By Joseph Herron: After successfully defending his undisputed super middleweight crown against the super tough John Ryder in front of 60,000 fans from his hometown of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, you’d think Saul “Canelo” Alvarez would once again be the toast of the boxing world.
Especially given the troublesome year of the 32-year-old puncher in 2022.
After a convincing loss to WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol and a poor points win over longtime nemesis Gennady Golovkin, immediately followed by necessary and painful hand and wrist surgery, a homecoming victory on May 6 should be exactly what the doctor ordered for the future Hall of the company Famer.
But rather than celebrate the Mexican legend’s latest conquest, most critics and ring watchers point to the apparent erosion of Canelo’s once-sharp reflexes and skill.
And while most fans debate the exact extent of Alvarez’s apparent decline, most agree it’s painfully obvious; Canelo is entering what should prove to be the final chapter of his legendary career.
In the latest issue of the War a Week Radio podcast on Sunday night, James Gogue, a five-year-old martial arts trainer, made a mental checklist of things to look for in an aging fighter.
“Canelo has apparently peaked around 2020 or 2021,” the expert coach claims. “From what I’ve seen, he hasn’t fought at the same level since winning undisputed distinction in the super middleweight division. There is a clear lineage from his fighting prowess.
But how can you be sure that the proud 32-year-old puncher isn’t fighting at his peak? Could it be that Canelo is simply battling tougher competition?
The astute trainer has developed a mental checklist of items that any interested fan should follow.
“First, he was hit a lot during the John Ryder fight. He wasn’t throwing punches as usual. When you see a normally good defensive fighter start getting hit much more often, especially against slower opponents, that means his reflexes are starting to slow down and erode.”
“He can’t see punches as clearly as he used to and he can’t react as quickly as he’s used to. Does anyone really think they wanted to get hit by John Ryder on a Saturday night so often?
“In his prime, Canelo had elite head and upper body movements with great reflexes. He easily spotted his opponents’ punches and moved subtly enough to miss.”
“It’s mark number one; gets hit more easily and more often.”
“Sign number two is that he can’t pull the trigger like he used to.”
“He’s not as quick to draw as he used to be and his punches aren’t as sharp or sharp. I saw that he missed many opportunities to hit the target accurately. Against an opponent as immobile as Ryder, he wasn’t anywhere near as accurate as he used to be.”
“Third, once a fighter begins to slip noticeably, the body doesn’t regenerate as quickly. Fights become seemingly harder against opponents you used to have an easy time with, and injuries become more frequent and seem to last longer.
“And after 18 years of being a professional, Alvarez has accumulated many miles on his odometer.”
“Fourth, after earning hundreds of millions of dollars throughout his career, you have to ask yourself if he’s still as motivated at this stage. In his recent press conference, he talked about becoming a professional golfer and seems more interested in joining the PGA Tour.”
“The last item on our strike list, and the most important in determining whether a once-great fighter has long past his prime, is his ability to take a good punch. When the chin of a once great physically and mentally great competitor turns to glass, it’s all… it’s over and he should retire.
“In the weeks leading up to and during the Canelo fight with John Ryder, I highlighted four of the five elements that any interested observer should look for when determining whether a fighter is in a downturn. His chin is still strong and his legs are still under it, so he hasn’t been shot yet.”
“But I think it’s safe to say that Canelo Alvarez’s best days are definitely behind him.”
“At this point in his career, I would definitely pick Bivol and Benavidez to beat him.”
It is important to remember that all feedback regarding a player’s fall is subjective and ultimately it is up to the individual player to decide when it is time to retire. However, James Gogue points out some important points to consider when evaluating a potential decline in a fighter’s skill and ability.
Some key metrics to look for include a fighter’s defensive skills, punching accuracy and power, ability to recover from injuries, motivation, and stamina. It should be noted that a drop in any of these areas does not necessarily mean a player is finished, but a noticeable drop in many areas may be cause for concern.
In the case of Canelo Alvarez, Gogue points out that his defensive skills may be on the decline, as evidenced by his increased propensity to take punches during his recent fight with John Ryder. Also, his accuracy and power may not be as sharp as it used to be, and his motivation may be waning given his recent comments about his golf career.
Overall, it’s important to approach these ratings with some caution and acknowledge that even the best fighters can have nights off or go through hard times in their careers. However, it is also important to recognize when a player may be nearing the end of their career and support them in making the best decision for their health and well-being.
Do you agree with coach James Gogue? Would Canelo Alvarez lose head-to-head to Dmitry Bivol and David Benavidez in 2023?