What next for Canelo Alvarez in 2022? Makabu, Golovkin, Usyk all options

What is next for the great Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez after making history at super middleweight in 2021?

It was mission accomplished for Canelo Alvarez in 2021.

First, he dispatched Avni Yildirim before inflicting the first losses of the respective careers of Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant to become undisputed super middleweight king.

In winning all four major world titles - which included the WBC and WBA from his December 2020 bout against Callum Smith - it saw the Mexican become the first fighter to win all of the titles at 168lbs, something not even Andre Ward was able to do.

In his most recent showing, Canelo dispatched American Plant in Las Vegas. Plant fought skillfully and showed great heart to climb off the canvas in the penultimate round after Canelo had downed him with a left hook and uppercut combination.

However, Plant was never going to recover and the referee waved off the fight soon after.

Plant, who had a full-blown conversation with Canelo in round nine, could not trouble the brilliant Mexican, despite winning the opening round on all three judges' scorecards.

The big question mark was whether 'Sweethands' could deliver enough power to stop Canelo in his tracks.

The answer was an overwhelming 'no' as Canelo, who had the word 'undisputed' already etched on his glove, broke down his younger opponent round by round to make history.

Canelo's 60-fight record (57-1-2, 39 KO) has seen him beaten just once - by the imperious Floyd Mayweather in 2013.

Having fought four times in the last 11 months on his road to undisputed, Canelo says his "body needs a rest" and he will not fight again until May 2022.

"We're always looking for the best fights. Defending the titles is important, but right now we're focused on enjoying this moment, this is really meaningful," he said in the aftermath of his win at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Cruiserweight champion in frame

Ilunga Makabu was the shock name mentioned by Eddy Reynoso in November at the WBC convention.

The Congolese-South African southpaw is the current WBC cruiserweight world champion and is most known for his defeat to Tony Bellew at Goodison Park in 2018.

He will be returning to action in January and if he prevails in his rematch with Thabiso Mchunu - someone he previously knocked out in 2015 - then a May showdown in Canelo is a strong possibility.

The 34-year-old has rebuilt since being stopped by Bellew and is on a nine-fight winning streak since. He won the vacant WBC strap in 2020 and has made one successful defence against Olanrewaju Durodola.

Canelo, despite being unaware of the potential fight before his trainer and manager mentioned it to the world, is more than ready for the fight - especially with it being at 190lbs rather than the traditional 200lbs under WBC's rules and regulations.

Oleksandr Usyk interested in Canelo super-fight

Oleksandr Usyk

Oleksandr Usyk is open to facing Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez next at cruiserweight - but only if he can keep his heavyweight world titles.

The Ukrainian southpaw left the 200lb division as undisputed champion and moved up to heavyweight, unifying the division in just his third fight.

With the prospect of Canelo turning his attentions to fighting at cruiserweight next year, Usyk has put his name in the hat.

He told BoxingInsider: "Yes, I can fight him at cruiserweight. But with only one thing - I keep my belts at heavyweight.

"Then I go back to cruiserweight and fight him and then I come back to heavyweight."

As incredible as it sounds, it is highly unlikely to be next or even happen at all. Usyk must face Anthony Joshua in a heavyweight rematch next after the British heavy-hitter triggered his rematch clause.

And whether Canelo would want to face an elite fighter at 200lbs is another thing, given the height, size, reach and weight difference come fight night. People tend to forget Canelo entered his professional career at 147lbs and won his first world title at 154.

A return to light heavyweight?

Artur Beterbiev
Photo credit: Top Rank/Mikey Williams

Fighting back up at light heavyweight is also a play that could come into Canelo's thinking and it is something that promoter Bob Arum believes will happen.

"I know Canelo pretty well since he was a young man," Arum said. "He has expressed interest to me about fighting Beterbiev or Joe Smith. I would look forward to May or September, the two dates that Canelo likes to fight, that he would fight one of those light heavyweights."

Beterbiev extended his unbeaten record to 17-0 with a stoppage of Marcus Browne and is the only world champion with a 100% KO streak. He is also the unified titlist at 175lbs, holding the WBC and IBF titles.

A showdown with the Russian would be the biggest fight out there for Canelo in terms of respect and admiration from the boxing fraternity. Joe Smith Jr. is also a possible option and he holds the WBO version. He is returning to the ring next month and will collide against Callum Johnson.

A first fight in the UK?

Chris Eubank Jr

Canelo has made it no secret that he hopes to one day fight in the UK before he retires from the sport.

As it stands, the standard at super middleweight are not as good as they once were under the days of Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Joe Calzaghe, Carl Froch and more recently George Groves and James DeGale.

Should Canelo opt to fight at 168lbs again, then Zach Parker, John Ryder and Chris Eubank Jr are the three standout options. Due to the following he has, as well as the surname, Eubank would be the most glamorous fight from the trio.

When it comes to light heavyweights, Callum Johnson could be a serious option if he can challenge and defeat WBO world champion Joe Smith Jr. Elsewhere, Anthony Yarde is waiting in the wings for another opportunity to challenge for the WBO belt but it is unknown when he will get the title shot.

Golovkin trilogy

GGG

Time is running out for 39-year-old Kazakhstan fighter Gennadiy Golovkin, who last fought in December 2020.

The pair have met twice before in 2017 and 2018. Golovkin went 24 gruelling rounds with Canelo. The first bout was a split draw, with Canelo winning the rematch via majority decision.

Golovkin though pushed Canelo all the way and stood toe to toe with the powerful Mexican. The duo traded punches and the promise of a third tussle may well appeal to the paying public with both of the previous results being highly controversial.

Nobody has dared to stand and fight with Canelo. Plant tried, but by the seventh when Canelo invited him to trade shots, the Tennessee-born fighter quickly aborted that approach. DAZN will push very hard for the trilogy as two million fans tuned in for the first two fights, but Canelo has not welcomed the idea so far.

Golovkin was scheduled to fight Japanese star Ryota Murata in a middleweight unification bout on December 29 but it fell through due to Covid-19 rules in Japan meaning GGG was not allowed to enter the country.

They will now meet in April but should GGG win, he'll be keeping an eye on a potential clash against Canelo. 

All-Mexican showdown?

Canelo Alvarez

Former two-time 168lb titleholder David Benavidez (24-0, 21 KO) will be the choice of a lot of hardcore boxing fans. The Phoenix-born fighter takes on late replacement Kyrone Davis on November 13 and if he comes through that he could find himself in line to take on Canelo.

He looks like the biggest physical threat to Canelo at super middleweight and according to Floyd Mayweather, he should stop ducking him and give the fans a real fight.

"He's going up to cruiserweight, he's fighting a guy that's really not, ugh, the guy's up and down.

"If it was up to me, we wanna see Benavidez. Canelo's a helluva fighter, but in my personal opinion he's ducking David Benavidez.

"That's just my personal opinion and I'm allowed to speak my mind. He's going up to cruiserweight, I'm not knocking him, but that same guy was at the Mayweather Boxing Gym, the guys were really getting the best of him in the Mayweather Boxing Gym.

"He's going up to quote-unquote 'cruiserweight' - David Benavidez could beat that same guy…

"Do I like this fight? Absolutely not. We wanna see Benavidez, let's make it happen."

Read more: Every boxing world champion, including Canelo Alvarez and Tyson Fury

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