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Canelo Alvarez: How would he do against top 1980s fighters?

Canelo Alvarez

By Sean Jones: Canelo Alvarez is fortunate that he’s fighting in this era at 160 and 168 rather than the 1980s, which would have forced him to mix with incredibly talented opposition.

In this era, Canelo’s only real threat is Gennadiy Golovkin, who he didn’t fight until he 35. Canelo could have fought GGG when he was in his early 30s, but he didn’t get around to until he was 35.

Could Canelo compete with these 1980s fighters?

  • Julian Jackson
  • Gerald McClellan
  • Nigel Benn
  • Sugar Ray Leonard
  • Marvin Hagler
  • Roberto Duran
  • Iran Barkley

While you can argue that Canelo would likely steamroll over some of those fighters like Duran and Leonard, he would have MAJOR headaches the others. Taking the whole aging thing that we saw with Canelo choking not to fight GGG until he was in his mid-30s, how would he have done against those fighters if he were the same age?

In the late 1980s, McClellan, Benn, and Julian Jackson were all young and knocking everyone out. The difference between those guys and GGG, who has given Canelo FITS in two fights, is those guys never let up on their opponents. If you look at GGG, he never pressed Canelo with nonstop punches the way Jackson, Hagler, and McClellan did during their careers.

These guys were fearless, and they weren’t going to stand on the outside and throw jabs the way Golovkin has done. They would have gone after Canelo and forced him to fight for three minutes of every round for 12 rounds. During Hagler’s era, Canelo would have had to fight 15 rounds.

Canelo Alvarez

Would Canelo’s stamina hold up for a 15 round fight against a prime Hagler? I have my doubts. As it is, Canelo gasses during the championship rounds [9 through 12], and that’s why he arguably should have lost both fights against Golovkin.

Canelo lacks the gas tank needed for him to fight 12 round fights. What would have happened to Canelo in a 15 round fight against Hagler?

How does Canelo stack up against the 1980s fighters?

“Its been 35 years since one of the most action-packed fights in middleweight history Marvin Hagler’s knockout win over Thomas Hearns. A fight highlighted by an insane first found that ranks as one of the most exciting rounds in boxing history,” said Chris Mannix to DAZN.

“The Hagler-Hearns, Leonard-Duran era was a golden era in boxing. The middleweight kingpin in boxing now is Canelo Alvarez. How do you think Canelo would have faired in that area?”

“I think he would have fared perfectly. He has unique features and a unique look and style,” said Sergio Mora of Canelo. “He has the granite chin, he has the power, he has the speed, he knocks out opponents, and he’s willing to face the best. That’s the era and one of the best decades in history [1980s].

“So, I think he [Canelo] would have failed perfectly against those names. Can you imagine Canelo-Hagler, Canelo-Hearns, Leonard, or any of these great fighters? Duran.

“I would have loved to have seen it, but unfortunately, we can’t; unless you’re going to play video games or something or make it a computerized game like they did with Rocky. Other than that, we have no luck.”

Canelo would have had fits against Hagler, and he would have struggled against Leonard and Hearns.

Hearns and Hagler would be BIG threats to Canelo

“I think the older boxing fans say, ‘Canelo wouldn’t have a chance. Those guys were hardened by the number of tough fights they took,” said Mannix. “I’m kind of with you. I think he [Canelo] would have done pretty well. I don’t think he beats everyone from that generation, but he’s competitive with them all.

“And I think Tommy Hearns would have had a lot of problems with Canelo Alvarez. Yes, Hearns at 6-foot would have presented some size problems. But Hearns at middleweight never had the type of power that he had at welterweight or junior middleweight. So at that weight class [160], I don’t think he would have physically overwhelmed Canelo.

“I think Canelo would have had a TON of issues with Marvin Hagler. And I think if Hagler took the fight to Canelo like he did with most of his opponents, we’re talking about a big sturdy middleweight with a granite chin that keeps coming at you and proves that he can keep coming at you for 12 to 15 rounds at a time.

“I think Canelo would have been a big favorite over Hearns. With Hagler, it would have been more difficult. With Sugar Ray Leonard, we love Ray Leonard here on DAZN, but would Leonard have been strong enough to handle the type of power that Canelo would be throwing at him, and the type speed that Canelo has in that weight class? That would have been a tough fight for Ray too.”

Duran wouldn’t have been a problem for Canelo because he was a pumped-up lightweight who didn’t belong at 160.

Marvin Hagler’s work rate would have troubled Canelo

“Of course, you’re going to bring up Hagler being the toughest opponent for Canelo because you’re from Boston, Massachusetts,” said Mora.

“Hagler [5’9 1/2″] was the same size or a little bit shorter than [5’8″] Canelo,” said Mora in revealing that he doesn’t know much about Hagler’s height in comparison the considerably shorter Canelo.

“They’re similar in stature, and so was [Robero] Duran [5’7″]. The 6’2” Tommy Hearns with that wingspan and reach, that would have given Canelo his toughest challenge, Floyd Mayweather or any welterweight in any era.

“What Leonard did to Tommy Hearns, that was incredible. What Hagler did to Tommy Hearns, that was incredible, but styles make fights.

“Let’s not forget Wilfredo Benitez. He gets lost in the mix. He would have been a beast to compete with as well. There are so many great fighters in the 1980s that we’re not even mentioning here because these four kings [Leonard, Duran, Hagler, and Hearns].

“Tommy Hearns would have given anybody in any era problems, including Floyd Mayweather. Can you imagine Tommy Hearns and Floyd Mayweather?

I would have liked to have seen how well Canelo would have dealt with the constant pressure that the steel-chinned Hagler would have put on Canelo. It’s doubtful that Canelo would have lasted more than six rounds with Hagler forcing him to fight hard for the full three minutes of each round.

Could Canelo have withstood Hearns’ power?

“Not at welterweight,” said Mannix in talking about Hearns fighting Mayweather at 147. “Tommy Hearns was a wrecking ball at welterweight. That was his dominant weight class. All I’m saying in the context with Canelo is Tommy Hearns at 160, 168, and even the fight he had at 175, he just wasn’t the same type of power puncher.

“For a long time, Tommy Hearns’ career wasn’t defined by the number of wins that he had, but was defined by the losses he had to Sugar Ray and Marvin Hagler. Whenever he stepped up to that level of competition, he wasn’t able to win. He had some quality wins later in his career.

“He had that draw with Sugar Ray in 1989. But Hearns at middleweight, despite that size advantage, I can see Canelo getting on the inside. I can see Canelo’s speed being a problem for him.

“Canelo has a good enough chin to take some of those power shots from a puncher, who’s not as big a puncher at that weight class. I think Canelo wouldn’t comfortably beat Hearns, but I think he’d be a favorite against Tommy Hearns,” said Mannix.

Contrary to what these guys are saying, Hearns, COULD punch at 160. He wasn’t just dangerous at 147. He was lethal at 160 as well. If he landed one of his right hands on the chin of Canelo, there’s no question he could knock him out.

Kovalev had success against Canelo

“Look at what Kovalev did with Canelo for nine rounds with a somewhat lazy jab,” said Mora. “It was a soft jab, and he was keeping him at bay, and getting rounds in the bank with that soft jab.

“Can you imagine that lazy sniper jab of Tommy Hearns at 147, 154 or even 160, coming at you from that stance and not letting you [land]? Another thing, Tommy Hearns was an excellent boxer and excellent body puncher.

“That gets thrown out of the mix because he was so good with the one-twos. He would actually hurt Canelo to the body and out-box him, and that would have been the toughest fight, in my opinion. But we’ll never know unless they virtually put it together in some computer game.”

Canelo had significant problems with the boxing ability of the shot to pieces 36-year-old Kovalev during their fight last November. Yeah, Canelo eventually knocked out the old warrior in the 10th round, but only because Kovalev gassed out. What Kovalev did in that fight was he showed the blueprint in how to beat Canelo by boxing him.

There are more talented guys at 175 that would have steamrolled Canelo with brute strength like Artur Beterbiev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk. Canelo chose not to fight them. You can understand why.

Guys like Beterbiev and Gvozdyk would have seen Canelo as food and would have likely ran right over him like he was a small speed bump in the road. There would be no hesitation with Beterbiev and Gvodyk in fighting Canelo. They wouldn’t respect his power, and they wouldn’t make the same mistakes Golovkin did by challenging him on the outside.

Fighters that jab are tough for Canelo

“I need you to go back and rewatch Canelo vs. Kovalev because this is now the fifth time that you’ve suggested that Kovalev was winning that fight, and giving Canelo problems in that fight,” said Mannix. “You are the only one that believes that.

“You were sitting ringside with me when Kovalev was flicking that jab, and Canelo was blocking it. The CompuBox stats back that up. He [Kovalev] wasn’t landing that jab. Why do you keep insisting that Kovalev was effective against Canelo?”

“It’s not that he wasn’t effective, it’s that Canelo wasn’t effective himself,” said Mora on Kovalev. “He [Kovalev] kept him at bay with that jab. The jab that wasn’t landing effectively, but it was keeping him at bay. So if you look at who’s following the game plan more?”

Canelo still has no answers for fighters that have long reach and use their jabs. But that’s not how the 1980s fighters would have fought him. McClellan, Jackson, Benn, Hagler, and Hearns would have been all over Canelo.

Disciplined fighters give Alvarez problems

“It’s Kovalev behind the jab, not committing to the power, not fighting him on the inside, and moving around the ring,” continued Mora. “That’s ring generalship. That’s following the strategy that [trainer] Buddy McGirt put together. Don’t exchange with Canelo.

“Don’t exchange that two-one-two that he was knocking out other fighters with. And don’t come into the power. Fight with discipline. That’s what he [Kovalev] was doing, and he was doing great in my opinion. You can’t say he was winning rounds, but Canelo wasn’t either.”

“Well, yes, he was because he was up on the judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage in the 11th round, but that’s neither here nor there,” said Mannix about being up on TWO of the judge’s scorecards against Kovalev in their fight in LAS VEGAS.

Canelo has problems against fighters that make him work harder than his cardiovascular system allows, and he also struggles against boxers. However, Canelo has gotten away with being out-boxed by Erislandy Lara and GGG due to the questionable scoring by judges that worked those fights.


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