Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez: Boxing's Pound for Pound king fighting for a legacy

Canelo is aiming to fight four times this year, with GGG and Britain's WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders both on his radar.

Undoubtedly the biggest sell in boxing today, unified super middleweight champion Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez stands alone as the Pound for Pound king.

Despite being just 30 years of age, the flame-haired Mexican has now been fighting for more than half of his life having taken part in his first paid contest back in 2005.

Back then, as a green 15-year-old teenager, Canelo began his career with a fourth-round TKO victory over fellow Mexican Abraham Gonzalez. Since that first success, he has racked up an imposing 54-1-2 record with the sole blot on his copybook being a 2013 points decision defeat against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Indeed, since that loss, Alvarez has scored 12 further victories as well as a disputed draw with Kazakh punching powerhouse Gennadiy Golovkin and, following his superb recent display against the UK's Calum Smith, has solidified his status as the sports best fighter.

After defeating a string of highly-rated contenders (Smith, Sergey Kovalev and Daniel Jacobs) as well as some legendary warriors (Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley and Golovkin), there can be little doubt that the Mexican will go down as one of the greatest middleweights of this or potentially any era.

Of course, in a sport of varied opinions like boxing, Canelo's achievements, while exemplary for many, remain disputed amongst some fans and critics, Canelo often accused of cherry-picking his way to titles (Rocky Fielding and Liam Smith, for example) while both decisions in the Golovkin fights remain hotly disputed in some quarters.

However, while there is some debate about his achievements, Canelo is the current unified super middleweight titlist and a four-division world champion - just like Roy Jones Jr - a fighter considered as the greatest fighter to have laced a pair of gloves at 168-pounds.

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Boxing´s mythical matchups have been taking place for years - Muhammad Ali vs Mike TysonSugar Ray Leonard vs Sugar Ray Robinson and Roberto Duran vs Julio Cesar Chavez are just some of the many fights dreamed up by the sports enthusiasts throughout the years.

While such exercises can often prove a difficult balancing act between hype and nostalgia, there is little doubt that the intrigue offered by these comparisons has sparked countless fighting debates in barbershops and barrooms across the globe.

Of course, while such discussions could be labelled an exercise in futility given that no winners can ever be declared in this hypothetical ring of champions, a clash of styles between the Superman and the Guadalajara fighter would have been one for the ages.

Can Canelo reach the dizzy heights of Jones?

While the last decade of Jones' career certainly removed some of the lustre from his illustrious resume, both his fighting style and achievements in the ring are unlikely to be repeated in the future.

To watch Roy Jones Jr. fight was to witness something truly unique in a boxing ring - boasting unrivalled footwork with lightning speed, Jones holds a highlight reel that even the most storied of fictional fighters would struggle to rival.

Skilled and articulate in the extreme, Jones would win world titles at both middleweight and super middleweight before an extraordinary ascent saw him claim further straps at light heavyweight and, perhaps most remarkably of all at heavyweight.

However, much like Canelo, Jones was accused of avoiding some of the best fighters in and around his weight class. Fights with both Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank would undoubtedly have tested the Pensacola fighting legend, but sadly, both proposed bouts would never materialise.

Having reached his personal zenith by claiming Heavyweight title glory against John Ruiz, Jones' career would nose-dive following brutal knockout losses against both Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson.

However, it was Jones' run at super middleweight in the mid to late '90s that left his most significant impression with a series of unforgettable performances.

Winning his first world title at the age of 24 with a unanimous decision over future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins, Jones would dominate the super middleweight division with several blink and you'll miss 'em knockouts that would define his status as the sports most decorated fighter of the era.

Jones returned to the ring in 2020 to face Tyson in an exhibition fight which lasted eight rounds and ended in a draw
Jones returned to the ring in 2020 to face Tyson in an exhibition fight which lasted eight rounds and ended in a draw

Indeed, a comprehensive decision victory over James Toney in 1994 had confirmed Jones' status as the best in his weight class. On that night, Jones had entered the ring as an underdog for the first time in his career, but following an exquisite display of speed and athleticism, the Pensacola phenomenon underlined his greatness in claiming a clear and decisive victory over a supremely talented Toney.

At his peak, the Florida-native boasted genuinely extraordinary levels of skill and punching power that blessed him with an air of true invincibility.

Indeed, prior to turning 35, Jones' career record was 49-1, with the only loss coming in his controversial disqualification defeat to Montell Griffin - an opponent he fought in a rematch and defeated in the opening round.

While the latter part of Jones career is certainly something most fans would rather forget, a peak version of this fighting legend would undoubtedly have given Canelo a rough night in the ring. Of course, Alvarez boasts some extraordinary physical gifts, punches like a mule and executes a ring general ship that makes him such a dominant and physically imposing champion today.

However, Jones, in his prime, was simply a spectacular specimen. A 168lb reincarnation of Sugar Ray Robinson; there are few fighters, even in their peak, who could have come close to matching the unique talents possessed by Jones.

Trilogy with GGG required?

While this matchup is one for the dreamers, the reality for Canelo is that for him to achieve a resume matching or even surpassing that of a Jones, he must fight the best available fighters in and around his division. A step up in weight could yet provide the Mexican with the bouts necessary to further enhance an already stacked legacy.

Having already achieved so much in the sport, Canelo could retire today, and no one could question his status as a Hall of Famer. But at 30 years old, he must ask himself, are there still mountains to climb? Are there fights that could leave an even greater imprint on the sport?

Unfortunately for the Mexican, there would appear few opportunities available that could genuinely enhance his legacy. However, a trilogy fight and a more comprehensive victory over Gennadiy Golovkin should be at the top of Canelo's fighting to-do-list.

A proposed showdown with Billy Joe Saunders would also prove intriguing, but his upcoming bout with Avni Yildirim can be filed under the "stay busy" category.

Still, having achieved so much in the sport, it would be doing a disservice to Alvarez to suggest that his greatness can only be determined by the strength of his opponents. It is an indelible truth that the greatest of champions need to be pushed by a genuinely great rival and perhaps that is why Canelo decided to split from Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions.

Ultimately, this extraordinary Guadalajaran has already experienced a spectacular career, but it is now, at this point, where his final boxing narrative will be dictated by what comes next.

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