We already knew he wasn’t perfect.
Now we know he’s not infallible either.
Canelo Alvarez’s first blemish came nearly nine years ago and is pardoned these days as too much, too soon for a 22-year-old kid. The second came Saturday, in the form of a big, talented, and determined light heavyweight who outboxed and outworked him.
It was jarring given his pristine win percentage since 2013.
But it’s just as easily forgiven given that a guy who’d debuted at 140 pounds was fighting one who’d never weighed less than 173.
Call it the price of greatness.
Or the price of pursuing greatness. Again.
Alvarez has spent the last few years as a throwback, prioritizing the acquisition of new turf over simply securing his own. He defeated three claimants at 168 pounds, another at 175, and said a win over Dmitry Bivol would be the first step in another quest for undisputed status.
But even the too-close scores in his Russian foe’s favor – it was 117-111 to these eyes, by the way – point loudly in another direction.
It’s time to address old business before discussing new.
The doubleheader with Gennady Golovkin made Alvarez a reliable pay-per-view star and yielded the prodigious run in which he conquered myriad champions and weights.
The record book says he’s 1-0-1 against Triple G, taking a majority decision and the boogeyman’s jewelry in 2018 after fighting him to a split draw a year earlier.
But it’s not hard to find folks who’d say he’s on the short end of 0-2.
It has been that close.
Five of six scorecards have been either 6-6 or 7-5 – save for Adelaide Byrd’s 10-2 joke in the first fight – and neither man has had a convincing upper hand for a significant stretch of time.
They’ve thrown more than 2,700 punches and landed more than 800, with Alvarez holding a 32.9 percent to 28.6 edge across 72 minutes.
It’s the stuff that makes all-time rivalries, well… all-time rivalries.
And Saturday’s decision means it shouldn’t be finished.
Concede publicly or not, it’s certain that a guy like Alvarez knows the loss wasn’t the product of faulty judging or poor timing. It was a good big man employing a style that will consistently beat the good little man whether they get together in Las Vegas, Mexico, or Moscow.
Alvarez hit Caleb Plant, Billy Joe Saunders, and Sergey Kovalev and they moved.
The Russian not only stayed put, he punched him back.
The 152-84 margin in landed shots will repeat itself with a more confident and better prepared Bivol, which makes the rematch clause about as professionally moot a point as it can be.
Instead, Canelo and Triple-G can go about guaranteeing that they’ll be prominently mentioned on each other’s Hall of Fame plaques.
Ali and Frazier laid the foundation for their legends over 41 rounds from 1971 and 1975, while Leonard and Duran did the same 1980 to 1989. The tales of Gatti and Ward are defined by their apocalyptic fights in 2002 and 2003, and Pacquiao and Marquez took it a step further between 2004 and 2012.
It’s impossible to think of one man without conjuring the other.
Of course, Golovkin is miffed with that notion.
“I don’t think that my rivalry with Canelo Alvarez is the only thing that characterizes my career,” he said. “Just to point out a few things: I am the record-holder for the number of defenses—21 defenses. I have the biggest number of knockouts. And I think there are people who will remember me by that.
“There are people to whom it would matter more.”
A lot? Sure.
But more? That’s ridiculous.
Though his biggest wins were consistently menacing and occasionally compelling, none drew nor deserved the attention of the Alvarez fights. And unless he’s a clear winner in Act III, he’ll be the same sort of second banana that Frazier is to Ali after three fights and Hearns is to Leonard after two.
They were spectacular, but their rivals have eternal victory on perception scorecards.
Is it unfair for a Hall-worthy competitor like Golovkin? Absolutely.
But when it comes to rivalries, it’s pretty simple.
Winning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO junior middleweight/super welterweight titles – Carson, California
Jermell Charlo (IBF/WBA/WBC champ/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Brian Carlos Castano (WBO champ/No. 2 IWBR)
Charlo (34-1-1, 18 KO): Third WBC title defense; KOs in five of six title-fight wins (6-1-1, 5 KO)
Castano (17-0-2, 12 KO): Second WBO title defense; Ninth fight in the United States (6-0-2, 3 KO)
Fitzbitz says: No disrespect intended to Castano, but this fight is about whether Charlo is as good as he’s been billed since winning his first belt in 2016. If he loses, he fades. He won’t. Charlo in 9 (90/10)
Last week’s picks: 0-1 (LOSS: Alvarez)
2022 picks record: 12-5 (70.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,221-397 (75.5 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body’s full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz