Stunned boxer Canelo Alvarez faces tough questions after first loss in nearly a decade
Mexico’s Canelo Alvarez, left, throws a punch in his loss to Kyrgyzstan’s Dmitry Bivol in a light heavyweight title fight in Las Vegas.
Canelo Alvarez paused on his way to the ring to pose with his right fist aloft, enjoying the adulation of thousands of his frenzied fans expecting nothing more on this Cinco de Mayo weekend than another big win from a fighter already considered one of the greatest Mexican names of all time.
He left 12 rounds later with his first loss in nine years, seemingly as stunned by the unexpected result as the sold-out crowd that came to watch.
BOXING IN MATCH
Mexico’s Canelo Alvarez was ranked the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world – until he moved up to light heavyweight and lost.
Dmitry Bivol didn’t just beat Alvarez on Saturday night (Sunday New Zealand time) at the T-Mobile Arena on the sparkling Strip. He gave him a beating in a light heavyweight fight that wasn’t nearly as close as the identical 115-113 cards handed out by the three ringside judges.
And now the questions begin. Did Alvarez take too big a risk by going all the way up to 175 pounds to face a tough champion in Bivol? Did the loss to the Russian damage the legacy that Alvarez has built over the past decade as well as his status as the best pound for pound fighter in the world?
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And, perhaps more importantly, what happens to his third fight with Gennadiy Golovkin, a long-awaited mega fight that surely won’t happen in September as planned, if at all?
No, one bad night can’t ruin Alvarez’s career. He has accomplished far too much for that.
But after perhaps his worst outing as a pro, there’s work to be done before he’s spoken of in such high terms again.
“It’s to be expected. It’s boxing. No excuses,” said Alvarez, who had not lost in 16 fights since dropping a 2013 decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr. “I lost today and he won. He is a very good fighter. »
Bivol was more than that that night. He was a bigger, more skilled fighter who did what Alvarez usually does to his opponents – impose his will on the man in front of him.
A 5-1 underdog despite being an undefeated champion, Bivol consistently beat Alvarez to the punch and wasn’t afraid to trade with him. He was credited with landing 152 punches to just 85 for Alvarez, and landed it in every round.
Fighting at 175 pounds always seemed like overkill for Alvarez, who beat Sergey Kovalev in his only other fight at lightweight. Fighting an undefeated 175-pound champion turned out to be a bridge too far.
“We talked at the start of this fight about how good Dmitry Bivol was, how difficult this fight was, and the perfect performance,” said Eddie Hearn, who promotes Alvarez. “He had to box exactly like he did to win the fight. Did Canelo look a bit flat? Did he look tired? I think it was the genius of Dmitry Bivol.
Alvarez admitted the week before the fight that he was taking a big chance against Bivol but wanted fights that challenged him. Aware of his heritage – particularly in Mexico – he was confident he could wear down Bivol in the fight, just as he did before knocking out Kovalev in the 11th round of their 2019 fight.
But Kovalev was an aging fighter who was on the decline in his career. Bivol, on the other hand, was undefeated and had never been in the kind of ring warfare that exhausts fighters.
Instead, it was Alvarez who was tagged and looked the worst for the wear and tear when the bell rang to end the final round. Alvarez said afterwards that he thought he had done enough to win the fight, but the only real question for those watching in the arena and pay-per-view was how much the judges might be swayed by reputation. d’Alvarez and the screams of his supporters every moment he landed a punch.
The judges understood, but barely. Perhaps intimidated by the crowd, they scored the first four rounds for Alvarez even as Bivol continued to land more punches. Oddly enough, all three had the same score, something unheard of in any fight, let alone a big championship fight.
And if all three hadn’t given Bivol the final three rounds, Alvarez would have escaped to fight another night with his huge fight scheduled for September with Golovkin still intact.
“Sorry for breaking your plans with Gennadiy Golovkin,” Bivol said.
Now there will be new plans, including a possible rematch that Alvarez was talking about before he even left the ring.
Yes, he lost. But even in a bad defeat, there is always a way forward.
“It doesn’t end like this,” Alvarez said.