Saul "Canelo" Alvarez once again turned in a masterful, dominant performance against an overmatched European challenger. With veteran savvy and patience, Canelo brutally dissected Ryan Rhodes over 12 rounds, stopping the Brit with just two minutes left in the fight on a series of unreturned blows. Ryan Rhodes is bigger than Matthew Hatton, a full-fledged junior-middleweight, yet Canelo again seemed physically overpowering.
One area where Rhodes couldn't best Hatton (Canelo's previous victim) was in effort. Rhodes seemed content to pace around seeking one-punch opportunities and was beaten to the punch at nearly every turn, with Canelo pouring on power-punch combinations at will. In each fight, Canelo seems more confident, more disciplined, less vulnerable and more economical. The sky is the limit with mega-fights approaching as soon as next year. So who will be Canelo's next test?
Bundrage, the IBF belt-holder at 154 lbs., and Powell, one of the top-ranked fighters in the division, face off next Saturday, June 25, on the undercard of Devon Alexander-Lucas Mathysse. Despite HBO showing three fights from the card, a heavyweight eliminator between Bermane Stivern and Ray Austin was inexplicably chosen in the third televised slot, leaving this potential gem off the air.
Powell and Bundrage met a few years ago in a SHOBOX classic that featured an incredible double knockdown that was apparently ruled as nothing. Seconds later, K-9 Bundrage, still a bit dazed, took a clean shot right in the mug ,and it was lights out, with Powell the winner by dramatic knockout just a half-minute into the first round.
The winner of this fight will be the IBF champion, and I actually lean toward Powell to once again be victorious and snatch the belt from Bundrage. If Canelo were to face the winner, it would be an opportunity to unite two belts against a fellow top-five ranked fighter in the division and could set up the potentially huge fight with Miguel Cotto in the spring to unify the division.
Zbik is an intriguing option because it would be a great contrast against a potential future rival in Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. In Zbik's match with JCCJ, he was the more active fighter and outboxed the much bigger Chavez for large stretches of the fight, in the end losing a hotly contested match on points. There have been far greater travesties in the sport, but Zbik had a solid claim to winning seven or eight rounds of that fight, but Chavez clearly had the home-court advantage and finished a lot stronger.
Nonetheless, Zbik showed himself a game fighter and seemed to have the frame, only coming in the ring five pounds over middleweight, to be able to cut to 154 if an Alvarez fight on HBO was an option. Canelo would have a lot to prove. Decisively beating or stopping a guy who Chavez Jr. barely eked past would really boost his claim to being the next great Mexican boxing superstar.
Dzinzurik would be another great test for Canelo and another chance to grab another belt, in this case, the WBO version. This fight also makes sense because it was rumored that Dzinzurik was guaranteed another fight on HBO this year after taking on Sergio Martinez. Dzinzurik is known for a tough jab and impenetrable defense, although Martinez certainly breezed through the formerly undefeated Dzinz with ease and flourish. If Canelo could somehow equal or better what Martinez was able to accomplish, it would further legitimize Canelo as one of the sport's best talents.
If Paul Williams comes back and looks like his old self against Lara on July 9, he would be a great challenge for Canelo Alvarez, and the styles would seem to make for a compelling clash. If somehow Lara can beat Williams and look good doing it, then he would throw his name into the mix for a big fight, although I think Canelo has better options.
But a contest of a fighter of Williams' stature would be a great chance for Canelo to shine if Williams shows he's 100 percent against Lara after the vicious KO to Sergio. He's an established name, a former top pound-for-pound guy and an elite talent with difficult physical tools, a very good lithmus test for just how good Canelo is right now.
Could Cintron-Alvarez be the fight to finally thaw the Top Rank-Golden Boy feud? If Cintron can return to his old form against Molina on July 9, he would be the best candidate to fight Canelo. This fight would anoint a clear No. 2 fighter at 154 lbs behind Miguel Cotto and set up a divisional unification opportunity for the winner in the spring.
It's Mexico vs. Puerto Rico. Up-and-comer vs. veteran with something to prove. Two of the best talents in the division not afraid to scrap. And Cintron would be by far the biggest test of Canelo's career, a huge opportunity for him to get some legitimate 10 best pound-for-pound fighter in the world recognition.
If Canelo can add a Cintron or Paul Williams to his list of vanquished foes and follow that up by beating Cotto next year (assuming Cotto can avenge against Margarito, which I'm betting he will), then Canelo will find himself in the mix for a true mega-fight and be mentioned as a legitimate opponent for the Mayweathers and Pacquiaos of the world.