How Canelo Alvarez’s lone defeat put him on a rocket to greatness

LAS VEGAS — If this wasn’t the low point of his career, the moment he learned how much he didn’t know, Canelo Alvarez might not be the same boxer he’s become since his loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2013.

Alvarez turned 23 on September 14, 2013, an undefeated champion brimming with confidence. He spoke almost no English at that time, but he didn’t need to say a word to express himself. His body language said it all. He was a super talented, impeccably trained young man who knew he was going to win.

For months while touring the country, he had heard from others about Mayweather’s greatness, Mayweather’s sublime defensive skills, and his ability to knock a fighter out of his game plan completely. Alvarez just sneered and nodded when he heard those words as if to say, “Wait. You’ll see.”

The first bell rang and Mayweather took Alvarez to school. Mayweather knew subtle tricks that only the super elite know and understand how to put into practice. Alvarez’s eyes opened. Mayweather knew things he hadn’t been exposed to before, and he exploited all of Alvarez’s weaknesses and took advantage of every mistake he made.

It was a humbling moment for Alvarez, but in a substantial way it made him who he is today. Alvarez took the loss to heart and worked to ensure it never happened again. He worked diligently on the flaws in his game that Mayweather exposed.

And over time, he transformed from an ultra-talented force of nature into an ultra-talented force of nature who just happened to be smarter than everyone else.

“At that time, Canelo was young and he was already a great fighter, but he didn’t know exactly what it took to beat these real superstars,” said Sergio Mora, former world champion and broadcast analyst for DAZN, which will air Alvarez’s Saturday fight at T-Mobile Arena against Dmitry Bivol for the WBA light heavyweight title.

“He had that experience against Mayweather and he learned from it. There has been a lot gained. He had all that talent, but he gained an incredible amount of knowledge from that fight.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. held a defensive clinic against Canelo Alvarez on September 14, 2013 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Golden Boy/Golden Boy via Getty Images)

Eddy Reynoso, Alvarez’s highly regarded trainer, told Yahoo Sports when the Bivol fight was first announced that Alvarez had an insatiable desire to learn. Alvarez has tremendous pride and a deep desire to be the best at everything he does.

Mayweather would often say, “Skills pay the bills,” but it was more than just skill that led him to a 50-0 career and a place in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. It was knowing how to use those skills, and which ones to use at any given time, that made him so great.

Since his only loss, that’s also what Alvarez has done. He made the loss work for him and turned it into a positive.

He’s still young and won’t be 32 until July. In the nearly nine years since he fought Mayweather, Alvarez has added layers to his game. He’s spent time in the gym, so there’s nothing now that he hasn’t seen. or that he does not know how to do.

When he takes on Bivol, he’ll give up a lot of height, but that’s okay. He’s been here before.

“Saul, he loves boxing and he loves learning this sport more and more every day,” Reynoso said.

This led him to become the elite fighter of his generation. No one in this era has fought more top fighters than Alvarez. No one has fought more champions. No one has faced more undefeated fighters.

Going back to the beginning of his career, he fought 13 undefeated boxers. Bivol, who is 19-0, will be the third in a row. Caleb Plant (21-0) and Billy Joe Saunders (30-0) were his two previous opponents.

Alvarez was successful against these great fighters, who all had different styles and were built differently, using the knowledge he learned in the ring to improve.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 06: Canelo Alvarez (R) hits Caleb Plant during their championship fight for Alvarez's WBC, WBO and WBA super middleweight title and Plant's IBF super middleweight title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on November 06, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Canelo Alvarez overwhelmed Caleb Plant for 11 rounds until finishing him by TKO to achieve undisputed super middleweight status on November 6, 2021 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Ask him if he would like to fight a great fighter he has yet to meet, be it Unified Welterweight Champion Errol Spence Jr., Unified Light Heavyweight Champion Artur Beterbiev or Unified Heavyweight Champion heavy Oleksandr Usyk, Alvarez shrugs and says, “Why not? ”

He needs a challenge and he motivates himself by choosing the best opponents he can find.

He loves sport, he loves competition and he loves the satisfaction he gets from winning.

Whether it’s fighting Gennadiy Golovkin for a third time after going 1-0-1 in two fights against him or calling out Usyk, Alvarez is ready to take on anyone in a bid to prove he is. the best.

He would probably still be the best if he hadn’t faced Mayweather, but it certainly wouldn’t have been such a linear rise to the top as it has been. Alvarez has gone 15-0-1 since losing to Mayweather and won belts at 154, 160, 168 and 175.

He’s now the pound-for-pound king and has an ambitious schedule if he wins on Saturday, with fights against Golovkin and winner Beterbiev-Joe Smith Jr. on the line.

He will face all comers, even if his team thinks he is making a mistake. Daring to be great requires rare courage. Alvarez has it in abundance.

He has the lessons he learned from his single career loss to thank for putting him on the rocket ship to the greatness he is now. And if that means moving up to heavyweight, well, as he likes to say, “Why not?”