Saul Alvarez said he wanted to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. next May immediately after stopping Kermit Cintron in the fifth round of an HBO-televised main event from Mexico City on Saturday.
For the sake of both Alvarez’s and the sport’s health, let’s hope his wish is not granted.
It’s only natural for a young, undefeated titleholder to feel invincible and to want to challenge the best of the best, especially one as popular as the red-headed Mexican.
It’s equally natural for a promoter – in Alvarez’s case Golden Boy Promotions – to want to put a young attraction in the biggest money fights possible.
However, to put Alvarez in the ring with Mayweather at this stage of his career would be counter productive.
Alvarez (39-0-1, 29 knockouts), who is unbeaten in 40 pro bouts, is a very good fighter but he’s still a work in progress.
The 21-year-old boxer-puncher does many things well. He’s got good legs and he works off a solid jab. He’s a capable counter puncher. He lets his hands go in combination — often to the body and head — but he doesn’t waste punches.
Alvarez is also patient and cool under fire, attributes that can’t be taught. Just ask Cintron (33-5-1, 28 KOs), who despite considerable power and athletic ability, never learned how to relax in the ring.
But Alvarez is not without his flaws. His upper body is stiff, making it hard for him to evade incoming punches, and although he’s an accurate puncher, his technique could be a lot sharper.
His rigid upper body and looping left hooks didn’t matter against Cintron, who he dropped and badly rocked against the ropes late in the fourth round. The former welterweight beltholder, once one of the most feared punchers in the sport, did not fight with any passion or sense of urgency.
Still, Cintron was able to connect with flush power punches more than a few times during the one-sided loss. The 32-year-old veteran cracked Alvarez with a left hook at the start of the second round, and he nailed the WBC 154-pound titleholder with jabs and rights hands midway through the fifth, even though he was on wobbly legs and less than a minute away from being stopped at 2:53 of the round.
Alvarez took Cintron’s best punches without flinching, but he was in with a former contender who didn’t seem to want to fight.
There are plenty current 154-pound contenders who do want to fight Alvarez, including the RING-ranked likes of Vanes Martirosyan, James Kirkland, Erislandy Lara and Carlos Molina, who defeated Cintron in July.
Fans know why Cintron got the shot at Alvarez’s title over Molina, who also held Lara to a draw earlier this year.
Alvarez is still being developed, and Golden Boy, which signed him amid much ballyhoo two years ago, is doing a fine job. The young man’s profile has not only risen in the U.S. by being on HBO and major pay-per-view shows, but he’s learning his craft while keeping a busy schedule.
Alvarez’s TKO of Cintron was his fourth fight of 2011. He’s come along way since his first fight of the year, a unanimous decision over Matthew Hatton in February. At the time of that fight, which earned him the vacant WBC belt, most hardcore fans considered Alvarez to be pure hype. Now, many believe “Canelo” is a bona-fide contender.
In fact, he’s improved so much that if fights against the likes of Molina, Martirosyan, and Kirkland were made next year, more than a few of his critics would pick him to win those intriguing matchups.
Nobody would pick Alvarez to beat Mayweather.
If he wasn’t ready to fight the guy who beat Cintron this past Saturday he’s not going to be ready to face a first-ballot hall of famer of Mayweather’s ability six months from now.
And who would want to see Mayweather-Alvarez? Didn’t fans see what Mayweather does with young bucks who are still wet behind the ears in September?
Here’s a general rule: If a fighter has only recently stepped up to the “championship” level — as both Victor Ortiz and Alvarez did this year — he has no business being in the ring with Mayweather.
If Golden Boy Promotions wants to give Alvarez a “super fight” they should put him in with WBC middleweight beltholder and fellow Mexican star Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
That’s a fight that will sell. That’s a fight Alvarez can win. Most importantly, it’s a fight that would deliver action to the fans who pay to see it.
So would Alvarez vs. Kirkland and Martirosyan. Boxing needs good fights more than it needs “big events” right now.
Mayweather can wait.
Photo / Craig Bennett