Saul ‘Canelo’ Álvarez, the unified super middleweight champion, thoroughly dominated Jermell Charlo on Saturday night, winning by unanimous decision and perhaps quieting some of the talk that he had begun to slip as a boxer.
Álvarez won by scores of 119-108, 118-109 and 118-109. Charlo, the unified junior middleweight champ, moved up two weight classes to take on Álvarez.
Even though Charlo (35-2-1) was the one moving up two weight classes, he is four inches taller than the 5ft 8in Álvarez and with a two-and-a-half-inch reach advantage. That didn’t matter.
There had been some recent talk that Álvarez (60-2-2) had slipped, but he looked like the Canelo of old in this fight.
“Nobody can beat this Canelo,” Álvarez said afterward in an in-ring interview given entirely in English. “I’m a strong fighter all the time. I’m a strong man.”
Entering this fight, he lost by unanimous decision to Dmitry Bivol in May 2022, won by unanimous decision a year ago over past-his-prime Gennady Golovkin and then easily beat John Ryder in May on the scorecards.
But now Álvarez, who is from Mexico, can look toward the future. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman has declared David Benavidez will be his mandatory challenger for the super middleweight belt.
But Álvarez has not committed to facing Benavidez, a 26-year-old who is 27-0 with all but four wins by knockout. If Álvarez turns down Benavidez, the WBC likely would vacate his championship.
Both fighters were cautious early, feeling each other out without taking any chances, but Álvarez then became the aggressor in the second round as Charlo repeatedly backed up. That continued in the third, though Charlo landed a few more punches.
Álvarez delivered even more power punches in the fourth round as the Houston resident continued to play defense, apparently hoping that Álvarez would provide him an opening. But Alvarez moved forward without any apparent concern that would happen.
Finally, in the fifth, Charlo delivered some shots than landed on Álvarez in what was easily his best round. Even so, Álvarez got his own shots in with about 10 seconds left that backed up Charlo.
Perhaps feeding off the end of that round, Álvarez went back to being in control in the six. He went after Charlo hard late in the round, landing several shots with him against the ropes and exciting the pro-Álvarez crowd.
Asked why he spent so much of tonight’s fight dedicated to the body attack, Álvarez says that was all in the plan.
“We worked for that,” he says. “We worked to go to the body. We know he’s a great fighter and he knows how to move in the ring. So we worked that in the gym for three months. For three months in the mountains without my family, without anything. But I still love boxing. I love boxing so fucking much! Boxing is my life. Boxing made me the person I am today.”
About minute into the seventh round, Álvarez sent Charlo to his right knee with a right hook and right uppercut. It was just the second time that Charlo had been knocked down in his career. Charlo got back up, but Álvarez was fully in charge.
He wasn’t as aggressive the rest of the fight, but didn’t need to be. Álvarez still landed his share of shots in a one-sided performance and insisted he was fine with not finishing the fight inside the distance.
“That’s why we fight 12 rounds right?” Álvarez said. “If we don’t get that knockout, I get 12 rounds to show I am the best! I’m the better fighter. That’s why there are 12 rounds, to show who’s better.”