Saul Alvarez started his 2014 campaign in March by recording a dominant, Round 10 TKO over Alfredo Angulo. Angulo is a rugged fighter, but he's also made-to-order for Alvarez. It was impressive work but not a major challenge for the popular red-headed star.
But the fight also proved Alvarez has the box-office appeal to carry a pay-per-view event as the "A-side" fighter.
For his next test, Alvarez went after the toughest fight he could find: Erislandy Lara. The Cuban is a skilled technician with outstanding movement, which is exactly the type of fighter Canelo has had trouble with.
In July Alvarez beat Lara by split decision, establishing himself as the clear No. 1 fighter behind Floyd Mayweather at 154 pounds. Personally, I had Lara by decision, but the fight was close enough to have gone either way.
Alvarez was the aggressor and stayed committed to his game plan of attacking the body, even after a frustrating first few rounds. Once again, he looked like a talented young fighter who is still improving.
Wins over fighters like Angulo and Lara would make Alvarez a front-runner for Fighter of the Year, if the year ended today. But Canelo will almost surely fight another big fight before the end of the year.