Sunday, November 24, 2019

Opinions and Observations: Wilder-Ortiz II, Smith-Ryder

Remember those nature videos about lions attacking their prey? Camouflaging themselves in the high grasslands of the savanna, they lie in wait. They are patient. Their prey get comfortable, let their guard down and no longer perceive an imminent threat. It is then that the lions pounce – attacking with ferocity, devouring their unsuspecting victims. In a matter of seconds it's all over.  

Deontay Wilder is such a lion, although he hides in plain sight. He waits. He remains focused. He deals with the distractions of pesky shots from an opponent. He's looking for that one opening to pounce, that moment where a foe gets a little too comfortable. And then he sees the opportunity. He attacks. In a snap of a finger the target winds up supine, lifeless and defeated. It's a clinical destruction. The hunter gets his prey.  

Wilder unleashes his right hand
Photo Courtesy of Ryan Hafey

Through 43 fights only two of Wilder's opponents have made it to the final bell. One, Bermane Stiverne, was destroyed in a rematch. The other, Tyson Fury, needed an act of almost indescribable intestinal fortitude, and the right referee, to survive. Each felt Wilder's right hand missile. 

It's no great secret what Wilder's opponents try to do in the ring: avoid the right at all costs. A handful of them have won numerous rounds against him. They land their shots. They beat him with activity. They capitalize on his indifference to winning rounds. But the problem that many of them have is that they are trying to beat him. That means they have to open up enough offensively to win rounds. At a certain point it's not enough just to avoid the right hand. If they want to win, they need to do so convincingly. 

Eventually defensive shortcomings, overconfidence and/or fatigue manifest. These three problems work in Wilder's favor. Wilder carries his power all 12 rounds. He doesn't burn himself out wasting punching. He has excellent conditioning. In addition, he has such belief in his right hand that he never feels that a fight is out of reach. And with his power, it isn't. 

Luis Ortiz boxed very well on Saturday. He landed a number of powerful left hands. He moved much better than he did in their first fight in 2018. But some of the same issues from their initial meeting re-appeared in the rematch. Ortiz found it so easy to hit Wilder that he started to take more chances in the ring. Instead of patiently sticking behind single shots that were successful early in the fight, he entered into a shootout with Wilder in the seventh round. And as the old adage says "never bring a knife to a gunfight"; Wilder had the 12 gauge shotgun. 

Wilder ended matters near the end of the round with a blinding jab and a perfectly thrown right hand. Ortiz, eyes scrambled, body discombobulated, couldn't beat the count. And if there were controversies in the first fight (the New York commission taking some extra time to examine Wilder before a round started), all of that has been put to bed now. Ortiz has had his chances, performed well, but ultimately could not remain on his feet for 12 rounds.

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Trapp

For all of Wilder's flaws as a fighter, and they have been well-documented, he manages to land his right hand on everyone. The footwork can be ponderous, his punch volume can be anemic, he loads up too much on big shots; yet, despite all of his opponents’ hyper-vigilance regarding his right hand, he still detonates it. And it's not just about power. His hand speed is terrific. His technique with the shot has perfect torque. Sure, he can slap with his left hook and he doesn't always punch through the target with his jab, but when he throws the right hand, it's with textbook precision. 

Similar to most Wilder fights, the knockout masked the other aspects of his performance, good and bad. After six completed rounds, at best he could have won two of them. He had so much trust in his chin that he sometimes didn't even bother to block or avoid shots (this flaw will one day cause a huge problem for him). In addition, his punch volume was poor. 

As they often do, Wilder's other punches played a role in his victory. In the sixth Wilder started to throw his left hook with regularity. It didn't always land with authority, but there was actually a sequence in the round where he connected with a shot high on Ortiz's head. In response, Ortiz moved away from the hook toward Wilder's right hand. Now think about that for a moment. The hook was so effective that it scrambled Ortiz's senses for a brief instant and convinced him that moving to Wilder's eraser would somehow be a better course of action. Although Wilder didn't capitalize on that moment, it was worth pointing out, for it exposed a flaw with Ortiz: Wilder's power was so significant that he could be taken out of his game plan. 

The one other effect of the hook is that it provided Ortiz with more openings to counter. This was of course fool's gold. Ortiz deciding to be friskier on offense played right into Wilder's hands. Deontay, like those lions, waits for targets to lose their vigilance. 

Let's also take a moment to reflect on Wilder's jab. Wilder may not have thrown more than two dozen jabs in seven rounds, or at least ones that were intending to land. Yet, Ortiz had enough respect for it that he moved his glove to try to parry it in the final combination. Now with the glove further away from Ortiz's body, Wilder had the opening that he needed. And that was that. The speed and power of Wilder's jab was enough of a concern for Ortiz to attempt to defend it. Wilder doesn't get that particular knockout on Saturday without the jab. 

Wilder will always be vulnerable in fights, but in my estimation he should be favored against any current heavyweight. Until I see evidence that he can't land his right hand, I'm just not sure how many opponents can take the shot. And I'm certainly not convinced that Fury would be able to rise up again. But this conjecture is for another day. Wilder has helped usher in a wildly entertaining era of heavyweight boxing. All of the top fighters have unique skills; all have flaws. I don't know which boxer will wind up emerging on top, but I know I don't want to miss it. The reintroduction of fun into the heavyweight division has been a wonderful development. 


Super middleweight champ Callum Smith survived a rugged fight against John Ryder on Saturday. He wound up winning a unanimous decision 117-111, 116-112 and 116-112, but ignore those scorecards (especially Terry O'Connor's dreadful 117-111); they didn't reflect the competitiveness of the fight. Most saw it very close. I had Ryder winning it by two points, 115-113.

Smith's lackluster performance couldn't come at a worse time in his career. Paraded as a potential Canelo Alvarez opponent prior to Saturday's fight, Smith seemed no more than ordinary. Perhaps Ryder was a "trap fight," a bout that Smith couldn't get up for in training. Smith also had subpar outings against Nieky Holzken and Erik Skoglund in the first two rounds of the World Boxing Super Series Tournament, which Smith would subsequently win in a great performance against George Groves. 

Photo Courtesy of Mark Robinson

Physically, Smith looks enormous at the weight. He's a muscular 6'3", has an enormous reach and solid power. His dimensions present significant problems. However, he seems to be missing a consistency gene. There are times where he looks like a top fighter in the sport while on other occasions he appears to be easily beatable. Saturday was an example of the latter. 

John Ryder and trainer Tony Sims came into the fight with a great game plan: Make it rough on the inside, back up Smith whenever possible and take away Callum's significant reach advantage. Although Ryder isn't a master boxing technician, he was successful at getting into close range. He jabbed with Smith. He employed excellent head movement to take away Smith's straight right hand. He used angles when coming in. Perhaps most importantly, once he was on the inside, he stayed there. He knew exactly what he needed to do to win the fight. 

It wasn't as if Smith was completely outclassed in the fight. He had moments where he landed excellent left hooks and right uppercuts. When he was on the front foot he was able to neutralize a lot of Ryder's offense. It's not that he was necessarily an undeserved victor. There could be a case for him squeaking by with seven rounds, but more significantly, in this era of potential superfights, he failed to impress. 

Joe Gallagher has trained numerous champions over the years and has received almost every award that is available for a trainer to win, but he didn't have a good night on Saturday. There was no Plan B for Callum Smith. Why did Smith continue to cede control of the center of the ring? Why was he voluntarily backing up to the ropes? Why wasn't he investing more to the body? Smith and Gallagher were lucky to leave victorious from the Echo Arena in Liverpool (Smith's home town by the way). That performance, by fighter and trainer, won't be enough to defeat the best that the sport has to offer. 

Perhaps Callum does fight down to his level of competition. There are fighters like that in the sport. I'm certainly not dismissing his future prospects, but Saturday's performance was concerning. 

Photo Courtesy of Mark Robinson

As for Ryder, his hard luck continues. Billy Joe Saunders scraped by with a 7-5 type of win against him in 2013. Many believed that Ryder earned victories against Rocky Fielding and Jack Arnfield, which were close defeats. If he wins even one of these four fights (counting Saturday's bout against Smith), perhaps the whole trajectory of his career would be different. Now, at age 31 and with a record of 31-5, he will continue to be viewed as a capable "opponent", but he was so close to being more. 

Boxing's not a kind sport. It's sometimes referred to as the cruelest, and here is yet another example. John Ryder may never have another opportunity to win a title. He may never perform against a top-level fighter the way he did on Saturday. And in another generation he will most likely be forgotten – a blip for the historians, a distant memory from fans of his time. 

He deserved better on Saturday: better judging, fairer scores, more respect from his opponent and promoter. He should be more than a footnote. But boxing is not a meritocracy, not when judges are involved. It's never been and never will be. And if you don't knock guys out, especially the right guys, you run the risk of being relegated to history's dustbin. Hopefully Ryder gets one more shot, but how many times can a fighter get the short end of the stick and remain confident and committed to the sport? We may have seen Ryder's best on Saturday, and he wasn't winning that fight absent something miraculous happening. Very good was not good enough.  

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.  

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Punch 2 the Face Radio

This week's Punch 2 the Face Radio covered all things Wilder-Ortiz II. Will the rematch play out differently from their first fight? Brandon and I break down all the angles, and we also give our picks for the undercard, which should be entertaining. We previewed the other big fights for this weekend: Cancio-Alvarado II, Can-Robles and Smith-Ryder. In addition, we looked ahead to some of the big fights in December and January.

To listen to the podcast click on the links below:
Blog Talk Radio link:
iTunes link:
Stitcher link: 
Also, find us on Spotify: Punch 2 the Face Radio, Episode 152.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.  

Monday, November 18, 2019

Pound-for-Pound Update 11-18-19

There have been numerous changes to the Saturday Night Boxing Pound-for-Pound list since the last update in July. Toward the top, Saul Alvarez defeated Sergey Kovalev via 11th round knockout to win a light heavyweight title. Alvarez has now won major belts in three different weight classes and he moves up in the Rankings from #5 to #2.

Errol Spence beat Shawn Porter via split decision to become a unified titlist at welterweight. With the win, Spence rises a spot from #9 to #8. 

In another unification bout, Artur Beterbiev knocked out Oleksandr Gvozdyk in the 10th round in a light heavyweight showdown. Beterbiev, now 15-0, has stopped all of his opponents in his professional career. He debuts in the Rankings at #9. 

Also making his debut on the Pound-for-Pound list is Josh Taylor, who defeated Regis Prograis by majority decision to win the World Boxing Super Series tournament at 140 lbs. He now holds two titles at junior welterweight. He enters the Rankings at #15. 

Dropping out of the Rankings are Roman Gonzalez, who leaves because of over a year of inactivity, and Wanheng Menayothin, who continues to win at strawweight, but has been eclipsed in the Rankings by other fighters. Gonzalez had previously been ranked at #15 and Menayothin at #20. 

Here is the updated Saturday Night Boxing Pound-for-Pound List. 
  1. Naoya Inoue
  2. Saul Alvarez 
  3. Vasiliy Lomachenko
  4. Terence Crawford
  5. Oleksandr Usyk
  6. Gennadiy Golovkin
  7. Juan Estrada
  8. Errol Spence
  9. Artur Beterbiev
  10. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
  11. Manny Pacquiao
  12. Mikey Garcia
  13. Donnie Nietes
  14. Kosei Tanaka
  15. Josh Taylor
  16. Leo Santa Cruz
  17. Miguel Berchelt
  18. Josh Warrington
  19. Daniel Roman
  20. Ken Shiro
Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.   

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Opinions and Observations: Inoue-Donaire

Throughout Naoya Inoue's meteoric rise in boxing he had faced minimal resistance. He had won world titles at 108, 115 and 118 lbs., yet so few of his fights challenged him in the ring. Only two of his 18 bouts had even gone the distance. And this unprecedented run was not a mirage; he had defeated worthy opposition. He stopped Adrian Hernandez, who many ranked as the top guy at junior flyweight when they fought. Omar Narvaez was also ranked number one at junior bantamweight when they met in 2014. In addition Inoue beat credible contenders, titlists and future champs such as Ryoichi Taguchi, David Carmona, Kohei Kono, Jamie McDonnell, Juan Carlos Payano and Emmanuel Rodriguez. In fact, bettering this solid slate of opponents propelled Inoue's rise to the elite in the sport. But where were the tough fights?  

Perhaps then it may have been surprising that Nonito Donaire, the old war horse at 36, who had lost two of his last five fights coming into Thursday's bout, was the first one to draw blood on Inoue. After all, Donaire's place in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament seemed at first as nothing more than a cute publicity stunt, a nod to a former champ with name recognition whose best days were at least a half-decade behind him.  

Photo Courtesy of the World Boxing Super Series

Although some unforeseen circumstances (injuries and replacement fighters) led to Donaire reaching the tournament final, he quickly proved on Thursday that he wasn't there for a final career cash out; he was in Japan to win the whole damn thing. In the second round he detonated his patented counter left hook on Inoue's right eye. The shot immediately opened a cut and sent Inoue to the ropes in retreat. In an unfamiliar sight, Inoue was forced to clinch. I'm not sure that he had ever been hit with something so ferocious. Suddenly Inoue, The Monster, was human. 

Few fighters can force a Day of Reckoning like Donaire. He's been one of the elite power punchers in the sport over the last decade and will be able to roll out of bed when he's 80 years old and flatten someone with his left hook. 

And it wasn't just this one moment. In the eighth he landed a jarring counter right hand and Inoue was once again in trouble. His eye started bleeding all over the ring and Donaire was in the ascendancy.  

But in the 10th round Inoue demonstrated his championship mettle. With pulverizing right hands and left hooks, he turned the tables on Donaire, who needed the bell to save him from further damage. In the 11th Inoue cracked a left hook to the liver and as is often the case with that type of shot, the punch short-circuited Donaire. A delayed reaction occurred and Donaire was forced to take a knee. Somehow he was able to make it to his feet (some shoddy work from ref Ernie Sharif may have helped), but Donaire was in real trouble. The stoppage was close to arriving until he landed a left hook that made Inoue stop and recalibrate. It was that shot which enabled Donaire to see the end of the round, and subsequently make it to the final bell. 

In the end Inoue won by a unanimous decision, with scores of 117-109, 116-111 and 114-113 (I also had it 116-111). Ultimately, his more consistent work in the middle rounds of the fight and his strong close proved to be the difference. With the victory Inoue is now a unified titlist at bantamweight and the winner of the 2018-2019 World Boxing Super Series Tournament. 

Inoue faced his first real gut-check moment as a professional on Thursday. And despite experiencing the most extreme duress of his career, he was the one who swept the championship rounds, erasing any possible doubt as to who deserved to be the victor. This fight turned out to be the final test in his development. Sure, we knew about his blazing hand speed, crushing power and pinpoint accuracy, but could he catch? He has now answered that question in the affirmative.

Inoue-Donaire highlighted the best that boxing has to offer: world-class punching, elite-level skills, wonderful ebbs and flows, tactical adjustments, and respect being earned in the ring. Both fighters were hurt at multiple points in the fight – Donaire in the 5th, 10th and 11th and Inoue in the 2nd, 8th and 9th. Each took turns leading and countering. Both displayed menacing firepower. It was thrilling to watch, exhilarating, the type of fight that reaffirms boxing fans' love for the sport. 

In the aftermath of Thursday's result it's natural to ask questions of Inoue. Was he a tad overrated or did his performance highlight even additional dimensions to his all-around boxing ability? I fall in the latter camp. Inoue faced an excellent version of Donaire, the one who was once among the best in the sport.

Since aligning with trainer Kenny Adams, Donaire has rediscovered many of his former dimensions. He took his right hand out of storage, and with wonderful results. He looked comfortable leading. Donaire wasn't plodding along, waiting, waiting, and waiting for an opening to land his left hook. No, he was using all of his weapons, not only to capitalize on mistakes, but also to create his own openings. Overall it was his most well-rounded performance since his stoppage of Toshiaki Nishioka in 2012. 

Since that victory seven years ago Donaire would rise and fall. He had periods where he had lost his passion for the sport. He made several trainer switches. He developed some bad habits in the ring. But on Thursday it was like old times. Here, in the winter of his career, he had suddenly found himself, and he was going for broke against one of the best fighters in boxing.  

After the fight Inoue showered Donaire with praise and admitted that there were still areas to improve for future fights. To my eyes there are two places in particular where Inoue needs to focus: His head is a little still, which makes him able to be countered by a capable craftsman. In addition, he does spend an extra second or two in the pocket admiring his own work. He's used to seeing opponents crumble from his power shots. Yet some foes have the beard to take shots and throw some in return. Inoue wasn't expecting to get hit by some of Donaire's blows; he's going to have to learn to respect his opponents a little bit more in the ring. 

But all of that is fine for another day. Ultimately, Inoue demonstrated yet again that he is can't miss television. With guns blazing in his fists and possessing the heart and determination to overcome adversity, his total package has few rivals among active fighters. And with his new deal with Top Rank, expect American boxing audiences to fall for the Japanese dynamo. 

As for Donaire, whether he decides to call it quits after Thursday's fight or if he continues to soldier on, he has once again reminded boxing fans of his greatness. From 2007-2013 he truly was one of the elite in the sport. He certainly was a devastating puncher, but at his best he was much more than that. He had intelligence, ring savvy, a multiplicity of skills and a rock-solid chin. His record of 40-6 doesn't even begin to do him justice.  

At the age of 26 Inoue is squarely in his prime. He has the pedigree in the ring, the media platform and the potential opponents at 118 to 122 lbs. to become a commanding figure in the sport. But threats abound, from the technical savvy of Nordine Oubaali to the straight left of Zolani Tete to the crushing punching power of Luis Nery. Inoue is now in the thick of a great run of opponents and expect that trend to continue. He believes in the concept of risk. And while he may or may not emerge as the definitive fighter of this era, he certainly wants to find out in the ring. He demands challenges. He chases greatness. And that should make us all happy campers. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.   

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Opinions and Observations: Canelo-Kovalev

Five punches in the 11th round ended Canelo-Kovalev: Canelo ripped a left hook to the side of the upper rib cage. He followed with a right to the body (this punch only partially landed). Canelo then cracked Kovalev with an overhand right that staggered Kovalev. Immediately after feeling that shot, Kovalev tried to evade danger by moving to his right, away from Canelo's right hand. Canelo reset and followed Kovalev. He then landed with a blistering left hook to the head, which scrambled Kovalev's senses and left him unable to defend himself properly. 

Canelo now had his golden opportunity, a free shot, and he connected with a powerful short right hand; the punch was so vicious that it turned Kovalev 180 degrees. Kovalev collapsed to the canvas, his body facing the crowd, slung through the ropes. Referee Russell Mora didn't even initiate a count. It was all over. Saul "Canelo" Alvarez had moved up two weight classes to become a light heavyweight champion. And with that thrilling finish, with that masterful five-punch sequence, the mediocrity of the previous ten rounds was almost forgotten. 

Photo Courtesy of Amanda Westcott

Until that final sequence, Canelo-Kovalev was a poor advertisement for top-class prizefighting. Certainly those from broadcaster DAZN, who had delayed the main event by more than 90 minutes as they waited for a UFC fight in New York to finish, couldn't have been pleased with the display. Canelo was after all their signature boxer, and Canelo-Kovalev in the ring was the opposite of compelling sports entertainment. 

Most of the fight played out as an exercise in futility. It was Kovalev generally missing jabs against Canelo's ineffective aggression. Scoring the bout was essentially academic; neither was performing at a particularly high level. Few real risks were taken. Little was memorable prior to the exhilarating finish. 

Although one could make the argument that Canelo was gradually wearing down Kovalev throughout the fight, he had landed so little of substance. Yes, there were a couple of significant hooks and straight right hands, but the pace was so deliberate and the punches landed were so sparse. Perhaps a better argument could be made that Kovalev wore himself down. He hadn't faced a lot of menacing fire throughout the fight and Canelo's pressure was often more theoretical than actualized. 

It was unsettling to see Kovalev, formerly one of the most devastating punchers in the sport, fight in safety-first mode, reluctant to exchange. His offensive output mostly consisted of hundreds of jabs thrown half-heartedly. Kovalev does possess one of the most damaging sticks in the sport, but those punches were left at home on Saturday. He pawed with his jab instead of snapping it. Kovalev's main objective it seemed was to use his reach advantage to keep Canelo at bay, not necessarily to hurt him or impose himself physically on the fight. 

Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott

The ending of the bout helped to explain Kovalev's cautious performance during the match. He could no longer trust his chin or defensive reflexes. Kovalev's damage control started in round one, long before any actual damage had occurred. There were some moments in the seventh, ninth and tenth rounds where he did unfurl additional elements of his offensive arsenal – uppercuts, left hooks and jabs to the body, but those sequences were exceptions. Even after having success, he returned to his undercooked jabs, careful to avoid exchanges.  

It's never easy to defeat a competent fighter who is in safety-first mode. As a result Canelo had difficulty in establishing a sustained offense. Certainly it's a difficult proposition moving up two weight classes to beat a guy with numerous physical advantages. That proposition becomes even more complicated when the opponent provides so few openings, but Canelo was finally able to make his own luck in the 11th.  

After the match, Canelo admitted that the fight played out similarly to his intended game plan, although it may have taken a few more rounds than anticipated. And I believe him. From the opening bell his approach was crystal clear: slowly get into range; don't get caught up in a blistering pace; land enough varieties of power punches to keep Kovalev guessing; and take Kovalev into the second half of the fight, where his energy level and defensive responsibility would wane. Although it wasn't pretty to watch, the game plan would eventually work to perfection. 

Canelo might not get credit from all boxing corners for Saturday's victory, but make no mistake, it was a significant accomplishment, and perhaps the signature moment of his career. Yes, perhaps Kovalev was there for the taking, but Canelo actually had to do the taking, and he executed.  

Photo Courtesy of Amanda Westcott

Throughout his career Sergey Kovalev hasn't always been given appropriate credit for his high Ring IQ, which is a notable oversight from those who cover the sport (myself included). At his best he wasn't just knocking fighters out; he controlled them. He disciplined them in the ring. He rarely lost rounds or had competitive fights. He featured tremendous power and had a fantastic understanding of ring generalship. 

He gave Canelo very little to work with on Saturday, and that was by design. He drained almost all excitement from the fight, a credit to him and trainer Buddy McGirt. They were there to stink out the fight. Sure, it's an awful style to watch, but it was effective enough for the official scorecards to be very close going into the championship rounds (Canelo was up by two rounds on two cards and even on the third, many scoring at home had Kovalev up.)  

Despite Kovalev's competitiveness on Saturday, he should now be considering retirement. Knocked out three times in recent years by two non-punchers and a fighter coming up from middleweight, the writing's on the wall. He's had a notable career, perhaps one that will lead him to the Hall of Fame. For a while he was one of boxing's supreme destroyers and ranked high on pound-for-pound lists. He was able to regain title belts after devastating defeats, a reminder to those who insist that he is mentally fragile. In his last run he confidently outboxed a fighter (Eleider Alvarez) who had wrecked him in his previous fight. That was a high-character performance in the ring. But now it's time, and I hope that he makes the right decision to hang it up. 

Although it's easy to fixate on Canelo's baggage, such as generous hometown scorecards, his utilization of catchweights, waiting out opponents and failing drug tests (and these issues shouldn't be ignored), his talents and positive contributions to boxing are manifold. Those who object to his status in the sport may have legitimate reasons to do so, but in the ring there should no longer be any question about his considerable abilities. He has faced many of the best talents in the sport and with only one exception (Mayweather) he has fought them all on at least close-to-equal terms or better. He continues to improve and has demonstrated a robust boxing aptitude. 

Canelo's versatility and adaptability are special characteristics. He's defeated supposedly faster fighters like Austin Trout and Daniel Jacobs in the center of the ring. He was able to track down a runner like Erislandy Lara. His countering off the ropes was enough to give Gennadiy Golovkin pause in their first fight. He slugged it out with Golovkin during the rematch. He toppled Kovalev as a pressure fighter.

Comfortable leading or countering, stationary or using his legs, in the center of the ring or along the ropes, Canelo has succeeded using all of these modalities, a feat that so few in boxing could claim. Lead trainer Eddy Reynoso has developed Canelo into a complete fighter, And imagine how difficult it must be for opponents to prepare for him. Which Canelo? And what style? 

Furthermore, Canelo isn't even necessarily an exceptional athlete. He doesn't have the hand or foot speed of Crawford or Lomachenko. Although powerful, he lacks the one-punch destructiveness of Inoue. Yet here he is making a claim as the top fighter in the sport with so few of the physical dimensions that many elites possess. That he is even in the conversation speaks to his incredible Ring IQ, his ability to follow and execute vastly different game plans, his large punch arsenal and his all-around skill set as a fighter.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott

What's next for Canelo will be the ultimate parlor game during the next few months. He has three divisions to work with and drives the bus in the sport. Any top fighter from 160 to 175 lbs. could be in play. And while it's an absurd thought that he would take on a killer such as Artur Beterbiev, who would have predicted earlier this year that he would be challenging and knocking out titlists at light heavyweight? 

In an era where so many fighters seem perfectly comfortable with their marginal place in the sport – hey, I have a belt; hey, I make six-figures a fight – it’s refreshing that Canelo rejects the notion of stasis and complacency. He wants to push the bounds of what's possible for him. He believes in the concept of risk. He understands that he plays a large role in pushing the sport forward. And although this can be a large burden, he not only accepts this responsibility, but wants it. This is now the Canelo Era of boxing, and he has earned the distinction.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.