Saturday night saw one of the top fighters in the sport for the past 15 years come home to defend his undisputed super middleweight titles in Mexico. And after a successful dominant Canelo decision win over Ryder, the logical question at this juncture of this future fall of famer’s career is: how much longer will we see Canelo Alvarez?
Alvarez appeared to break Ryder’s nose in the third round and dropped his bloody opponent in the fifth round with a hard right hand of the face. However, to the Englishman’s credit, Canelo still could not finish him over the course of the rest of the bout.
And, therein lies the first part of trying to determine how many more times Canelo will step through the ropes?
Even his most ardent supporters have to concede that Alvarez isn’t the same fighter that he was even three years ago much less five or eight years ago. No, the Canelo of even three years ago would have dispatched Ryder with his nose busted and having been dropped/staggered in the middle of that fight. That would have given the 50,000 plus at Estadio Akron just outside of Guadalajara the signature moment and roaring thrill that they were looking for.
Instead, Canelo is 32 years old and turns 33 later in July and he couldn’t produce the signature moment Saturday night.. Further, as is off in the case in a violent sport like boxing, a fighter’s actual age can be measured more in how many battles and wars he’s been in previously and how did he fare?
While Alvarez has never taken serious beatings in his 63 pro fights, he’s still been in a lot of them and logged a ton of rounds in doing so. In fact, in the 11 and a half years since Canelo last fought in Mexico he has had 23 title fights, holding a 21-2 record. That’s not something to overlook or dismiss, when talking about “fighter age.”
No, this isn’t golf, or the NBA or even baseball, where 32, 33 or 34 years old is still in your prime. This is a sport that takes it toll and 30 is 40 in other sports’ years. Reflexes not the same, speed and power not the same and participant, therefore, not the same.
Next, Canelo revealed after his win last September in his trilogy bout with Gennady Golovkin that he had an injured left wrist that would need surgery. In the build up to this fight with Ryder he further talked about having essentially been fighting with that injured wrist for his previous several fights, including his loss in May of 2022 to WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol.
Physical breakdown is absolutely normal even for the most elite of athletes, especially after 30 years of age, but it’s more pronounced for championship fighters that have fought as much as Canelo.
You are simply not the same for the amount of punishment you put on your body through and what it specifically does your hands and the bones, muscles and ligaments, etc. to go through training and then, battle a worthy opponent on fight time after time after time.
It’s fair to wonder if we’re no longer going to see Canelo be able to overpower opponents, especially the bigger ones literally that are at super middleweight. And, more so, what if he intends to continue to try to fight, light heavyweights? Alvarez maintained in the ring post fight Saturday night that he wants a rematch with Bivol next and he is insisting that it be at 175 lb for Bivol’s WBA title.
Canelo Doesn’t And Won’t Need More Money
Obviously, a major motivating reason most fighters continue to fight longer than they should is because of financial needs. However, Alvarez is in the upper echelon of the sport and is one of the wealthiest active athletes in all of the world. He conservatively has made over $400 million dollars in the ring over the past decade and that doesn’t include the tens of millions of dollars more he’s made through sponsorships and other business dealings outside of the ring.
Canelo not only has generational wealth, but the ability for generations of his to come to still be wealthy. So, fighting on for a long amount of time wouldn’t be because of finances.
So, finally, what is there left to prove in the ring?
Well, after holding multiple titles at junior middle and middleweight, we know he is the only fighter ever to be undisputed in the four belt era at 168 lb. And, honestly, there’s not an all-time great fighter or up-and-coming fighter at 168 lb. that is a “have to defeat” for Canelo’s International Boxing Hall of Fame resume.
Again, the taste for revenge against Bivol and re-capturing another version of the light heavyweight title, just like he got when he knocked out WBO champ Sergey Kovalev in 2019, is appealing. But, for arguments sake- if everything is agreed to and he does defeat Bivol this Fall, what’s the next outcome?
One More Challenge?
Does he want to challenge the other Russian Artrur Beterbiev who has currently the other three 175 lb. world titles for an undisputed bout?
Okay let’s go down that tangent and say that Beterbiev fight is made in 2024. And, further, let’s say Canelo were to win that over a second straight Russian champion.
Then, legitimately, what else is out there for him to prove or do?
He will become four belt Undisputed in two different weight divisions, No male fighter has ever done that. He will have all the money that he and his descendants will ever need for the next half century or more.
And, most importantly, he’s already in, but will further cement a unanimous, without hesitation, induction into the boxing hall of fame as arguably the most accomplished champion in multiple weight classes ever.
Could Canelo fight on into late 2025 or beyond where he would be 35 or 36 years old? Sure.
But, in looking at all of the factors above- why would you continue to fight with how much you’ve already fought / accomplished and earned vs. enjoying the second half of your life to live outside of the ring?
So, on this Sunday after his triumphant return, it’s easy to see that we may only getting Canelo in the ring two or three more times and through the end of 2024. It’s because there simply may be nothing else left out there for him to prove or earn.