Anyone else get a sense of déjà vu in the aftermath of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s dominant win over Callum Smith? Feels like we were here before, with fight fans marveling at how the Mexican ginger, now a lock for the Hall of Fame at just thirty years of age, took on a daunting challenge, only to subdue it with relative ease. While the majority were backing Canelo to defeat Smith this past weekend, the Briton was supposed to be something more than a live dog, with many rating “Mundo” as the best of the best at 168 pounds. But instead of a competitive battle, we got another clinic from the brilliant pugilist who many now regard as the best in the sport, pound-for-pound.
But no one should be surprised. Impressed, yes, but not surprised. This time last year we were in the same place, assessing a statement win by Canelo over light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev. And, similar to Canelo vs Smith, the match-up, at least on paper, figured to be competitive, if not highly intriguing. After all, while Kovalev was undeniably past his prime, he was also the naturally bigger man and he figured to be the more powerful puncher. And while most observers and pundits were picking the Mexican to win, most were also envisioning a potentially tough battle.
But to the surprise of many, it was the Russian who appeared to lack the needed strength and energy to stand up to the smaller man, who didn’t fight like one. Indeed, the supposedly “blown up” middleweight appeared the stronger of the two as he tamed Kovalev with relative ease and imposed his will round after round until the explosive knockout in round eleven.
But immediately after, the dominant narrative for what transpired that night focused not on Canelo, but on Kovalev, on his age, the lack of time to properly prepare, and the hope that now he might retire. In other words, what we saw had nothing to do with Canelo’s superior skill and brilliant game plan, but instead was all about Kovalev now being a ruin of the formidable warrior who had humbled Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal.
But is any of this really accurate? More to the point, is it fair to Canelo, who in his post-fight interview said the contest unfolded exactly as he had planned? One person who thought not is analyst Lee Wylie who immediately after the bout praised the Mexican’s performance as “a masterclass on educated pressure and round management.” And to further make the point that the result was less about Kovalev’s supposed decline and more about Canelo’s talent and tactics, he created a video to illustrate precisely what he appreciated in the Mexican’s performance.
Because no matter what Kovalev says, a longer training camp likely would have made little to no difference. Canelo was the boss on November 2nd, in control, from the first bell to the crushing KO in round eleven. Canelo was the captain in that ring, the commander, the killer. Just as he was against Callum Smith. Check it out: