LAS VEGAS (AP) — There had been more than whispers that Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was well past his prime.
He put such talk to rest — for now at least — on Saturday night.
“Nobody can beat this Canelo,” Alvarez said after he thoroughly dominated Jermell Charlo to retain his unified super middleweight championship.
Alvarez (60-2-2) won by scores of 119-108, 118-109 and 118-109. The statistics were just as one-sided. Alvarez landed 42 punches to Charlo’s 11, almost all power punches for both boxers.
Charlo, the unified junior middleweight champ, moved up two weight classes to take on Alvarez.
“I just felt like I wasn’t me in there,” Charlo said. “I don’t make excuses for myself, so it is what it is. I take my punches and roll with it.”
Even though Charlo (35-2-1) was the one moving up, he is 4 inches taller than the 5-foot-8 Alvarez and with a 2 1/2-inch reach advantage. That didn’t matter as Alvarez promised before the fight, saying his experience would prevail in the battle of 33-year-olds.
Now Charlo is ready to step back, saying he would love to take on 40-0 Terence Crawford, the reigning welterweight and super welterweight champion.
“I’ll move back to 154 (pounds),” Charlo said. “This morning, I weighed like 172 or 173 pounds. I’ll grandfather myself into this. I’m proud of myself. He didn’t knock me out. He knocked all them other guys out. He hit me with some hard shots. I thought I got mine off.”
Entering this fight, Alvarez lost by unanimous decision to Dmitry Bivol in May 2022, won by unanimous decision a year ago over past-his-prime Gennady Golovkin and then easily beat John Ryder in May on the scorecards.
His performance against Charlo figured to be a measuring stick on whether Alvarez could recreate some of his previous magic. There’s no doubt now that he can, but the question is whether the Mexican-born fighter can sustain it.
Who he fights next is uncertain.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman has declared David Benavidez will be his mandatory challenger for the super middleweight belt.
But Alvarez has not committed to facing Benavidez, a 26-year-old who is 27-0 with all but four wins by knockout. If Alvarez turns down Benavidez, the WBC likely would vacate his championship.
When asked after the fight about his future plans, Alvarez said, “Cinco de Mayo against whoever. I don’t care.”
Alvarez spent his training camp preparing to take it to Charlo’s body, and that’s exactly what he did. Round after round, Alvarez backed up Charlo, throwing one punch after another at his midsection.
“We know he’s a great fighter,” Alvarez said. “He knows how to move in the ring. We worked on attacking the body for three months. For three months in the mountains without my family, without everything.”
Both fighters were cautious early, feeling each other out without taking any chances, but Alvarez then became the aggressor in the second round as Charlo repeatedly backed up.
Alvarez delivered even more power punches in the fourth round as the Houston resident continued to play defense, apparently hoping Alvarez would provide him an opening. But Alvarez moved forward without any apparent concern that would happen.
Finally, in the fifth, Charlo delivered some shots than landed on Alvarez in what was easily his best round. Even so, Alvarez got his own shots in with about 10 seconds left that backed up Charlo.
Perhaps feeding off the end of that round, Alvarez went back to being in control in the sixth. He went after Charlo hard late in the round, landing several shots with him against the ropes and exciting the pro-Alvarez crowd.
About minute into the seventh round, Alvarez sent Charlo to his right knee with a right hook and right uppercut. It was just the second time that Charlo had been knocked down in his career. Charlo got back up, but Alvarez was fully in charge.
He wasn’t as aggressive the rest of the fight, but didn’t need to be. Alvarez still landed his share of shots in a one-sided performance.
“I wasn’t disappointed not to get the knockout,” Alvarez said. “I feel great. That’s why we fight 12 rounds. If I don’t get the knockout, I get 12 rounds to show I’m the best, that I’m the better fighter. That’s why it’s 12 rounds, to show who’s better.”
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