With greatness comes polarization, especially when your living is dependent on fighting.
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs) is arguably the world’s most polarizing boxer and is returning to the ring opposite undefeated challenger Callum Smith (27-0, 19 KOs) on Dec. 19. It’ll be Canelo’s first bout since last November. On Nov. 2, Alvarez became a four-division World Champion, knocking out former light heavyweight boogeyman Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KOs) in round 11, a fight where he only led on two scorecards by two points each at the time of the finish.
Alvarez, depending on who you ask, might have more than one loss on his esteemed resume. The obvious and only recorded defeat was to Floyd Mayweather in 2013. Since then, several of Alvarez’s fights have been the subject of controversy as it pertains to scoring — CJ Ross even controversially scored the Mayweather-Canelo bout 114-114, a card so awful, that she retired from judging. Even the first line of her Wikipedia lists her as, “A retired boxing judge who drew criticism for her scorecards in multiple high-profile fights.” (The other was Tim Bradley and Manny Pacquiao 1; you could imagine how that went over.)
But since 2013, several scorecards from Alvarez’s fights are concerning. Even annoying if you’re a fan of the sport or media covering it. In 2014, defensive-minded Cuban great Erislandy Lara had an obviously close encounter, if not a victorious one, against the Mexican superstar. 2-of-3 judges scored 115-113 cards, one for Lara and one for Alvarez, but a third tally was 117-111 Canelo, courtesy of Levi Martinez.
In November 2015, against legendary Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto in what appeared to be a close bout — but a slight win for Alvarez — Dave Moretti, Burt A Clements and John McKaie scored 119-109, 118-110 and 117-111. The “surprisingly wide scores,” as then ESPN Boxing Reporter Dan Rafael called it, led to Cotto uncustomarily leaving the ring before a post-fight interview.
Then, there are the two Triple G fights ...
Gennady Golovkin, the middleweight Mike Tyson of the 2010s, fought Canelo in both September 2017 and 2018. The highly controversial first bout — in which ‘GGG’ entered at 37-0, 33 KOs and as the WBC, WBA Super, IBF and IBO Unified Middleweight Champion — was infamously tallied a draw. Moretti had it 115-113 for Golovkin and Don Trella scored it even, 114-114.
But Adalaide Byrd. Oh, Adalaide Byrd. She scored it 118-110 for Canelo, a card so worthy of a crime that Moretti labeled her a ‘#JailByrd’ in a Tweet. It was so brutal that she’s only scored two other world title bouts since, both of which were outside of America.
The second Canelo-GGG bout was originally scheduled for Cinco De Mayo 2018, but in April, Alvarez was popped for failing multiple drug tests, which he subsequently said resulted from consuming contaminated meat. Following the suspension, the rematch was held that September, where Alvarez had 115-113 cards from Moretti and Steve Weisfield in his favor, but Steve Feldman’s 114-114 only gave Canelo the mere controversial majority decision as opposed to a unanimous one.
Former world champion boxer turned Showtime commentator Paulie Malignaggi vehemently disagreed, per Boxing News 24.
“I think Canelo did better in this fight than he did the first time around,” Malignaggi said, echoing a common reaction to the bout. “I think anybody with a reasonable brain wouldn’t be able to give Canelo more than six rounds. The first time around if you gave Golovkin a draw, which they did, you robbed him. This time around if you gave Golovkin a draw, it would have been fair or a Golovkin win. I don’t think Canelo won eight rounds to win the fight. You have to win seven rounds to win a fight. You can’t find me a case of Canelo winning seven rounds to win the fight. Once again, I felt they robbed Gennady Golovkin.”
And although Canelo’s narrow 116-112 and 115-113x2 decision victory over Daniel Jacobs wasn’t as panned as others, it’s still worthy of note leading into his Dec. 19 bout with Smith.
So what this means for Mr. Smith is that even on a DAZN card, and even with Eddie Hearn promoting the bout — in light of Canelo’s newfound free agency — history would suggest that a knockout is the only way to convincingly topple Canelo. Though the United Kingdom native Smith will be defending his WBA Super World Super Middleweight title, he opens as a heavy underdog, a trend that will likely stand if not grow between now and fight time.
But at 6-foot-3 against a 5-foot-9 Alvarez, there is a path for a Smith upset. It just won’t be on the cards.