By: Sean Crose
He no longer gets frustrated. That, perhaps, is the biggest improvement Saul Canelo Alvarez, known mainly these days as Canelo, has made since suffering his only loss to Floyd Mayweather back in 2013. Late in that fight, it became clear that Canelo was frustrated by Mayweather’s timing, speed, and accuracy. By the tenth round, the drained young man seemed be unsure of when to actually throw a punch. Perhaps he was even unwilling to punch with any regularity. Mayweather gave Canelo the education of a lifetime that night, and Canelo has used that education to his advantage ever since. To say the biggest star in boxing is no longer the same person who battled Mayweather close to a decade ago would be an understatement, for Canelo has grown from promising upstart to basically being the best in the business.
One need only compare the Mayweather fight to Canelo’s 2019 battle with light heavyweight kingpin Sergey Kovalev to see how much the man has developed as a fighter. People tend to forget this, but Kovalev was arguably winning the fight when Canelo finally turned out the lights on the fighter known as Krusher in the eleventh. Kovalev, who had earned a ferocious rep as a hard puncher, was older and wise than his younger self when he faced Canelo and he smartly boxed the younger man. Yet Canelo didn’t get frustrated, as he had when he faced Mayweather. He simply stuck to his plan of pushing the action and ultimately rolling over his man. The plan worked perfectly.
Yet it’s more than just level headedness that has allowed Canelo to thrive as he has. For Canelo is naturally a rather big and very strong man. When he fought Mayweather, Canelo was nothing short of weight drained. When he did land on Mayweather, the punches had little effect. Canelo wouldn’t make that mistake again. Now when he hits – opponents feel it. Just ask Callum Smith or any other opponent Canelo has tackled since the Mayweather fight. Sturdy and powerful may be the best words to describe Canelo in his current form.
Of course it’s worth noting that the best may well be those who know how to change with the times. Ali altered his style as he got older…something George Foreman could certainly attest to. Other greats, like Gene Tunney, Marvin Hagler and Foreman himself learned how to change when necessary. Even Mayweather made the transition from Pretty Boy Floyd to the man known as Money over the course of his career, signifying a name and stylistic change that ended up paying huge dividends for the man. No fighter in the modern era, however, has grown from a single losing experience the way Canelo has. If anything, the fighter has proven that boxing is as much a learning experience as it is a brutal sport.