Saul Alvarez: After KO of Alfonso Gomez, Is "Canelo" Ready for World Domination?
If you tune in to most discussions of "The Next Julio Cesar Chavez," it may be surprising to hear the Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (and not Chavez's own son) is the one most frequently compared to the Mexican legend. But Canelo has that potential.
The red-haired Junior Middleweight, widely expected to pull off a strong win tonight vs. Alfonso Gomez, is a very, very impressive fighter, especially for someone only 21 years old. He has already shown remarkable promise, and if he can master a bit of defensive strategy, some good head movement and an ability to punch from multiple angles a la Manny Pacquiao, then there is no limit to this prospect's potential.
But is he the top prospect in boxing? My analysis of who is most likely to rule boxing's next generation.
7. Timothy Bradley
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A 28-year-old from California, Bradley is ranked No. 6 Pound-for-Pound by Ring magazine, and has been on their pound-for-pound list for over a year now. While never seeming spectacular, he has found ways to win against quality opponents since stunning Junior Witter to win a world title.
He seemed a lot more primed for world domination a year ago before a snoozer of a fight between him and Devon Alexander (although Alexander can be mostly blamed for that one), and before it surfaced that he seems to be ducking Amir Khan.
Pros: Great winner's mentality—finds ways to pull out victories; excellent all-around fighter; has ability to prove naysayers wrong; among the fittest fighters in boxing—disciplined and mature
Cons: Hasn't shown much marketability, can get knocked down by opponents, prone to fan-unfriendly headbutting, needs to find a way to be more engaging to fans
6. Robert Helenius
I've been big on this guy for a while now, because let's face it, it's hard to ignore a 6'7" heavyweight with decent boxing talent and one-punch knockout power in both hands. Now that Tomasz Ademek and David Haye have lost to the Klitsckhos, Helenius is now the next great hope.
He still looks somewhat unpolished, and despite wins over three former world champions, it's clear he needs to improve his defense and his slow-starting tendencies, but Helenius also has the chance to have an automatically headline-worthy arrival within the span of one fight. Nobody else on this list can accomplish that much with a single fight that clearly appears within reach.
Pros: Heavyweight (no matter what people say) is still one of boxing's marquee divisions; perfect English (and German, and Finnish); very mature 27-year-old; excellent knockout power; heavyweights age better than other divisions
Cons: Still not an American heavyweight (which it might take to rejuvenate the division on this side of the pond); one loss to a Klitschko away from being an "also ran," would be an underdog against Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko
5. Amir Khan
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Thus far, he has proven more marketable than Bradley, though he still has some work to do before he becomes a marquee star. The British former Olympian is now Ring's No. 1 ranked light welterweight and has come close to cleaning out that division (at least until Bradley steps up).
Questions about his chin still remain, though, and he didn't look stunning against Marcos Maidana. Freddie Roach says Khan looks equal to Manny Pacquiao while sparring, but that doesn't always translate into in-ring greatness.
Pros: Marketable; strong native fanbase; blindingly fast hand speed and reach
Cons: Major questions about chin; can he scale up weight divisions and not suffer from their power; another weak-chinned performance and he could never regain his acclaim
4. Andre Ward
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With only 23 fights under his belt, undefeated American Andre Ward is already Ring magazine's ninth-ranked Pound for Pound fighter and is widely expected to win Showtime's Super Six Tournament final against Carl Froch next month.
The former Olympian, who possesses excellent discipline and boxing skills but has a lack of major KO power (he has only 13 KOs in 23 wins), would then likely be propelled into a superfight with Lucian Bute for Super Middleweight division supremacy.
Pros: Excellent microphone work, good back story, already proven himself against many top opponents, consistency, great boxing ability
Cons: Has shown good, but not great, drawing power; may lack ability to make really memorable fights, may stagnate in division after he clears it out
3. Yuriorkis Gamboa
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The former Cuban, who defected to the U.S. in 2007, has emerged as the king of the featherweight division after Juan Manuel "Juanma" Lopez was felled by Orlando Salido earlier this year.
Though he is 29 (he seems younger because he hasn't had many pro fights due to his former Cuban status), Gamboa still has several years to prove himself to be the next great boxing sensation. People definitely believe he has the tools.
Pros: Power and speed, learning English to improve marketability; at his best, can be one of the sport's most exciting fighters
Cons: Lighter weight division, inconsistent performances (he always wins, but he hasn't consolidated effective defense into his offensive firepower), hasn't shown world-class marketability yet
2. Saul Alvarez
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Mexico's Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, ranked No. 3 Light Middleweight by Ring Magazine, has several things working for him: a marketable persona, a recognizable appearance and most importantly, the ability to draw fans. He and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. have headlined the two most-viewed Boxing After Dark broadcasts in recent memory and show no signs of slowing down.
At 21 years of age, he is still very young for anyone to pin "future king of boxing" accolades onto yet, but he has a lot of the "X-factors" that we look for in young fighters. Canelo possesses a seemingly excellent chin, solid one-punch power and a level of composure comparable to few in the sport.
He has a strong boxing family, an excellent trainer and the already-obvious drawing power that many like Timothy Bradley struggle to attain.
Pros: Star power, boxing skill, punching power, strong chin
Cons: Needs to master defensive ability and ability to mix up angles, non-English speaker may cause problems with crossover marketability unless he starts picking up the language
1. Nonito Donaire
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After all the Ring magazine third-ranked Pound for Pound fighter has accomplished, it's hard to believe he's only 28 years old. Donaire has won world titles in three divisions, and has beaten top opponents like Vic Darchinyan (a major upset that landed him on the world stage), Fernando Montiel (former No. 7 Pound for Pound before Donaire beat him) and is expected to win an upcoming fight against tough Omar Narvaez.
It's hard to believe just a year ago that we were all concerned about his star power being wasted. Nonito has booked two consecutive amazing fights, and arguably another one just before his Montiel bout.
If you ask me, nobody—not Sergio Martinez, Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather—has been more dominant than Donaire recently, and he possesses the total package.
Pros: Already-proven world-class talent, De La Hoya-esque "good guy" personality, mature and disciplined, possesses speed, power, and ability. Excellent size (5'7") for the sub-120 lb divisions; frontrunner for pound-for-pound number 1 in two or three years
Cons: Hasn't fought upwards of 120 pounds yet, hard-to-market division; can he climb weights the way Pacquiao did? (If so, he has the best chance of beating Pacquiao's multiple-division titles record)