The pound-for-pound king will return to boxing on Saturday, Sept. 14, when Floyd Mayweather faces Saul Alvarez for the WBA (Super), WBC and The Ring Light Middleweight titles. While the winner will walk away with all three titles, there's more on the line than championship gold.
The question is, what would this win mean for Canelo's short-term future if he were to pull out the upset of the century?
There's no question that this win would elevate Canelo to new levels. Mayweather isn't just another great fighter; he's the best of this generation and one of the greatest to ever put on a pair of gloves.
A win over him would be career-defining.
Rather than establishing what it would mean for Alvarez's legacy, however, it's important to acknowledge the immediate aftermath. Still only 23, Canelo has a long career ahead of him, and that makes what happens after the Mayweather fight just as important as what transpires during it.
Should Canelo win, his future will likely begin with a rematch.
The day a fighter ends Mayweather's undefeated streak will be legendary. Whomever it may be, Canelo or not, that fighter will be forced to answer one question that will define both his and Mayweather's respective legacies: Can he do it again?
Simply landing punches against Mayweather is hard enough, but defeating him has been impossible as his undefeated 44-0 record indicates. Detractors love to downplay the quality of his opponents after they lose, but Mayweather has defeated everyone from Miguel Cotto and Carlos Baldomir to Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Juan Manuel Marquez.
Most of those fighters have been at their peak when they lost to Money.
Alvarez, meanwhile, has worked his way up to a fight against Mayweather by defeating fellow rising stars. Without a true marquee victory on his resume, Canelo is preparing for the toughest fight he'll ever experience.
With that being established, Alvarez wouldn't be able to walk away with a win and leave it at that. As is the case with every great boxing upset, a rematch would be demanded and Canelo would need to prove that it wasn't a fluke victory.
Even if he does win just once, however, we would need to enter a conversation about Alvarez becoming the pound-for-pound king.
With Mayweather dominating boxing for the better part of a decade and Manny Pacquiao attempting to rival him, few fighters have been able to match their greatness. In fact, no one outside of the Klitschko brothers have even come close to their level of sustained success.
By defeating Mayweather, however, Canelo would enter the conversation.
According to CompuBox, Alvarez currently ranks second in the world with a plus/minus of positive-18 between percentage of punches landed and percentage of opponent punches converted. Alvarez leads all fighters with 42 percent of his total punches landed, per CompuBox.
If Saul "Canelo" Alvarez defeats Floyd Mayweather, who will be the pound-for-pound king?
The only fighter with a greater plus/minus is Mayweather, at positive-24 percent—a six percentage point advantage, per CompuBox.
As far ahead of the rest of the world as Mayweather may be, Alvarez is the closest thing to him. He's one of the most powerful fighters in boxing—he has 30 knockout victories in 43 fights—and has the quickness to compete with some of the best.
The question is, what happens when you remove the phrase "some of" and place Alvarez in the ring with the greatest of our time?
If Alvarez is able to defeat Mayweather, whether by knockout or decision, his legacy will be solidified as the man who did the unthinkable, a la Buster Douglas. In a similarly as significant manner, Alvarez would become the temporary pound-for-pound king of boxing.
You can chalk that up to a number of factors, including a lack of competition to claim otherwise.
The best non-heavyweight fighters in the world either have losses on their resume or have already fallen to Mayweather. Pacquiao, meanwhile, has lost consecutive fights and didn't look strong in his clash with Marquez before the losing streak.
The 23-year-old has his entire career ahead of him, but with a win over Mayweather, Canelo will move past the hype and into the ranks of the best of our time. From there, it's all about staying on top.