"A boxing superstar."
Those were the words Ryan Rhodes -- his face bruised, his body battered from 12 rounds of rib-busting combinations -- used in an interview with HBO to describe Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, who had just stopped the former European champion in the 12th round of their junior middleweight title fight on Saturday. It's high praise. At 34, Rhodes (45-5) is a boxing veteran. He's been around the ring long enough to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
"I watched his last fight and saw flaws, but he was bigger, stronger and faster than I expected," Rhodes told reporters afterward in Guadalajara, Mexico. "There was nothing else I could do. I couldn't keep him away."
That's the thing with Alvarez. There are flaws, sure. His defense is a little suspect and he tends to load up on his shots. But those weaknesses are extremely difficult to exploit when a 5-foot-9, 154-pound human jackhammer is coming at you, blasting away from all angles. Rhodes' face told part of the story -- he required eight stitches to close a gash on his right cheek -- but it was the merciless pounding to the midsection that he said eventually led to the final-round stoppage.
This was a significant win for Alvarez. He claimed his title in March by defeating Matthew Hatton and now adds a quality victory against Rhodes. He's 37-0 and proving that his blistering power isn't an aberration. Oscar De La Hoya, Alvarez's promoter and the man many hope the Mexican can replace as that super-talented-and-super-good-looking face of boxing, tweeted Saturday night, "I have to admit that at 20 years old I wasn't even thinking of doing the things Canelo can do in that ring."
So ... now what? Alvarez will be back in September, possibly on a Sept. 17 split-site pay-per-view broadcast that will include Floyd Mayweather's fight against Victor Ortiz. He says he wants a big fight. On paper, there are a few out there. Miguel Cotto is a 154-pound titleholder who is (very) tentatively scheduled to take on Antonio Margarito in December, the health of Margarito's Manny Pacquiao-smashed face permitting. Cotto is a big fight. So too is Sergiy Dzinziruk, another junior middleweight titleholder who made a lot of fans with his entertaining performance against Sergio Martinez in March.
Then there is the biggest fight: Martinez. Is it a little early to pit a 20-year-old phenom against one of the top-three fighters in the sport? Perhaps. Martinez is a brilliant tactician with cutting power who in the last year has chopped down Dzinziruk, Paul Williams and Kelly Pavlik. It stands to reason that the flaws Rhodes saw in Alvarez will be more easily exploited by Martinez.
Still, it's a compelling fight. Size isn't a significant hurdle. Martinez is a longtime 154-pounder who has been campaigning at middleweight since taking the title from Pavlik last year. Alvarez is a burly junior middleweight with the type of power that even Martinez would have to respect. It would sell out the Staples Center in Los Angeles and generate heavy traffic on either HBO or pay-per-view.
Realistically, a showdown with fellow Mexican Alfredo Angulo is the easiest fight for Alvarez to make. Angulo (19-1) is a heavy-handed fighter who was once a rising star at junior middleweight. But visa issues have kept him out of the United States and on the shelf since last July. Angulo was ringside in Mexico on Saturday and told reporters that he would love a shot at Alvarez's title.
It's not a bad fight. There are certainly better ones. But the beauty of Alvarez is that it looks like there are plenty of good ones in his future.
"He chickened out because he knew he was going to get beaten. And if he got beaten by me, his career would be finished. He doesn't draw big crowds, so his two titles are his savior."-- Amir Khan, to boxingscene.com, on Timothy Bradley. Khan has waged a relentless PR war against Bradley for refusing to accept a generous deal to fight him in July.
"IF you want a big name, phone Dad Arum & fight Cotto and JCC Jr. You lost opportunity. Good luck!"-- Lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (@maravillabox), who got in a brief Twitter war with junior middleweight prospect Vanes Martirosyan last week. In his tweet, Martinez included a link to a 2009 article in which Martinez called out Martirosyan for not being willing to fight him.
Five potential opponents for Bradley, whose refusal to fight Khan in July has, inexplicably, created the possibility that the unified 140-pound titlist may not fight again this year
Marcos Maidana: Maidana, who will face Robert Guerrero in August, is a straight-ahead fighter whose style blends perfectly with Bradley's. A Maidana-Bradley fight was tossed around earlier this year. If Maidana is willing to fight three times in 2011, a showdown with Bradley would be a brawl.
Kendall Holt: Bradley took an alphabet title from Holt in 2009. Since then Holt has rebounded with two knockout wins over lighter competition. A rematch would draw a decent crowd in Atlantic City, N.J., and give Bradley a solid, name opponent against whom to shake off the rust.
Erik Morales: Morales isn't the faded former champion he was perceived to be before he fought an entertaining, 12-round brawl against Maidana in April. Morales won back a lot of fans that night and proved to be a legitimate contender at 140 pounds.
Brandon Rios: A lightweight titlist, Rios has an explosive matchup with Urbano Antillon in July. But Rios has fought as a junior welterweight before and is becoming a bigger name thanks to his brawling style. If Bradley signs with Top Rank, as many industry insiders believe, it's a fight that's easy to make later this year.
Andre Berto: Bradley has talked about moving up to welterweight in the past and Berto is still without an opponent. Promoter Lou DiBella is looking to get Berto back in the ring with 147-pound titleholder Jan Zaveck in the fall, but if that falls through, a Berto-Bradley matchup looks good on paper.
10. Floyd Mayweather's decision to defy a judge's order to show up for a deposition in Manny Pacquiao's defamation case against him is perplexing. Mayweather is already dealing with myriad legal issues. Why would he risk adding contempt of court to the list?
I asked SI.com legal analyst Michael McCann to weigh in on what kind of penalties Mayweather could face as a result of his decision not to show up.
"The magistrate judge could order that Mayweather be sent to jail for contempt of court until Mayweather complies with the order or convinces the judge that he was unable to attend due to a legitimate excuse (e.g., personal emergency; death in the family etc. -- not something that seems at play here)," McCann said in an email. "It is crazy to not appear for a deposition in a civil case, when the penalty for doing so is be sent to jail, but that's what Mayweather is now exposed to."
9. Who wants to bet that the WBC won't make Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. honor his "deal" to fight Martinez after he makes an optional defense in the fall? Anyone? Didn't think so.
8. I'm starting to get really excited for Wladimir Klitschko-David Haye.
7. Someone has to make Kassim Ouma stop fighting. That beating he took from Gennady Golovkin on Friday was brutal.
6. Good to hear Micky Ward was released from the hospital after getting treatment for severe injuries to his arm and hand as a result of trying to break up a dogfight. Get well soon, Micky.
5. The USA Boxing National Championships are this week in Colorado Springs, Colo. Amateur boxing has been down -- way down -- in the United States recently. Let's hope a few new potential stars emerge from this year's crop.
4. Dear boxing publicist extraordinaire Fred Sterburg: If you send out one more release updating the status of Manny Pacquiao's single Sometimes When We Touch, we in the boxing community are going to spam you.
3. Best wishes to Juan Diaz, who is walking away from boxing to pursue a law degree. Something tells me Diaz will make a very successful lawyer.
2. (Still) paging, Andre Dirrell.
1. Austin Trout (@NoDoubtTrout) has one of the best Twitter backgrounds. Check it out.