As countless foes rose their hands defiantly, filled with hubris and an unwavering self-belief, Alvarez smiled as he shrugged his shoulders and accepted his eager opponent’s challenge. Sure, the likes of Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant believed they could dance their way to a unanimous decision victory and despite Daniel Jacobs and Callum Smith being adamant that they could bully the smaller Alvarez into submission, they were all proven wrong.
With each failed attempt to dethrone Canelo, both his supporters and Alvarez himself, began pushing their normally myopic vision. Aggregating every world title at 168 pounds and becoming the division’s first undisputed super middleweight champion of all time simply wasn’t enough.
As Canelo peeked from atop the pugilistic mountain, he noticed nothing but opportunities. Conquering the cruiserweight division seemed plausible to the Mexican star, as he took aim at Ilunga Makabu and his WBC crown. But, despite the immense weight discrepancy, Alvarez’s fans, and even media members themselves, viewed Makabu as a trouble-free victory.
Taking his audacious moves even further, Canelo had also set his sights on current unified heavyweight titlist, Oleksandr Usyk. According to Eddie Hearn, Alvarez’s current promoter, the Mexican star revealed that if he were able to schedule a bout against Usyk at 201 pounds, he’ll become the first man to sully his record.
While Hearn laughed at his bravado, Canelo stood stone-faced, completely confident in his ability to conquer both divisions. Ultimately, before Alvarez could try his hand at both the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions, he brazenly planted his flag at 175 pounds, a weight class he had previously won a title in 2019.
A target was firmly placed onto the back of WBA belt holder, Dmitry Bivol.
Unsurprisingly, the betting world, as well as most of the boxing public, viewed Bivol as an unworthy challenger. The Russian star was reserved when he spoke and appeared grateful to be facing boxing’s premier star and pay-per-view king.
As Canelo worked relentlessly on his craft in preparation for Bivol, he continued to entertain ideas of facing every and anyone. In fact, whether it was a contest against Usyk or a showdown against unified light heavyweight titlist Artur Beterbiev, both of whom tower over Alvarez, the pound-for-pound star would break away from speaking Spanish and issue the same response no matter what opponent was lobbied in his direction.
“I don’t fucking care,” said Canelo on countless occasions.
Alvarez’s thirst for a pugilistic challenge drove him. And while he sifted through numerous divisions in search of the one fighter that would push him to his breaking point, few believed it would be Bivol.
However, despite it all, the 31-year-old Russian champion sauntered confidently to the ring May 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Although they booed, cursed, and openly gave Bivol the middle finger, he smiled throughout the chaos of the night. Moments later, that same raucous and unrelenting crowd cheered at the top of their lungs as Canelo waltzed slowly through the arena.
Nevertheless, in spite of their cheers, even Alvarez’s staunchest supporters were left speechless as the opening bell rang. Alvarez charged straight ahead, flashing a high guard and pushing forward against a much bigger man. At times, Alvarez found success landing pernicious uppercuts on the inside. Still, unlike many of his previous foes, Bivol refused to wilt underneath his consistent pressure.
As Alvarez faced countless challengers across numerous weight classes, Bivol stood out as quite different. He never allowed Alvarez to find his rhythm. Also, seldom was the Russian native against the ropes covering and cowering in fear. Instead, Bivol took charge, forced Alvarez to fight on his back foot, and absorbed his relentless blows without grimacing in pain.
In the 10th, Canelo appeared fresh out of ideas. He dipped low, got right into the airspace of his man, and attempted to land a game-changing knockout blow. It never came. And, despite being viewed as nearly impossible to defeat fair and square, even Tim Cheatham, Dave Moretti, and Steve Weisfeld, the three judges scoring ringside, were given no choice but to hand Bivol a unanimous decision victory.
Shortly after suffering only the second defeat of his career, Alvarez revealed that he would pursue an immediate rematch. But, from the moment the former pound-for-pound king announced that he would attempt to avenge his defeat, Alvarez’s fans became hesitant.
“Canelo isn’t a light heavyweight.”
“He shouldn’t take the rematch.”
“Canelo should just fight Golovkin.”
“Just go back down to 168, 175 is too much.”
The warnings issued by Alvarez’s supporters, regardless of whether it’s true or not, are flippant.
For years on end, Canelo has discussed how much he craves challenges. How he views himself as boxing’s best fighter and is willing to test himself against any and everyone, regardless of weight class.
Now, after one bad night at the office, Alvarez is expected to tuck his tail between his legs and duck for cover? No. Fans of Canelo shouldn’t feel contrite for his brazen move. Also, a mea culpa shouldn’t be issued by the Mexican star.
Canelo has asked, begged, and pleaded with the boxing Gods to give him a noteworthy and formidable foe. He now has one in Bivol. It’s time for him to step up to the challenge.