SAUL ALVAREZ: No one is saying the kid could beat Sergio Martinez right now. “Canelo” undoubtedly would have a difficult time against the likes of Miguel Cotto and Alfredo Angulo. Even Vanes Martirosyan has the pedigree to give him trouble. This is the reality, though: Alvarez is a very good young (!) fighter who brings much-needed excitement to the sport. And he’s only going to get better. The 20-year-old redhead fought with the poise of a veteran in his methodical demolition and 12th-round knockout of more-experience Ryan Rhodes on Saturday his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, his best performance to date. And while Rhodes isn’t in the class of the above-mentioned fighters, he’s a solid all-around boxer and Alvarez’s biggest test yet. He passed it easily, taking another nice step in a blossoming career in the process. He deserves credit.
RYAN RHODES: The 34-year-old from the UK undoubtedly came to win his fight against Alvarez. When he realized that he had no answers for what the kid was bringing, though, it appeared he became discouraged and (yes) at least somewhat reluctant to engage. Those body shots, those quick, hard two-, three-, four-punch combinations have a way of altering your game plan. His corner probably did the right thing to end matters before Alvarez did so. The flight back to the UK undoubtedly will have been a long one. Rhodes gave it a shot, though. He has the distinction of fighting for a world title almost 14 years apart, which means he’s been a player for a long time. That’s something to be proud of.
BEST OPTION FOR ALVAREZ
VANES MARTIROSYAN: Alvarez’s handlers want him to fight on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Victor Ortiz pay-per-view card on Sept. 17, which would allow him good exposure. They might decide to avoid a significant challenge on that night to be fairly certain he wins and looks good doing it. The next step after that might be Martirosyan, the mandatory contender for Alvarez’s WBC strap. The talented Armenian-American is a dangerous opponent. He fought for the U.S. in the 2004 Olympics, is trained by Freddie Roach and is unbeaten as a pro against limited opposition. His skills are superior to those of Alvarez, although the kid is more explosive and might be tougher. Still, Martirosyan is a logical next step for Alvarez – very good but beatable. Miguel Cotto? Alfredo Angulo? Paul Williams? Too early. That will come if Alvarez continues to win.
BIGGEST WINNER II
ADRIEN BRONER: The unbeaten junior lightweight contender didn't impress too many people with his performance against Daniel Ponce de Leon in March, eking out a controversial 10-round decision. He made up for it on the Alvarez-Rhodes card on Saturday. The former amateur star from Cincinnati hurt capable Jason Litzau with a straight right late in the opening round and following with a vicious barrage — including a damaging right uppercut — that forced the referee to stop the fight with two seconds to go in the round. It was his 10th first-round KO in 21 fights. And remember: Litzau was no pushover. He's a good all-around boxer who was brimming with confidence after his upset of Celestino Caballero in November, his fifth consecutive victory. Yo Adrien. Good job.
BIGGEST WINNER III
GRADY BREWER: An aging, written-off former contender who pulls off one more impressive victory is always gratifying to see. Brewer, 40, had lost only once since 2005 going into his fight against then-unbeaten Fernando Guerrero on Friday in Austin, Texas. So he was still “serviceable,” as Doug Fischer called him. He wasn’t taken very seriously, though. He was supposed to be a recognizable stepping stone on Guerrero’s rise to a world title. Surprise! The old man stopped his young foe in four rounds. This probably doesn’t mean that the Oklahoman is on his way to winning a world title, although anything is possible. The former winner of “The Contender” did have another noteworthy moment on national television, which obviously was gratifying for him.
BIGGEST LOSER II
FERNANDO GUERRERO: The now-former contender might’ve made a mistake by going down from middleweight to junior middleweight for his fight against Brewer, although we’ll never know whether that played a role his demise. The bottom line is this: He was knocked out by a 40-year-old who was supposed to be just another step to greatness. And remember: Guerrero was hurt by a naturally smaller man not known to have great power. Not a good night. The Dominican certainly isn’t finished at 24. He remains a solid all-around fighter with strong backing in his adopted hometown of Salisbury, Md. Now, after such a setback, we’ll find out how resilient he truly is.
KARIM MAYFIELD: The 30-year-old Shane Mosley look-alike’s victory over Steve Forbes on the Guerrero-Brewer undercard was a nice step toward becoming a legitimate contender. Mayfield, who got a late start in boxing, is known more as a sparring partner for big-name fighters – including Manny Pacquiao – and was fighting for only 14th time. Forbes isn’t particularly formidable at this point but he remains a clever boxer who is difficult to hit cleanly. Mayfield was able to find his target enough to control the fight and become the first to stop a long-time (if faded) contender. He doesn’t have great technique but he’s learned a lot in those sparring sessions, is a good athlete and fights with fire, which makes him fun to watch. He might have a future in boxing yet.
STEVE FORBES: The long-ago junior lightweight titleholder is only 34. He still has some ability, although Karim Mayfield was winning handily when he became the first to stop Forbes on Friday night in Austin, Texas. The question might be this: Where is he headed? He is 3-7 in his last 10 fights. He apparently has outgrown the welterweight division, having coming in two pounds overweight. Is the light puncher supposed to fight at junior middleweight now? Forbes has decent name recognition, meaning he probably could continue to make a few dollars as an “opponent.” If he’s happy doing that, God bless him. If he’s hoping for more than that, well, he probably isn’t being entirely honest with himself.
JUAN DIAZ: “The Baby Bull” has announced his retirement after more than a decade of thrills in the ring. The Houstonian was a three-time lightweight titleholder who fought every minute of every fight with uncommon passion, which made him one of the best and most-popular fighters in the world. He gave us great moments even in defeat, as his unforgettable brawl with Juan Manuel Marquez in his last fight demonstrated. Will he be back? Many “retirees” unretire but this one might not. He has always had an eye on the future, which is the case with too few boxers. He is a college graduate who plans to start law school. And, finally, Diaz will be missed for more than his fiery spirit and courage in the ring. He’s one of the best people in boxing.
ALVAREZ: “If my managers tell me I have to fight the devil, I’ll fight the devil.”