Why Canelo Alvarez is (not) boxing pound-for-pound king


Add another title to Canelo Alvarez’s growing list.

Alvarez picked up another piece of the super middleweight belt past directs Callum Smith on December 19 to win the 168-pound WBA, WBC and The Ring titles. Alvarez had already established himself as boxing’s top cash cow. Now one can argue that he is the best boxer in both middleweight and super middleweight. But is he the best boxer in the world?

ESPN’s pound for pound ranking Terence “Bud” has Crawford at No. 1 and Alvarez at No. 2, but several other outlets have the Mexican four-division champion as boxing king. Each fighter won a victory in the final months of 2020 to strengthen his cause as the best in the sport.

ESPN analysts Cameron Wolfe and Ben Baby take opposite corners to say who really is the best in the world: Crawford or Alvarez.

Wolfe: Score one for Crawford here. Pound-for-pound lists are about the eye test and the results for me. None since Floyd Mayweather Jr. has consistently dominated, from lightweight to juniorweight to welterweight, as Crawford. He was the junior lightweight champion, the undisputed junior lightweight champion, and now he’s the bogeyman in the welterweight division.

Alvarez is one of the best fighters of this generation, but in his three biggest fights (Mayweather, Gennadiy Golovkin twice) he has a loss, a draw (which many considered a loss) and a gain. What sets Crawford apart is that no one is close to beating him. His speed, his defense, his intelligence, his ability to adapt, his power – he regularly makes his opponents look like nobles.

It’s almost five years since anyone has gone the distance with Crawford. Alvarez is boxing’s biggest money man, but Crawford is boxing king. But Ben, I know you’re itching to make your argument here. Why am I wrong?

Baby: To me, it’s not really much of a discussion. When you look at Alvarez’s history over the last 10 years, Canelo’s level of resistance is truly astounding. Starting from 2011, when Alvarez won his first major welterweight title, he has taken on some of the sport’s top names and shipped them relatively easily. The only exception is Mayweather, who was clever in fighting Canelo early in his career and at a catch weight that was a few pounds lighter than Alvarez’s usual range at the time.

Shane Mosley. Miguel Cotto. Erislandy Lara. Golovkin. It’s just a snippet of the names on Canelo’s belt.

On top of that, Canelo has become more impressive as he has moved throughout his career. He can go from masterful defense and resistance to a bullying attack, even against someone who posed matchup problems like Callum Smith.

For me, it’s the biggest separation factor between Alvarez and Crawford. Whether it’s Crawford’s fault or not, he just has not been able to secure opponents of the same caliber.

Wolfe: See, I can not argue with you here that Alvarez has a better opponent resume than Crawford, but I do not want to beat Crawford for the evil of boxing.

Crawford is the meanest and perhaps the scariest fighter in boxing. Why is the best fighter in the division punished because the others in the division do not fight him and use the argument “the other side of the street” as an excuse? How do we know that these supposed elite PBC warriors would not have the same fate in the ring as everyone else fighting Bud?

I prefer to look at what Bud has done rather than emphasize who he has not seen. I give Canelo credit for having evolved as a boxer, but I still have in my mind how Mayweather made him look ordinary in 12 rounds. And you could argue that he did not win either of his two matches with Golovkin. I also have problems with Canelo not conducting more drug tests for “spotted meat“There are too many questions on Canelo for me to lift him over Crawford, who is perhaps the cleanest and poorest man in boxing.

Baby: Failed drug tests should not be overlooked. It will always be a part of Canelo’s legacy, no matter how he feels about it. But I think Alvarez should get the credit for not having any problems other than the situation after the first Golovkin match. And as I said, the combination of his ring talents and the guys he has beaten is unparalleled in the sport.

That said, I know this is not enough for you. So since Alvarez is not your No. 1 pound-for-pound guy, who needs Canelo to beat so you can move him to the top of your rankings?

Wolfe: That’s a good question. The gap between Crawford and Alvarez, between No. 1 and No. 2, is closer to me than between Alvarez and Naoya Inoue at No. 2 and No. 3. If we assume that Crawford does not get another tent opponent, a convincing Alvarez is victory over Golovkin or WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo would be enough for me to move him up to No. 1.

What fights for Crawford would be enough for you to lift him to the top?

Baby: I know boxing has its policies, but if Crawford “crosses the street” and is willing to accept some opponents under the Premier Boxing Champions umbrella, it will really increase his stock. After the match between Errol Spence-Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter stumped openly against Crawford.

Crawford has the potential to be the box-for-pound king of boxing. And while the external forces in boxing exist, Crawford must also do everything in his power to ensure that he asks to fight all the best guys, not just the most profitable guys. Then he would get to the point where Canelo is at where he is able to choose his opposition and do more than anyone else to do so.

Alvarez is 30. Crawford is 33 and still humming. And if they continue on their current trajectory, the debate over the two will continue to rage for years to come.

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