By Blake "Racehorse" Chavez
Make no mistake about it; Canelo Alvarez is a helluva fighter. He’s got power, an iron-jaw, and balls. Those gifts possessed by the reigning Jr. Middleweight Champion are his calling cards.
The Mexican warrior is the face of boxing at this very moment, with apologies to Floyd "Money" Mayweather, who just won’t go away already. Let’s evaluate Canelo’s skill-set honestly.
Canelo has a decent jab. Nothing flashy or great about it. It’s a hard jab, not a range-finder, but rather a response or reply to when he gets jabbed. He seldom changes speed on his jab delivery,
and it usually has the same mustard applied, regardless of the pace or tenor of the fight.
Neither does it vary from opponent to opponent. As the level of his opposition has increased, his jab usage has lost its effectiveness. Why? Because speed is in greater supply the higher one climbs in boxing’s food-chain.
Which brings us to Canelo’s speed. His hand speed is actually kind of nice for one who relies so much on his power game. The hand speed allows for him to rip off crisp, quality combinations.
Back to those later. But his hand speed is nowhere near those who carry ’fast-hands". Mexicans have established themselves as icons in the lower-weight classes as there have not been very many effective Mexican fighters above the welterweight class, with fewer in the upper weights blessed with terrific hand speed. Oscar De La Hoya had: ’fast-hands’. The young Fernando Vargas had nice hand speed, but nowhere near Oscar’s blazing fists, whose combinations were masterful. Canelo’s combos are pretty, but without the deluxe hand-speed they are not dazzling. Let’s face it.
Puerto Rico’s Hector Camacho Sr. had hand speed to spare. Ditto Sugar Ray Leonard, as well as Sugar Ray Robinson and the lightweight version of Sugar Shane Mosely. Gary Russell is smokin’ fast.
Let’s just say Mexicans fighters, in general, are not usually noted for their hand speed. But alas, I digress. Canelo, at times tries to rely on hand speed. Who can forget the young Canelo trying to box Mayweather on even terms. Silly boy. He also attempted to box with an elderly Miguel Cotto, who basically boxed his ears in before Canelo’s vaunted power figured into the equation. I’ve heard many boxing people note, "Canelo has pretty good hand speed... for a Mexican... especially a big Mexican".
But that begs the question. Does hand speed trump punch accuracy? Because in the case of Canelo, he’s just not very accurate during many stretches of his bouts. He was missing Cotto by a good foot or two, whiffing badly on several occasions. He looked extremely bad throwing air punches at Mayweather as well. Hell, even Kirkland caught the jet streams from some of Canelo’s windmill excursions. This writer believes Canelo would be far more effective abandoning any notions of pure boxing as he’s not super-fast and is never super-accurate.
After discussing hand speed, foot speed must be addressed. Canelo has none. Zero. Zip. Nada. End of story. What about Canelo’s chin? There are no questions. Period.
In most of the episodes of behind-the-scenes at Canelo’s training camps, he works diligently at honing boxing skills. It’s too late for that. Canelo does have good head movement, but he also has a big head that gets hit often. He’ll never be a Roberto Duran defensively, but seems to love being caught in the corners whilst attempting to demonstrate what he perceives as defensive wizardry.
I do believe that Canelo has the innate ring intelligence to fight smarter. Outside of his power, his ring experience is fast becoming his most obvious asset. His pacing has improved, and his ring awareness appears off the charts.
He’s smart... but too stubborn for his own good. He knows what he should do, but his ego and weak corner often drag him into the wrong fight tactics. His corner knows him well, but at times it appears he has outgrown them.
Punching power. Canelo’s bread and butter. He punches like a son-of-a-bitch. His straight right hand is accurate and well-oiled, and he never tires of using it. Every now and then, after adroitly setting his opponent up for it, he will loop it.
Two perfect examples of Canelo setting up that shot are his Kirkland and Khan knockouts. He first repeatedly plied their ribs and body with thudding right hands. Canelo would bend and lower his own body when delivering those shots. Then, he would start to crouch again, the opponent sensed another grueling right hand to the body and... boom! Canelo would spring from his crouch with the overhand hand right to the jaw.
Bingo. Goodnight. I tend to rag on Canelo’s handlers at times, but he’s been well-schooled in the use of set-ups. Another nice set-up Canelo is effective with, is his hook off of that very same jab feint. Fighters who use set-ups are way ahead of the game. Those that don’t shouldn’t even be in the game.
Speaking of punching and Canelo; his left hook to the body has surpassed Cotto’s to become the best in the game. It is always well-placed, always on target, and always capable of producing a KO. Should that left hook land on the button, very few chins are capable of withstanding a clean shot. What bewilders me about Canelo is that he is capable of delivering the best power combinations on the planet... five and six shot accurate beauties, yet he’s also prone to winging buck-wild Sunday punches that miss by a mile! (see Lara fight and many, many others).
He has survived those lapses due to the ferocity with which he punches, as his opponent gets the hell out of Dodge once he catches even a hint of Canelo’s telegraphed haymaker.
The Achilles heel of one Canelo Alvarez is that he is just plain clumsy. He’s not awkward now, but I’d wager he was very awkward in his first street fights as well as his early gloved skirmishes. His early fight film suggests as much.
His legs are thick, and at times he moves like he’s walking in quicksand. Oh, he’ll showboat a bit on his way back to his corner with a fancy shuffle now and again, but that is a little routine honed from boredom with many, many thousands of hours spent in the gym. He’s heavy-footed for sure. Canelo sprinting is not a pretty site. A bit wooden. Clumsy. The PacMan is one sorry basketball player, but he can run like the wind. PacMan is definitely not clumsy, and when he throws with wild abandon, he either connects, or doesn’t miss by much.
Even Danny "Swift" Garcia connects with a certain percentage of his wild shots. Garcia has knocked out more people with his eyes closed as he unloads than anyone I’ve ever seen. Ask Khan and Morales about that.
Canelo was thought to have stamina issues. In the later rounds, notice how Canelo shows telltale signs of being clumsy. He fumbles around quite a bit, often crossing his feet. He appears more robotic as the rounds fly by. Clumsy.
Watch the Mayweather fight. Maidana was no Willie Pep, but even his wild windmill shots never missed as badly as Canelo missed. Canelo looked worse than "The Mummy" Guerrero did trying to chase down Floyd.
Heart. Not a question when discussing Canelo. Not even a whisper of doubt.
Balls. Cotto has a famous set. Canelo has demonstrated a warrior mentality.
So what happens when Canelo faces off with GGG? I give the edge to Golovkin. Why? Because he’s not clumsy.
Blake Chavez answers all his emails:firstname.lastname@example.org