He sure looked the part, didn’t he?
But the last time we saw Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-1-1, 30 KOs) under the bright lights of a big fight, pay-per-view stage, it was an exercise in futility.
Who is the best bet to be boxing's next superstar?
To be more clear, the futility was all Alvarez. His opponent, the world’s best, Floyd Mayweather, appeared in his element at all times. He was fast, accurate and smooth. He out-landed Alvarez almost 2 to 1 and controlled the ring as if he was leading a hopelessly lost puppy round and round the neighborhood on a leash.
The existential difference in the fight between Mayweather and Alvarez was Mayweather’s jab. He landed 11 per round on average and double digits in eight of the 12 rounds fought.
Meanwhile, Alvarez tried to keep the pace but couldn’t. He threw just about as many jabs as his opponent but only landed more than four in a single round four times, and his highest total was landing just eight in Round 5.
Moreover, Alvarez connected on a paltry 31 percent of his power punches. Overall, he landed 117 of 526 total punches for just a 22 percent connect rate.
By contrast, Mayweather busted Alvarez with 53 percent of his power punches, and he landed 232 of 505 total punches for a connect rate of 46 percent.
But beyond the numbers, the totality of Alvarez’s failed attempt to snatch away from Mayweather the title of world’s biggest boxing star can be more easily summed up as this: the kid just wasn’t ready.
Oh, he looked ready before the fight, didn’t he?
Alvarez has legions of fans and admirers. He hails from the fight-loving country of Mexico, benefits from his soap opera star looks and fights in a style pleasing to almost everyone who watches him fight.
But Alvarez is just 23 years old, and nothing, not his absurdly large number of professional fights for a man his age, not what was supposed to be his physical advantages over the smaller Mayweather and especially not his vain plan of boxing from a distance against boxing’s best, prepared him to pass the course.
Alvarez lost a majority decision to Mayweather by scores of 117-111, 116-112 and 114-114. The latter score, of course, was deemed ludicrous by most observers of the fight.
Despite all his potential, Alvarez landed nary a meaningful punch in the bout. It was one step away from a glorified sparring session. Mayweather was the masterful artist honing his craft. Alvarez was the bumbling newcomer brought in and paid a day rate just hoping to learn something.
It was a disappointing experience for Alvarez.
After the fight was over, knowing full well how epically he had failed in his attempted leap up towards superstardom, Alvarez’s head slid down low to the ground in a stupor. He was disgusted, sad and embarrassed.
That’s probably a good thing. Most people who achieve greatness in life are harder on themselves than anyone else. They’re great at what they do because they work harder than anyone else and they don’t cut themselves any slack.
Look no further than the Canelo-conquering Mayweather. For all his brash bravado when the cameras turn towards him, Mayweather is the best because he tirelessly hones his craft when no one else is around.
There’s much to like about Alvarez still. All the things that he had before his bout with Mayweather are still there. He’s got good power in both hands. He’s a good boxer. His defense is good enough to keep him out of serious danger most of the time, and he fights proud.
But now he has something even more valuable: experience.
Oh sure, he had fought former world champions before and top-flight contenders, too. One does not defeat Shane Mosley, Carlos Baldomir and Austin Trout by happenstance.
But Mayweather, still fighting close to his best, is a different animal altogether.
The Sweet Science’s Michael Woods gathers Alvarez thinks his loss to Mayweather will make him a better fighter:
"I can't pinpoint one thing. I learned a lot in that fight, gained a lot of experience," he said, and promised we will see his growth vs. Angulo. He said he's strong-minded, and doesn't dwell on the past, that he looks toward the future.
He’s probably right.
As of right now, one must assume Alvarez is still boxing’s next big star. He still has the goods. He still has the looks. He still has much of his fan base behind him. He can still become boxing’s main attraction.
And against Alfredo Angulo (22-3, 18 KOs) on Saturday, Alvarez has a chance to rekindle what was previously referred to as Canelo Mania: that special brand of everything that people around the world thought Alvarez might be.
Angulo is a good puncher. He’s tough as nails, fights mean and comes forward throwing punches until his opponent compels him to stop.
If Alvarez still wants to be boxing’s next big thing, and all signs point to that being the case, he’ll have to convince Angulo of it first.
If he does that, he’ll go a long way in convincing the rest of us, too.