When the final bell rang Saturday night, mercifully ending the lopsided sparring session, Canelo Álvarez touched gloves with his vanquished foe, hugged him, and gave him a pep talk.
He had just dominated Jermell Charlo. Everyone at T-Mobile Arena knew the impending result. Even Charlo couldn’t argue the outcome. Álvarez was never threatened in the 12-round exhibition. He didn’t even bother sitting in his corner between rounds. He pummeled Charlo, a self-professed lion, into the cowardly one from the Wizard of Oz.
Moments later, ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. made it official: An unanimous decision victory for Álvarez, his third defense as the undisputed super middleweight champion. Two judges gave Charlo two rounds. The third gave him one. Even that was a stretch.
It was a bounce-back performance for Álvarez after three substandard performances, including one of his two career losses, spawned questions about an imminent decline.
“Nobody can beat this Canelo,” the 33-year-old red-bearded Mexican declared, in English, during his post-fight ring interview.
Charlo (33-2-1, 19 KOs) certainly couldn’t Saturday. Charlo, the undisputed super welterweight champion, jumped two weight classes to challenge Álvarez, the undisputed super middleweight champion, after a 16-month layoff extended by a broken left hand. It was billed as undisputed vs. undisputed. It ended up being an undisputed money grab.
The energy in the building was, as expected, on the heavily favored Álvarez’s side from the outset. He walked into the ring wearing a gold poncho with Mexican rapper Santa Fe Klan performing beside him. “CA-NE-LO” chants later erupted once the fighters emerged from their corners for the first round. By the end of the round, after a minute without a single punch thrown, it was obvious that Álvarez’s strength was a problem for Charlo.
Álvarez (59-2-2, 39 KOs) funneled Charlo into the ropes to unleash his combinations with power punches. Charlo finally let his hands go in the fifth round, but the bout’s trajectory didn’t change. Álvarez maintained control.
Two rounds later, Álvarez, with Charlo again on the ropes, delivered a clean overhand right hand that stunned his opponent. Álvarez then threw an uppercut before Charlo dropped to a knee. It was just the second time Charlo was knocked down in his 16-year professional career.
“That was my first time truthfully feeling a woozy shot,” Charlo, 33, said. “I’m usually the one giving them.”
Charlo managed to stay on his feet until the bell rang, but he needed a knockout in the final five rounds to produce the upset. He didn’t come close as Álvarez remained the aggressor to close out the bout. In the end, Charlo landed just 71 punches. Álvarez connected with 134, including 78 power punches.
“I think he never did something to win,” Álvarez said.
His next opponent figures to present more of a challenge. After the fight, Álvarez said he plans to take the ring again on Cinco de Mayo weekend. He was asked if that would be against David Benavidez, the WBC’s mandatory challenger.
“Whoever,” he said. “I don’t care.”
Another speculated potential matchup is Álvarez dropping weight to fight Terence Crawford, the sport’s consensus top-ranked pound-for-pound fighter. Crawford told reporters before the fight Saturday that he wanted to face the winner.
Crawford, the undisputed champion at welterweight (147 pounds), would probably need to jump two divisions to middleweight (160 pounds) for the first time to make it happen. Álvarez hasn’t fought as a middleweight since defeating Gennady Golovkin in Sept. 2018.
That meeting would give boxing its most hyped fight in years. Álvarez, however, shot down the possibility.
“If a fight makes sense, then why not?” Álvarez said. “But he’s not in the plan.”
Álvarez emphasized whoever he fights next will encounter the version on display Saturday, one he said was unleashed again after undergoing surgery to repair his left hand nearly a year ago. Charlo wasn’t ready for that version Saturday.
“This is Canelo,” Álvarez said. “I’m back. Finally, I’m back.”