to fight any of the other names. “I think he’d fight King Kong,” she said. But boxing is a business, and she agrees with Santos that Alvarez has earned the right to call his own shots. “His resume is ridiculous,” she said. And she suspects that Canelo is fully aware that he has a limited number of fights remaining and, accordingly, is probably planning the coda to his career.

“At some point, for some fighters, by the end they’re just fighting for legacy,” Mizzone said. “But Canelo’s a legend. He’s made it, he’s done that. Financially, he’s good. But I don’t care how financially solid you are, you always want to make more money, right? So if Turki comes to me and I’m the management of Canelo, then sure, we’ll have a conversation. ‘Alright, let’s do this. But this is the plan we want. We want to do two more fights, and then we’ll fight Benavidez or Morrell or Crawford.’ That way, you have three big fights instead of one. That’s how I would do it.”

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