Canelo's choice: Charlo, Bivol, GGG or the cruiserweight crown?

Canelo Alvarez is planning his return for May, and he reportedly has three options on the table.

First, there’s a one-fight deal on the table from Premier Boxing Champions to defend his undisputed super middleweight championship against middleweight titleholder Jermall Charlo, who would move up in weight for the challenge.

Second, there’s a two-fight deal from Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom to face light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol, followed by the much-awaited trilogy bout against Gennadiy Golovkin at super middleweight. Alvarez and GGG fought to a disputed split draw in 2017, and then a year later, Alvarez edged Golovkin for a majority decision win.

Finally, late last year Alvarez got WBC approval to fight cruiserweight champion Ilunga Junior Makabu, providing a pathway for Alvarez to become a five-division champion with a victory.

What decision should Canelo choose? Boxing insiders Timothy Bradley Jr. and Mike Coppinger address the challenges and advantages of fighting each opponent.

Is Jermall Charlo a real threat to Canelo at 168?

The Charlo fight makes perfect sense. Charlo is coming up from 160 to 168 pounds, although he is 6-foot tall, which gives him a good frame to build on. He has a 73 ½-inch reach and tremendous punching power at 160 pounds. That power makes him dangerous. He’s undefeated, and he has a championship pedigree. Compared to any of the other opponents Alvarez could potentially fight next, Charlo probably has the best resume.

Charlo is a brash type of guy, a fighter that has confidence, likely the result of being a champion for some time now. He can sell this fight too, not leaving all of that responsibility on Alvarez. Business-wise, Charlo makes a lot of sense. Alvarez was already in Texas at AT&T Stadium, setting records with 73,126 in attendance when he beat Billy Joe Saunders.

The fact that Charlo lives in Houston and has a fan base there, it seems like an obvious opportunity to do something big there. — Bradley

How does Canelo match up with Dmitry Bivol at 175?

Bivol looked good when he fought in December against Umar Salamov. He retained his title and moved to 19-0. But the 19-month inactive stretch he had between 2019 and 2021 didn’t do him any favors. Boxing fans know who he is, but casual folks who might tune in for big Alvarez fights might pass. He’s not a vocal guy, and when it comes to making the next big fight, you have to look at every element. It takes a combination of elements to make a great prize fight and at the end of the day, it’s about selling it.

In the ring, Bivol might be a problem for Alvarez. Alvarez likes to face opponents who stand in front of him, and he has his unique way of getting them to overdo it early and gas out. That’s when Alvarez takes over. He marches forward, being the boss in the ring. Alvarez has a high guard, he’s defensive and he tries to counter. But you can make Alvarez miss, and if you can make him pay for every miss, you have a chance. Bivol is a fighter that I believe can do that. Bivol is bigger and longer than Alvarez. He’s a champion at 175 for a reason. He has displayed great fundamentals, a great jab, footwork, great positioning, and he counters often enough to get respect.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Bivol would give Alvarez a run for his money. — Bradley

Can Gennadiy Golovkin beat Canelo Alvarez at 168?

Canelo is at the top of his career. When he fought GGG, he was just getting there. But GGG is clearly on the downward trajectory of his career, and he’s also been extremely inactive — fighting just once since October 2019.

GGG is 39 now, and one thing I know about older fighters is that they have to stay active to stifle the decline and to stay in form. Then you add in the jump from 160 to 168 pounds? Some may think that’s a positive, allowing him to pack on muscle for power. And that’s true. There’s no doubt in my mind you’ll have tremendous power by going up in weight. But I don’t think it’s a great thing for Golovkin. I think he’ll be a lot slower than he was at 160. Packing on eight more pounds, he’ll be slower with his feet and his hands.

Alvarez didn’t have it easy in those first two fights, but he knows GGG well at this point. I think he wears GGG down defensively, and after two very close fights, I believe Alvarez beats GGG in the trilogy bout — and I think he stops him late. — Bradley

How does Canelo match up with Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith?

Alvarez would be a massive favorite over Smith, and a smaller favorite over Beterbiev, who might have the best chance of beating Alvarez out of any potential opponent.

Still, it’s hard to find a boxer Alvarez doesn’t match up well against. He’s the best boxer in the world by a large margin, and it doesn’t seem to matter which style he faces or at which weight he competes.

Smith has improved his boxing ability tremendously, but he would be dealing with a massive disadvantage in both speed and skill against Alvarez. Smith’s only hope would be to land the perfect punch, but that’s especially tough against a gifted defensive fighter like Alvarez.

Beterbiev is a devastating puncher who knows how to find openings. He’s also strong enough to contend with Alvarez on the inside. The issue is that Beterbiev is there to be hit, doesn’t move his head, and his chin is questionable. Perhaps more troublesome, Beterbiev is great when he’s rolling forward, but isn’t very effective off the back foot.

Alvarez happens to be one of the rare boxers who can win a fight coming forward or going backward. That versatility and the adjustments it allows Canelo to make, are tough to deal with, and it’s a big reason why Alvarez is so dominant. — Coppinger

Is Canelo still interested in fighting at cruiserweight? Why?

The idea of a fight at cruiserweight came from Alvarez’s manager and trainer Eddy Reynoso, and Alvarez is always willing to listen to his mentor.

It’s an alluring option for the duo because winning a cruiserweight championship would make Alvarez the first Mexican boxer to win titles in five different weight classes. And legacy has always been important to them both.

Reynoso proposed a fight against WBC cruiserweight champion Ilunga Makabu, who defends his title against Thabiso Mchunu on Saturday. Could Alvarez fight the winner? Sure, but the financial package for such a fight would pale in comparison to the two hard offers Alvarez has already fielded.

Both Makabu and Mchunu have little profile in the boxing world, and it’s hard to see any network doling out the kind of money Alvarez is used to for a fight of that magnitude.

Alvarez was guaranteed $40 million for his November fight with Caleb Plant and he was earning $35 million per fight under his DAZN deal with Golden Boy. His fight with Rocky Fielding netted $15 million, and that’s the kind of purse he could be looking at for a cruiserweight title fight.

If that fight happens, Alvarez would be a massive favorite. In his lone fight at 175 pounds, Alvarez scored a brutal knockout of longtime champion Sergey Kovalev. And while the cruiserweight division has a weight limit of 200 pounds under most sanctioning bodies, the WBC reduced it to 190 pounds in late 2020; it’s a throwback to the original weight limit when the WBC launched its cruiserweight division in 1979.

Since Reynoso posed the possibility, it seems probable Alvarez will fight at cruiserweight in the future. It just makes more sense from a business perspective as an in-between fight similar to the one Alvarez had against Avni Yildirim last February, rather than one of two annual tent pole events in May or September. — Coppinger

Share this post