On Saturday vs. Daniel Jacobs, Canelo Alvarez expects to be at his best, a blend of thudding power and blurring hand speed. But how much longer should we expect boxing's biggest star to be in his physical prime?
LAS VEGAS — In the most recent episode of 40 Days—the DAZN-produced docuseries hyping Saturday’s middleweight unification fight between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs—there is footage of Alvarez inside a ring, red-streaked gloves on his hands, a white tee shirt on his back … and a powder blue sleeve covering his left leg, preventative protection for a lingering knee issue.
Inside the Golden Boy Promotions Los Angeles-based office, Alvarez’s boxing mortality is a topic of conversation. For most of his career, Alvarez has demanded to face the best. He took on Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout at junior middleweight, when Golden Boy officials pleaded with him not to. He went 12 rounds with Floyd Mayweather. He went 24 with Gennady Golovkin. He has been active, with 54 professional fights, with the toughest ones coming in recent years.
At 28, Alvarez is in his physical prime.
For how long, though, is one of boxing’s biggest questions.
“We talk about it,” Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez told SI.com. “It’s why we took the Rocky Fielding fight. He can’t keep going like that, we understand that. But the kid is just so motivated. He really believes in his abilities and he really wants to make history.”
DAZN banked on that when it signed Alvarez last year to an 11-fight deal that could be worth as much as $365 million. Alvarez is the biggest, most bankable star in boxing with a burning desire to always face the best. It’s why he chose to face Jacobs, a twice-beaten middleweight titleholder who has established himself as one of the top fighters at 160 pounds.
“I believe Jacobs has a unique style because he's a very complete fighter,” Alvarez said. “He can box, punch; he's tall, agile. I fought all the styles out there, and I believe at my level with my experience, you put it all together, no matter what's in front of me, I can adapt and overcome.”
Make no mistake—Alvarez is at the top of his game. Last September, he outpointed Golovkin, and while the fight was close, it was far from an outrageous decision. The middleweight division is a strong one, and there are several significant, makeable fights out there—a unification fight with Demetrius Andrade and a third fight with Golovkin chief among them.
Alvarez wants to face all of them. Golden Boy does, too. The timeline may be where they differ.
If Alvarez beats Jacobs, DAZN wants to go straight into a Golovkin fight in September. Privately, Golden Boy officials have reservations about it. They are anticipating a tough fight with Jacobs (“With Jacobs, you don’t know what you are going to get,” Gomez said) and are keenly aware that Golovkin’s next fight—a shake-off-the-rust bout with unheralded middleweight Steve Rolls—likely won’t be.
“Canelo is very ambitious,” Golden Boy Promotions chairman Oscar De La Hoya told SI.com. “He wants to move up to 175 [pounds] at some point. He wants to challenge a champion at 175. I can see why he is ambitious like that. A lot of times we have to talk some sense into him and strategically get him the right fights.”
De La Hoya knows about a boxer’s mortality. He remembers where he was at 28. “But I was an old 28, because of my lifestyle,” De La Hoya said. He remembers training for his last fight, against Manny Pacquiao, when “my body and mind were just not aligned,” De La Hoya said. He remembers feeling, for the first time, that he could no longer be Oscar De La Hoya. Alvarez has been in tough fights, De La Hoya said, but he has not been in wars, the kind that changes fighters, that changed him.
“If he was getting beat up, then I would worry about it,” De La Hoya said. “But he’s not. Even in the gym, he knows how to move his head, he knows how to use his defense. I’m not worried. But when you are in these types of fights, you never know. One fight can make you feel old overnight.”
Indeed. Gomez says Alvarez’s knee issues concern him; he had a minor knee surgery last year, on his right knee. Alvarez doesn’t do much of the traditional roadwork, preferring swimming and other non-impact exercises for conditioning. In this camp, De La Hoya said, he has seen Alvarez looking light on his feet.
“I’ve watched him in the gym these last few weeks,” De La Hoya said. “He’s doing a lot of movement with his legs. He’s more elusive. He’s dancing around. I don’t see a problem. He has not expressed any situations where it has held him back. But you never know in this sport. All those aches and pains can catch up to you any fight. But so far, so good.”
On Saturday, Alvarez expects to be at his best, a blend of thudding power and blurring hand speed, a savage body puncher willing, if not eager, to stand and trade. At times, he will go toe-to-toe with Jacobs, who brings plenty of power of his own. It figures to be a fun fight, one everyone—from fans to media to Golden Boy to DAZN—hopes Alvarez has plenty more of left.