Canelo Álvarez has always been up for a challenge throughout his career. By the time he took on Floyd Mayweather in 2013, he had 43 fights under his belt at just 23-years-old. He has won titles at light middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight. On Saturday, Álvarez will fight Dimitri Bivol for another light-heavyweight belt. At 31 years old, with 61 total fights, Álvarez is running out of opponents to defeat and hooks for all of his championship belts. This happened to another fighter nearly 20 years ago named Roy Jones Jr.
By the time Roy Jones turned 34, there wasn’t much left to accomplish after laying waste to the middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. He decided to level up and go for a slice of one of the most storied championships in sports, the Heavyweight Championship. In 2003 he took on John Ruiz for the WBA title, and Jones put on arguably the best performance of his career with a unanimous decision.
The much smaller fighter stalked Ruiz around the ring and viciously pounded him with combinations, and counter punches. If Ruiz was slightly smaller, Jones would have knocked him out. He had won four of his last five fights by stoppage. Jones was an excellent fighter and a showman in his day, but do not forget he was absolutely a power puncher.
Following the Ruiz fight, Jones’ career began to go in the wrong direction. He won a majority decision against Anonio Tarver, before losing his next three bouts. One of those was Tarver knocking Jones down with his eyes closed. He lost to Tarver twice and between those he was annihilated by Glen Taylor in a return to the heavyweight division. That was it for Jones. He would go on to fight many more times, and also won a cruiserweight championship, but he would never again be the unstoppable force that he was against Ruiz.
Álvarez said he is open to the idea of fighting Oleksandr Usyk for his heavyweight championship, via ESPN. Usyk has a rematch with Anthony Joshua after upsetting him in a championship fight last year. Usyk is just over 200 pounds and was the cruiserweight champion when he beat Joshua. Not only did he win, but he outclassed his more famous and larger opponent for the overwhelming majority of the fight.
If Usyk defeats Joshua in their July rematch, a fight for his heavyweight titles would be the biggest fight of this year or in 2023 year, and it’s Álvarez’s best shot at a blockbuster fight outside of a third showdown with Gennady Golovkin — who would be over 40 years old. It would certainly be another huge payday, but Álvarez does need to be careful moving up and down weight classes.
Jones was older than Álvarez is now when his career took a nosedive — 34 vs. 31 — but it also happened when he went back to light heavyweight after putting on the weight for a heavyweight fight. It’s hard enough to train for a top-level opponent. Putting weight on and taking weight off are activities that are physically demanding enough by themselves.
Álvarez and Usyk would be fun to watch. With Usyk not being a giant like Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury, Álvarez has a better chance of being to take the punishment that he would receive. These are also two of the 10 best pound-for-pound boxers in the world. If Álvarez beats Usyk, forget being the best pound-for-pound fighter, he might actually become the best fighter in the world.
It would be a heavily promoted matchup, and certainly Álvarez’s toughest challenge as a professional. The skill and speed that separates Álvarez from almost any fighter that he does battle with in the ring would only take him so far. Usyk is also an extremely skilled fighter who absolutely confused Josha during their fall 2021 bout, but he’s also 200-plus pounds and is able to defeat cruiserweights by stoppage.
There would be a catchweight at 201, one pound over the cruiserweight limit, but Álvarez started boxing at 139 pounds. He’s come a long way, but even if he were to defeat Usyk, what’s next? Álvarez can’t stay at heavyweight and defend that title. The only option is to negotiate a deal to unify the titles against Fury. As big of a fight as that would be, Fury is 6-foot-9, 265 pounds and only a few years older than Álvarez. He could fit the 5-foot-7 Álvarez into his shorts.
Either way, if he chose not to defend it or lost, he would have to lose all that weight to get back to light heavyweight, and by then who knows how good he’ll still be. And it could be the perfect storm leading to a Roy Jones. Jr.-like end to the glory days of his career
While I appreciate Álvarez’s willingness to take on all challengers, and would love to see him fight Usyk, I also want his career to last as long as possible. So while it’s an intriguing matchup, Álvarez is better off waiting for GGG. The longer he preserves his dominance the more paychecks he’ll be in line for in the future.
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