Canelo vs. Charlo: Strategic Analysis

By Sal Arteaga: The King, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, sits on the throne as the undisputed super middleweight champion; challenging his reign is the undisputed junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo. This Saturday, September 30th, from the T-Mobile arena, both will clash in a duel where, for the first time, two undisputed champions meet in the ring. Can Charlo successfully scale two divisions and dethrone the King?

To do so, he must overcome Canelo’s punching power and extensive championship experience. For Charlo, this is a significant increase in competition, facing arguably one of the best in the sport. In his unification matches against Brian Castaño, he took significant punishment; he was outpunched and outlanded. Castaño landed more punches and connected on over 40 percent of his power punches in both matches (Compubox). If Charlo is as reckless and undefensive against Canelo, it will be a very short night for him.

Jermell is a hittable opponent; defensively, he is not impenetrable or difficult to hit. In the past, Canelo has had difficulties with boxers who are fast, elusive, and agile. Charlo does not possess those traits and will sustain extensive damage if he can’t find a way to evade or defend Canelo’s punches. He cannot be a stationary target or stay in the pocket for long; he’ll have to employ constant movement, in and out, avoiding exchanges like he had with Castaño. The big question will be, how will the 14-pound difference affect Charlo, and how well will he be able to absorb the punches from Canelo?

Canelo has proven to have a granite chin, never having been knocked down in his illustrious career. He’s survived clashes with two light heavyweights, Sergey Kovalev and Dmitry Bivol, and outfought the knockout artist Gennady Golovkin in their trilogy series. It doesn’t appear Canelo will be phased by Charlo’s punches in a way that he’ll want to avoid exchanges, but this may be true for the latter. Canelo will walk through Charlo’s punches and seek to impose his will, punishing him with every punch.

In terms of speed, neither fighter appears to hold a significant edge over the other; they’ll both be able to compete against one another in this respect. In terms of power and experience, Canelo leads this category. Both fighters are 33 years old, both are coming off recent surgeries, and both are undisputed champions. Charlo has been inactive for 16 months and Canelo for 4; which one will have ring rust? Canelo appears to have lost a step, but this version of Canelo should have the skills and ability necessary to defeat Charlo.