His first career loss was not a welcome occurrence for Canelo Alvarez Saturday night in Las Vegas.
His dejected, reddened face looked down, never changing its gaze, as his heated rival from the past several months stood two paces away—drinking in the adulation of another post-fight press conference.
In those moments, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was the very picture of 23-year-old dejection.
But don’t mourn too long for the Mexican superstar with the adoring fanbase.
Even as new WBC super welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. was answering majestic questions about where his own performance ranked among his career’s best, the questions still didn’t avoid coming back to the Guadalajara phenom with whom he’d shared the summer.
“Did you feel Canelo’s punches?” asked one media member. “Was he everything you expected?” followed another. “How many times did you go back to the corner and think, ‘OK, he got that round?’” came yet another query.
Ultimately, the now 45-0 five-division champion was put in the role of guidance counselor and asked where he’d steer the now once-beaten ex-claimant’s career in the aftermath of his first loss.
"I'd like to see Canelo fight the guy who fought tonight, Molina,” Mayweather said. “That’d be a good fight for him. It’d help build his confidence back.”
“Molina” is new IBF 154-pound champion Carlos Molina, who beat the locally bred, Mayweather Promotions-connected Ishe Smith in the latter’s first defense of a crown he’d won earlier this year while becoming the first Las Vegas-born-and-housed fighter to become a world champion.
The assessment proved Mayweather’s chops as a talent-guider might someday be on the virtuoso level that he still displays in the ring.
In fact, a match with Molina would address Alvarez’s most significant post-loss issues in one contract.
In Molina, he’d be matched with the sort of straight-ahead, mix-it-up foe with whom he’d gleaned the best highlights while creating a case to share a stage with Mayweather in the first place—thus quickly smoothing out any rough spots in the confidence left by “Money’s” strafing punches.
And, by defeating the perfectly respectable—but by no means transcendent—veteran who’s already lost to the likes of James Kirkland, Wayland Willingham and Jonathan Ochoa, Canelo would once again have a belt to drape across his shoulders while campaigning for his next big co-starring role.
“He’s a good, strong young champion,” Mayweather said of his foe, who conceded frustration prompted by a maddening inability to hit a man standing directly in front of him. “He didn’t get to be 42-0 for nothing. He’ll go into the Hall of Fame one day, just as I’ll go into the Hall of Fame one day.”
Who should Canelo Alvarez fight next?
Outside of Molina—and provided he keeps his distance from fighters resembling the Mayweather skill set, all one of them—the future looks nearly as bright for Alvarez now as it had until the moment referee Kenny Bayless wrapped up his Saturday pre-fight instructions.
His pre-Mayweather defeat of Austin Trout proved him the best of the non-Moneyed class at 154, a reality that will be further proven with matches against Molina or lingering veteran Miguel Cotto, who returns Oct. 5 in search of one last title run following his own losses to Trout and Mayweather.
Of course, should an additional six pounds or more look as palatable as continued weight drains to reach 154, Alvarez would presumably be on the radar of countryman Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for an all-Mexican slugfest. Or perhaps IBO/WBA middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin, who’d no doubt welcome a departure from the Matthew Macklin/Curtis Stevens circuit to play the truly relevant rooms in which Alvarez is already a familiar face.
Regardless of specific direction, and based simply on the dozens of Canelo-headband-draped fans who lingered for a glimpse of their hero more than an hour after Saturday’s final bell, a loss seems certain to be a temporary glitch—not a cause for full-scale alarm.
Sleep easy, Cinnamon fans… it’ll all be OK.
Unless otherwise cited, all quotes were obtained first hand by the writer.