Saul "Canelo" Alvarez may have lost at the hands of Floyd "Money" Mayweather Saturday night in Las Vegas, but it's clear based on his performance that the 23-year-old has a bright future ahead of him in the sport.
Canelo entered the fight 42-0-1 with 30 wins by knockout, and the Mexican product was poised to make a legitimate run at taking down Mayweather. The young competitor seemingly had the advantage in speed, power and stamina (given his youth), but Mayweather showed him that it takes more than physical advantages to win championship fights.
Now, with serious experience under his belt, Canelo is poised to have a promising career. He was inefficient against Mayweather, landing just 22.4 percent of punches in the bout, but that doesn't mean he should be written off. Mayweather is a master of strategy and defending his body. The fact that Canelo failed to land impactful punches is a direct result of that.
Prior to facing off against Mayweather, Canelo had yet to face a truly spectacular opponent. He racked up victories against Austin Trout, Ryan Rhodes, Shane Mosley and Kermit Cintron over the past few years, making Mayweather by far the truest test of his skills as a fighter.
Despite the loss, the results weren't all that terribly against him. Judge C.J. Ross scored it a draw (114-114), while Dave Moretti scored it 116-112 (Mayweather) and Craig Metcalf scored it 117-111 (Mayweather). Ross' scoring was a bit generous (in favor of Canelo), but her ruling still implies that his performance was equally as strong as Mayweather's.
Mayweather certainly believed that he won the fight unanimously after hearing Ross' decision, but Mayweather had strong words about Canelo following the fight. Strong words might even be an understatement.
He said of Canelo (via Bob Velin of USAToday.com):
I want to commend this young, strong champion, because he will carry the torch. Tonight's experience played a major key. Canelo's got everything it takes to be (a champion).
But wait, there's more:
Canelo does everything good. He goes to the body good, he got a good jab, he's a good counterpuncher, he's not 42-0 for nothing . . . well, now he's 42-1, but in my eyes he's still a champion.
Mayweather is certainly correct in his analysis of Canelo's talent. He has a strong physique and definitely boasts some of the more powerful punches among the up-and-comers in the sport. Maybe the undefeated champion was attempting to highlight Canelo's qualities in an effort to talk his own victory up, but even still, his strong praise of Canelo cannot go unnoticed.
It's difficult to call him the future of the sport at this point in his young career, but he has the potential to be a big-time fighter by the time his career is over. He's no longer undefeated and cannot challenge Mayweather for 50-0, but Money May is in a league of his own in terms of winning percentage.
Is Canelo the next great fighter?
Assessing true fighters is easiest when watching how they rise back up after a loss, and Canelo has gained enough experience from this fight to compete with more strategy moving forward. This was the fight for him that taught him not to rely solely on skill—it takes a little bit of planning and patience to be a great boxer.
Mayweather believes that Canelo is the next champion, and he has already gotten himself ready to hand down the title after he retires (via Velin):
I take my hat off to Canelo; he's a true champion. A true champion will take that loss and bounce back. I've only got 24 months left, then (Canelo) is the man.
If we learned anything from Mayweather vs. Canelo, it's that Mayweather is not invincible. Sure, he won with relative ease, but Canelo showed that he can make an impact in the sport with a little more polish. His future is bright, and the sport of boxing should be happy to know that there will be somebody to take over when Mayweather calls it quits.