Canelo Alvarez's Next Fight: Breaking Down Top Opponents

Lyle FitzsimmonsFeatured ColumnistJuly 13, 2014

Canelo Alvarez's Next Fight: Breaking Down Top Opponents

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Saul "Canelo" Alvarez cemented his return to the A-side of boxing's star spectrum on Saturday night in Las Vegas, topping rival Erislandy Lara by split decision in a pay-per-view main event at the MGM Grand.

    And while Lara predictably disagreed with the result, claiming to Showtime's Jim Gray that he "100 percent" thought he'd won the fight, the win will likely do nothing but raise the profile of the reigning Mexican heartthrob who had already proved his PPV chops alongside Floyd Mayweather Jr. last September.

    Alvarez is 44-1-1 in a career that stretches back to when he was a 15-year-old fighting for 100 pesos per round (as he said in an All-Access episode before the fight), and he seems poised to either continue to rack up big-name or championship-level opponents at 154 pounds or head up one ladder rung to fight at middleweight.

    What's not likely in his near future is a rematch with Lara, whom he dismissed as a wannabe marathoner during his own post-fight interview with Gray, claiming he'd meet Lara again "when he learns how to fight. That's when I'll give him a rematch."

    Given that reality, we took a look at other options and put together a list of the five most likely to be alongside him when he returns to the ring later this year.

    Take a look, and as always, hit us up with your opinions in the comments.

5. Marcos Maidana

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    USA TODAY Sports

    OK, while there's no doubt it's logically and logistically unlikely, no less an authority than Bleacher Report Lead Writer Jonathan Snowden suggests that a match between Alvarez and deposed WBA welterweight king Marcos Maidana is indeed possible by the end of the year.

    And if it's good enough for him, well, it's good enough for me.

    Should Maidana drop a second consecutive bout to Floyd Mayweather Jr. when they meet again in September, he may be the ideal pay-per-view co-anchor for Alvarez as the warm-up for the Mexican heartthrob's anticipated challenge of another high-end titleholder (see countdown position No. 1) next spring.

    The Argentine, in fact, volunteered to meet Alvarez nearly two years ago after a planned match between Alvarez and Victor Ortiz was sidetracked by Josesito Lopez. Instead, Lopez went ahead and took Ortiz's place and was beaten into a five-round pulp in September 2012.

    Ironically, Maidana got Lopez nine months later and beat him in six rounds.

4. Carlos Molina

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    Because Alvarez lost his share of the 154-pound world championship in the Floyd Mayweather Jr. defeat and the Erislandy Lara fight Saturday night had no titles on the line, a priority for Golden Boy Promotions may be to get its top draw back into the belted class.

    Toward that end, IBF junior middleweight champion Carlos Molina is a convenient in-house target, though he'd hardly be a soft touch. Molina won his title on the Mayweather-Alvarez undercard last September and has been in limbo thanks to legal issues ever since.

    He actually may have been an early favorite to get the fight on Saturday night, according to BoxingNews24.com, because the initial reaction to Lara's initial challenge was lukewarm.

    Should Molina follow through and win his mandatory challenge against Cornelius Bundrage, Alvarez would certainly present a giant opportunity for him to crack the mainstream while giving Alvarez another respected name—and championship strap—on his resume.

3. Peter Quillin

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    USA TODAY Sports

    If Alvarez has middleweight plans for next spring, why not take the first step toward them in the form of a legitimate middleweight who's already carrying some 160-pound hardware?

    WBO champion Peter Quillin is a man looking for a big fight after reigning in the shadows of former divisional leader Sergio Martinez and feared slugger Gennady Golovkin, so even a second-banana role against a pay-per-view star might be a welcome diversion.

    It would give Alvarez a chance to face a fighter who is not averse to a firefight—as Quillin showed in dethroning Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam with six knockdowns in October 2012—while letting him test the waters for a run at bigger-name quarry within the division.

    As for Quillin, he indicated confidence to BoxingScene.com's Ryan Burton by saying, "I would whoop Canelo's ass."

2. James Kirkland

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    If he indeed winds up in the ring with Canelo Alvarez later this year, it will be a victory for James Kirkland, who will have taken a circuitous route to get there.

    The fight was briefly scheduled for September 2012 after Kirkland had beaten Carlos Molina and Alvarez had taken down veteran Shane Mosley. But Kirkland, according to Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times, considered the condition of his balky right shoulder and Alvarez's drawing power and backed out of the fight:

    Alvarez is the biggest name in boxing now behind Mayweather and Pacquiao. They all knew what a huge fight like this would bring, so if it means I'm jeopardizing my career to take it, pay me what I'm worth.

    Alvarez filled the date with Josesito Lopez and added Austin Trout to his resume before losing to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September 2013. Kirkland has fought just one time since, savaging Glen Tapia in six rounds in December 2013.

    Golden Boy Promotions boss Oscar De La Hoya mentioned Kirkland by name to BoxingScene.com during the runup to the Erislandy Lara fight.

1. Miguel Cotto

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    Though Miguel Cotto's defeat of WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez was a stunner last month in Manhattan, it was also right according to blueprint for Team Alvarez.

    A match between the two had been on the radar for years, but Cotto's unlikely elevation to 160 and plucking of the most accomplished fruit makes the would-be match even more attractive because it could all of a sudden make Alvarez the top fighter in a second division.

    "Without a doubt, that's a huge fight with the fact that he's from Puerto Rico," Alvarez told RingTV.com. "That would be one for the history books for the boxing game alone."

    Should the fight happen and Alvarez actually beats Cotto, it would provide instant legitimacy for a second go-round with Floyd Mayweather Jr. that Showtime was initially denied because of the one-sided nature of the pay-per-view blockbuster last September. If Mayweather's current career schedule stays intact, a bid for a middleweight title would come in his finale in September 2015.

    And Showtime boxing executive Stephen Espinoza, speaking to CBSSports.com, had exactly that scenario in mind when he laid out Alvarez's future with the network in March.

    "In the long run, I think we may see a rematch if circumstances warrant," Espinoza said. "Stylistically, it may make sense to put them in the ring again, if there's a chance the result could change."