By Sean Jones: Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman says Canelo Alvarez had earned the right to avoid top fighters like David Benavidez, Demetrius Andrade, and Jermall Charlo.
One Time Thurman says Canelo is like a “King” of a country due to his accomplishments. So if he wants to “cherry-pick” opponents like Ilunga Makabu, Avni Yildirim, Caleb Plant, and Billy Joe Saunders, he CAN.
Alvarez can fight whoever he wants
Boxing fans have a hard time relating to what Canelo (57-1-2, 39 KOs) is doing in the sport because they don’t see other athletes doing that in the NFL or NBA.
You can’t just decide that you’re going to control the other team’s weight by having a rehydration clause in football or basketball to ‘game the system.’ In boxing, Canelo and other famous fighters can do stuff like that. Thankfully, teams can’t cherry-pick weaker teams in the NBA and NFL and swerve the talented ones to avoid getting beaten or worn down.
We see that kind of stuff all the time in boxing with famous fighters like Canelo able to pick & choose who he wants to fight.
If he chooses not to fight David Benavidez, Demetrius Andrade, Jermall Charlo, or Gennadiy Golovkin, that’s how it will be, and no league can force him to compete against them like there is in the NFL and NBA.
Canelo sparring heavyweights
“It probably has a lot to do with having [Andy] Ruiz in camp. It probably upped his confidence being in the ring and sparring bigger guys, sparring heavyweights,” said Keith Thurman to Fight Hub TV on Canelo, moving up to cruiserweight to take on Makabu.
“So in his mind, ‘if I can spar a heavyweight, I can fight a cruiserweight,'” Thurman continued. “That’s my perspective on why would Canelo step into this with confidence and how could a fighter make that kind of move with that much confidence.
“I think that would play a big factor because if you take a fighter like Ruiz out of his [Canelo] camp, where does the thought [of fighting Makabu] even come from?
“Who is putting those kinds of thoughts in his ear, right? Another thing we know is when you become an undisputed; you have to pay all the sanctioning bodies.
“People of his caliber and making his kind of money, we never like paying taxes. We don’t like being taxed three or four ways by the sanctioning bodies,” Thurman said.
What’s hard not to notice is how friendly Ilunga Makabu was with Canelo when the two met at the WBC’s convention.
When it was clear that Canelo was going to fight Makabu next, the WBC champion looked so grateful in a way that made this writer wonder whether he’s going to go all out during the fight.
If you saw the Canelo vs. Sergey Kovalev fight in 2019, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Kovalev looked like he was taking it easy on Canelo and not fighting with the same aggression he usually does.
Many boxing fans criticized the fight, wondering it was on the level because Kovalev fought in first gear. The only round where Kovalev appeared to turn it on briefly was in the eighth, and he had Canelo looking too small.
I wouldn’t call it actual sparring in what Canelo does with heavyweights like Frank Sanchez and Andy Ruiz Jr.
If you saw a clip of him sparring with Sanchez, it didn’t look like sparring. Sanchez was not loading up on Canelo like he would with a regular sparring partner.
Capturing a cruiserweight title won’t impress
“We know at a certain point in the sport, a fighter’s name can be above a belt,” said Thurman. “But for the common people who don’t know much about boxing, when they hear the word ‘champion,’ they understand the significance.
“They don’t have to understand and fully envelop what a world champion is in boxing. What the WBA, the IBF, they don’t need to understand those things. But when they hear the word ‘champion,’ it just rings.
“Canelo, he’s a little bit beyond that. He’s the Mexican king, he’s a very proud fighter, he’s accomplished so much, and he can do whatever he wants. This is what he wants to do, and that’s what he’s going to do.
“If he accomplishes it [capturing a title at cruiserweight], it’s just going to go on the resume of all his other great accolades throughout his career. So from that perspective, a lot of people are looking forward to seeing if he can make this happen.
“It’s similar to when Roy Jones Jr. became heavyweight [champion]. He’s Canelo. He has a huge following, and he’s brought tons of excitement. You can say he’s cherry-picked a little bit, but he’s learned from the best.
“He got beat by Floyd, and now he’s starting to make money like Floyd when he got that big contract. Are there greater challenges out there for Canelo Alvarez? Most definitely,” said Thurman.
Future generations of boxing fans will not pour over Canelo’s resume with a fine-tooth comb, looking at how many division titles he won. What impresses fans when remembering a retired fighter is the opposition they fought.
For example, when fans remember Muhammad Ali, they don’t know him for how many titles he won. They remember him for his great fights against Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Sonny Liston, and Ken Norton, among many others.
Fans don’t look at how many division titles a fighter from the past has won.
They don’t care about that junk. What fans do care about is the strength of a fighter’s schedule, and I hate to say it, Canelo hasn’t fought many great fighters in their prime.
Canelo recently became the undisputed champion at 168 was an empty accomplishment because the champions he beat were poor ones.
You can argue that the only two talented fighters in the super middleweight division besides Canelo are David Benavidez and David Morrell Jr, and conveniently, he didn’t fight either of them.
Canelo doesn’t have to fight the best
“Are there fights I would truly like to see? Most definitely,” said Thurman about Canelo not fighting the guy’s fans want to see him face. “Are there super talented individuals that might be able to give him problems? Definitely. Does he have to do any of those things? No, absolutely not.
“If he says it’s ‘No bueno,’ it’s ‘No bueno.’ If he says, ‘Muy bien,’ so be it. Whatever he wants to do and likes to do, and it makes him want to get out of bed and be excited, and it elevates himself and his career; that’s what he’s going to do.
“There might be a time and a place where he does not belong at cruiserweight. He needs to jump in and jump out of that. Do you know what I mean?
“So, hopefully, he jumps out and comes back and will challenge himself to some of those fights. [David] Benavidez, [Jermall] Charlo that are out there. Boo Boo [Demetrius Andrade] that we have not seen out of Canelo Alvarez.
“There are many different styles that he has yet to face that I believe are the most exciting fights in that division that could manifest, but just because of his status and his stardom, he gets to entertain the world the way he chooses fit.
“To a certain degree, you have to respect that because it’s not every day, and it takes a lot of hard work to get to that level.
“So when a fighter finally achieves that status and level and want to hold onto it and manipulate the industry a little bit,” said Thurman.
Indeed, Canelo doesn’t have to fight the best, and he’s NOT. That’s why you can’t say he’s great because he’s too busy cherry-picking the weakest link when picking out champions.
If boxing were run like other sports like the NFL, Canelo would have no choice but to compete against Benavidez, Beterbiev, Morrell Jr, Charlo, Golovkin, and Andrade.
If a team decided they only wanted to compete against 8-8 teams, they’d be kicked out of the league.
Canelo only competes against guys he chooses to; it means he doesn’t have to fight the best and can cherry-pick whoever he wants. Thurman might be okay with that kind of thing, but many fans have a big problem with that.
Makabu is still a champion
“To me, you can be mad, you can be sad, but then you got to put a dash of respect on the game too,” said Thurman about Canelo about to go up to cruiserweight.
“It’s still a champion. The guy got there some way, somehow. It’s the resume. It’s not every day that you see a fighter like Canelo. He fought Floyd at 152 because they did a catchweight. He didn’t want to fight at 54, so they fought at 52 or something?
“I think that might have been the lowest he ever had to step on a scale,” said Thurman about Canelo. “I’m talking televised. Early on in Mexico, he started young, and he was a smaller guy.
“But when we were familiarized with who Canelo Alvarez truly was, the redheaded, firey sensation, 52 to cruiser, that’s something to really watch. That’s something to put on his resume in the history books.
“He’s definitely going to be a Hall of Famer, and that’s the way I see it. He’s really just upping his accolades and saying, ‘I did this. Who else did it?’
“There have not been too many people throughout history. You know, there’s probably only a few names throughout history, less than five to do such things,” said Thurman about Canelo.
Yeah, Makabu is a champion at cruiserweight because he defeated Michal Cieslak in 2020. But suppose Makabu had to beat Mairis Briedis, Lawrence Okolie, Arsen Goulamirian, or Yuniel Dorticos to try and win his WBC title. In that case, he’d have lost, and he’d be a regular contender today.