Last night Canelo demonstrated again why he’s considered among the sport’s elite in knocking James Kirkland down and out after a brutal assault. Kirkland tried to match Alvarez punch-for-punch from round one, but only landed solid shots during the first three minutes, while Alvarez measured the distance to adjusted to Kirkland’s movement. Kirkland isn’t at the level of competition an elite fighter should be, but as a big puncher he always had a chance, and the fight wasn’t even close. Alvarez has shown that he can be a successful boxer, as he was against Erislandy Lara; he can be a successful mover, as he was against Austin Trout; and he most certainly can be a successful fighter, as he showed against Kirkland. Canelo is that special ingredient that can work in nimbly in the background, or be exploding in every bite. Last night we saw that most exciting side of Saul Alvarez, which puts his impressive chin and offensive skill in the spotlight. The only time we’ve seen Alvarez falter has been against the man who is now, indisputably, the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. Even then, Alvarez didn’t look badly hurt.
I admit, even I had started to forget why I had so much faith in Alvarez before the Mayweather fight. He lost so comprehensively, it was hard to remember what made anyone think he was such a worthy opponent (which many did). The Kirkland fight is a reminder. Alvarez has the potential to reign after Maywether retires for the final time. What’s more, he has the talent to make it interesting. The next proposed fight for him will be a fall superfight with Miguel Cotto. Cotto being one of my favorite fighters of all time, it’s hard for me to admit how sure I am that Cotto will lose, but it’s even harder to imagine how violently the loss might be. Cotto’s chin and heart have always been too strong for his own good, going all the way back to the plastered bastard, Antonio Margarito. It showed in his fights against Mayweather and especially Pacquiao, both of whom had open access to his head for the last rounds of their fights. Alvarez may not box as well as Mayweather, or use angles as well as Pacquiao, but he’s a bigger man than either, and he’s defensively skilled enough to hold off Cotto’s formidable counter punching attack. His endurance may even be enough to outlast this aging version of Cotto, who’s already been through so many wars. After Cotto, however, there may not be any other exciting opponents for Alvarez, unless they can make a fight with Golovkin. It remains to be seen if Alvarez can handle fighters from that division or if his dominance will be limited to junior middle. Maybe more importantly, he has the style and star power to ascend to the top of the sport where others are lacking. He’s skilled and has an (almost) unblemished record, like Floyd, but he’s also got the exciting aggression that the mainstream demands. Cinnamon may just be the secret ingredient for the future of boxing.