Is Canelo in decline or a victim of high expectations?

Posted 05/08/2023

Canelo Alvarez has had something of a rush. Plant Caleb. Billy Joe Saunders. Callum Smith. Sergei Kovalev. Daniel Jacobs. Gennady Golovkin. The man faced a killer’s opposition row from 2018 to 2022 and has defeated every opponent before him. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind – other than those who just didn’t like the guy for whatever reason – that Canelo was a great, possibly an all-time great pro boxer. He was a powerhouse in the ring who had a collection of world titles in several divisions to back up his stellar reputation. And he was on a pretty hot streak.

Is Canelo in decline or a victim of high expectations? 2

Then came last year’s fight against Dmitry Bivol. Canelo lost it to a naturally older man with one hell of a skill set. He was gaining weight, shooting for Bivol’s WBA light heavyweight title strap, and fell short. Call it a bridge too far. It happens when you dare to be big. The whole thing could very well have been shrugged off, but Canelo’s next fight — a second rematch with foil archer Golovkin last fall — has raised a few eyebrows. It was clear that night that Golovkin was no longer the fighter that he once was, yet Canelo looked like he, too, was perhaps no longer the fighter that he once was. Canelo won by decision, sure, but people had questions.

Those questions went unanswered last Saturday as Canelo defended his undisputed super middleweight crown against the feisty John Ryder. Ryder was clearly outdone by Canelo. Also, he wasn’t as strong as the defending champion was. However, even though he dropped his man with a right forehand piston, Canelo was unable to finish the London game. This, of course, has led people to understandably ask whether Canelo, while still great, is now past his prime. He lost to Bivol, after all, and looked less than great against Golovkin on their third pitch. The truth, however, is that nobody knows.

It’s worth noting that Bivol was a light middleweight, not a bloated super middleweight. Besides, Golovkin had always given Canelo a hard time. Just because Golovkin had clearly shown signs of slipping during his third fight with Canelo, the same couldn’t be said with confidence about Canelo himself. Lastly, Ryder was tough. Hard as in TOUGH. It’s worth wondering if anyone less than a light heavyweight could have finished him by distance last Saturday night.

However, there’s no question that Canelo hasn’t looked as commanding as fans have become accustomed to seeing him. Maybe he really is slipping. Or maybe he’s in a rut. Or maybe the guy is so good that he is now the victim of outrageous expectations. Time will, of course, eventually tell the story here. Let’s not forget that hot streak, though. It was worth remembering.

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