By: Hans Themistode
Canelo Alvarez has often been lauded for his opponent selection. However, after making his intentions clear that he plans on moving up to the cruiserweight division to take on the winner of WBC belt holder Ilunga Makabu and Thabiso Mchunu, he’s been openly chastised.
While news of Alvarez’s foray into the cruiserweight division may have come as a surprise, many in the boxing world have viewed it as a strategical way for Alvarez to eschew several top-level contenders in or around the super middle division.
Most recently, Floyd Mayweather chimed in on Alvarez’s decision to move up to a much higher weight class and lambasted the pound for pound star for his choice of opponent.
“He’s going to cruiserweight,” said Mayweather to a group of reporters. “He’s fighting a guy who’s a little up and down but it is what it is. If it was up to me, we wanna see [David] Benavidez. Canelo is a helluva fighter but in my personal opinion, he’s ducking Benavidez.”
Alvarez, 31, is currently enjoying some downtime after putting together arguably the best 12 month stretch of his Hall of Fame bound career. In December of 2020, Alvarez made it look incredibly easy as he dismantled Callum Smith to relieve him of his WBA super middleweight title. Also, in the process, Alvarez snagged the vacant WBC crown.
In 2021, Alvarez laid waste to mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim, stopping him in the third round. From there, Alvarez went on to stop both Caleb Plant and Billy Joe Saunders to win the WBO and IBF 168 pound titles.
With the boxing world seemingly his oyster, Alvarez found his name on the lips of several fighters spread across numerous weight classes. Still, despite public callouts by WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo, WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol and of course, former two-time super middleweight champion David Benavidez, Alvarez has opted to go for history. If the pound-for-pound star is successful in his new cruiserweight endeavors, he’ll become the first fighter of Mexican descent to win world titles in five separate weight divisions.
Regardless of Alvarez’s pursuit of history, former unified welterweight champion Keith Thurman does view his jump to cruiserweight as a way to avoid facing both Benavidez and Charlo. With that said, Thurman believes Alvarez is simply following in Mayweather’s footsteps.
“Yes but so what,” said Thurman when asked if Alvarez is avoiding matchups against both Charlo and Benavidez to Fight Hub TV. “He’s Canelo. The people love him. He has a huge following. He’s brought tons of excitement. You can say he’s cherry-picked a little bit but he kinda learned from the best. He got beat by Floyd and now he’s starting to make money like Floyd.”
Throughout the Hall of Fame career of Mayweather, the former five-division titlist was often criticized for his opponent selection, including when he defeated a 23-year-old Alvarez in 2013. Now, with the Mexican star in a familiar position in terms of both fame and fortune, Thurman views them as both one and the same.
But, as Thurman carefully dissects the credentials of Makabu, he does credit him for making it near the top of the cruiserweight food chain. More importantly, despite the widespread outcry, Thurman wants to remind the boxing public that no matter how loudly they demand Alvarez face who they consider stiffer opposition, he isn’t obligated to do so.
“It’s still a champion. The guy got there someway somehow,” said Thurman on Makabu. “Are there greater challengers for Canelo Alvarez? Most definitely. Are there fights that I would truly love to see? Most definitely. Are there super talented individuals that might be able to give him problems? Definitely. Does he have to do any of those things? Absolutely not.”
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