Canelo Alvarez's Blueprint to Become Boxing's Biggest Superstar
Perhaps more than any other sport, boxing depends on superstars to drive up attention, interest and, ultimately, revenue. That's why promoters are always looking for the next big thing. They need it to make a living.
Don’t believe me? Ask a few people you meet on the street tomorrow how many boxers they can name. After they regurgitate a name from the past like Mike Tyson or Muhammad Ali, pat them on the head nicely and ask them to now name someone who is still fighting today.
Chances are good you’ll hear them say either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. Some of them will even name both.
After that, there will be silence.
If junior middleweight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 KOs) ever wants to be someone like that—a fighter grand enough to transcend the very sport and thrust his name into the pantheon of popular culture—the kid has some work to do.
Here’s his blueprint to become boxing’s biggest superstar.
Pick the Right Fights
Despite his absurdly high number of professional bouts, Alvarez is still only 23 years old, and he’s already a big enough star to be put on pay-per-view. That’s big.
But what Alvarez and team have to realize is how relatively young the kid still is in the grand scheme of things and where his strength lies.
Alvarez excels against opponents who are there to be hit. This excludes slick boxers who use distance, timing and footwork to outbox opponents over 12 full rounds.
For Alvarez and his handlers, this means they should feed him a steady diet of fighters who do not qualify for the category until he matures enough as a fighter to handle them.
This isn’t to say Alvarez shouldn’t be matched tough. As a former titleholder, he should. But for the near term, Alvarez should be matched against fighters he can land punches on.
That wasn’t true against Floyd Mayweather last September, and it likely wouldn’t be true against Cuban stylist Erislandy Lara either. Until he’s ready to tackle either of those gentlemen, Alvarez needs to pick the right kinds of fights.
That means avoiding slick boxers as much as possible.
Learn How to Attack Slick Boxers
What head trainer Chepo Reynoso and team should be feeding Alvarez a steady diet of during training camp are sparring partners of varying ability.
Bringing in some guys who rely on slick boxing skills is important to Alvarez’s continued development. Just because he shouldn’t be matched up against slick boxers in the near term doesn’t mean he should avoid them forever.
Alvarez has some solid boxing ability himself. He showed it off in wins over Shane Mosley and Austin Trout.
But it’s certainly not his best attribute, and he’ll never be the type who wins all his bouts by fighting from a distance behind a long, mean jab. He just doesn’t have the build for it.
So what Alvarez needs to learn is how to take his best qualities and apply them to defeating masters of distance and timing. He received a crash course in it against Mayweather last year, so now he has 12 rounds under his belt of learning precisely what not to do.
A good combination puncher with solid power, Alvarez needs to learn the best way to get to a boxer is by applying pressure. Against Mayweather, he got frustrated too easily when he was pelted from a distance and reverted to following Mayweather around the ring like a slow-footed zombie.
Next time he faces a good boxer, Alvarez should put his head on the opponent’s chest and get to work. He needs to hit him anywhere he can: head, torso, arms...anywhere. If he learns how to do that, he’ll be hard to beat.
And the only way he learns how to do that is in the gym.
Stay at Junior Middleweight as Long as Possible
Alvarez ended up fighting one pound over the junior middleweight limit of 154 pounds against Alfredo Angulo, and that might not be a good sign.
Just 5’9”, Alvarez has decent size for a junior middleweight. He’s not on the large side, but he’s not tiny either. He has good feet and boxing ability, but he relies too much on sheer physicality right now, something expected from a fighter his age.
But Alvarez would be a small middleweight, along the lines of Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Martinez has done quite well as the lineal middleweight champion for the last three years while giving up inches and pounds to most opponents he meets on fight night.
But it’s not ideal to fight men naturally longer and taller with solid weight behind their punches, especially for someone as young as Alvarez. He’d have a devil of a time against boxers in the middleweight division, where being close to 6’0” is the relative norm.
If he doesn’t have one already, Alvarez should get a year-round nutritionist to help him stay as lean as possible until he can better his game.
Moving up to middleweight right now would be a bad move.
The biggest and best boxing superstars got that way by being themselves. Alvarez already is a name brand in boxing, and he should realize the power behind such a thing so he can exploit it to its maximum.
Fans pick their objects of affection in a few different ways. First, it’s how a fighter fights. The better a fighter is, the more fans he generally has.
Next, the more a fighter uses a pleasing, aggressive style, the more marketable the fighter can become.
Alvarez has both these things going for him already. He has real skill and fights in a way that is fun to watch.
But fans are drawn to personalities, too. Muhammad Ali rhymed his way into the hearts and minds of his generation. Oscar De La Hoya smiled his way onto the big stage. Roy Jones Jr. bragged and rapped his way to the top. There are numerous other examples.
It’s not necessarily how a fighter shows himself to the public, but that it comes off as true and authentic. Heck, Mike Tyson was a lunatic for the most part, and people loved him for it.
Alvarez already has fans. Now he just needs to let them into his world a bit more than he has already.
People like to watch Alvarez fight. But if he lets them get to know him, they might darn well love him soon enough.