On Saturday, May 8, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is set to square off with British fighter Billy Joe Saunders (30-0, 14 KO’s) at AT&T stadium in Arlington, Texas—home of the Dallas Cowboys—in front of more than 60,000 fans in attendance.
At stake is Canelo’s WBA and WBC Super-Middleweight titles and Saunders’ WBO Super Middleweight title.
The fight will be a unification bout and will be televised live on all DAZN streaming devices.
At 30 years old, Canelo is considered by many as boxing’s biggest superstar and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Alvarez will be entering the ring with a record of 55 wins, 1 loss, 2 draws, and 37 knockouts. Canelo’s lone defeat was a controversial split decision loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2013.
Canelo Alvarez was born on the outskirts of Guadalajara, Mexico, and started boxing at about the age of 13 years old. Canelo’s amateur record was 44-2 with 12 knockouts before turning professional at the age of 15 (what were you doing at 15?). Since turning professional at 15, Canelo has won world championships in four different weight classes, from light-middleweight to light-heavyweight. Canelo joins a list of boxing immortals to have held four or more world titles in different weight classes, including Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Manny Pacquiao, and another Mexican fighter, Juan Manuel Márquez.
With all the accolades and world championships, not to mention all of the money, it begs the question: Is Canelo Alvarez the greatest Mexican fighter of all time? Not “Mexican American” fighter, and not “Latin American” fighter, but straight-up paisa.
There are a few other fighters we can name from Mexico: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Juan Manuel Marquez, for example, who almost killed Manny Pacquiao in one of their fights. Then there’s the legend, the lone Mexican fighter I’m sure every boxing fan knows and remembers—Julio Cesar Chavez (no, not the United Farmworkers dude).
Julio Cesar Chavez had a career record of 107 wins, 6 losses, 2 draws, with 86 knockouts. All in a career that spanned from 1980 to 2005, when he finally retired. That’s a lot of years and a lot of fights. Chavez was a world champion multiple times in three different weight classes, and is considered one of the best, if not the best pound-for-pound fighters of his era, or maybe ever. Although, I’m sure most boxing fans remember the biggest fight of Chavez’ career, a crushing defeat in 1996 to a younger, faster Oscar de la Hoya in his prime. Chavez still holds many boxing records to this day, most title defenses (27), most title fights (37) and most title fight victories (31). None of which will probably ever be broken.
Now, there are two schools of thought: the old school and the new school. I’ve already admitted to being in the old-school category. The old school in me says Chavez represented my grandfather’s Mexico. The working class, the poor, the struggling. It felt to me like every time Chavez entered the ring, he carried the weight of every hope and every dream of every Mexican around the world.
It was more than just a fight. It was about a country, about its people. Julio Cesar Chavez knew it, felt it, and fought like it.
Now, that’s not to say that Canelo Alvarez doesn’t fight for the same reasons. Maybe he does—only he knows.
Canelo grew up as the youngest of eight children, seven of them boys. He fought to make a better life for himself and his family, and without a doubt he absolutely has. But watching Canelo fight—and I’ve seen almost every match—he does nothing for me emotionally. He doesn’t make me want to drink, cry, or fight the way Chavez made me want to. Canelo doesn’t make me think of my grandfather’s Mexico. I don’t feel a connection to Canelo like I felt when I watched Chavez.
So, if you’re asking me, Julio Cesar Chavez is the greatest Mexican fighter of all time.
That’s the old school in me.
I’m sure if you ask the new-school Latinx’r, they’d probably say, “Cesar Chavez? C’mon man! That farmworker dude never fought nobody A+.”
Whether Canelo is the best Mexican fighter of all time is something he’s looking to prove on May 8.
Featured image: TheDailySportsHerald