Sunday, November 26, 2023

Opinions and Observations: Benavidez, Matias

In spectacular performances on Saturday, David Benavidez and Subriel Matias again demonstrated that they are two of boxing’s elite punchers. Both fighters won by corner stoppage, with undefeated opponents Demetrius Andrade and Shohjahon Ergashev failing to answer the bell for the seventh and sixth rounds, respectively. 


As we all know, punching power is a vital attribute for boxers. It can be a key separator between fighters. It may be the reason why a fighter can prosper at the highest level despite significant weaknesses. And certainly, knockouts directly lead to wins. But power can also be a more elastic concept; it's far more than the biggest single punch. Neither Benavidez nor Matias is a one-shot knockout artist, yet they are clearly among the most gifted punchers in the sport. And even within that group in which Benavidez and Matias belong, the two are vastly different from each other in how they stop opponents; there are subsets within subsets of power punchers. 

Benavidez (right) landing a right hand on Andrade
Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott/Showtime

Power can come from all different places. It could be how a punch is thrown with perfect rotational torque. Maybe it's a genetic disposition where a given fighter is blessed with superior physical strength for his weight class. Perhaps it's the combination of blinding hand speed with expert punch placement – hitting opponents with punches they don't see.


The source of Matias' power wouldn't fit in any of those categories. He throws hooks to the head from maybe six to eight inches away from an opponent. For most fighters, they would not have enough distance to create maximum power from that close, and yet Matias' short shots detonate on an opponent. Matias (a current champion at 140 lbs.) has to have crazy forearm and wrist strength; he's not a big swinger like a Benavidez. And yet his short punches cause immense damage. Perhaps the only other elite-level active fighter who has such prodigious power from that close is Artur Beterbiev. 


These are unusual punchers and opponents aren't used to them. For so many fighters, getting in close to an opponent takes the sting off their punches, especially head shots. But it seems to be physically impossible to smother Matias. He gets his punches off so quickly and at such short range. Throw in that these punches can be fight-changers, and one can see how treacherous facing him can be. His punches look so innocuous, but they are devastating. 


Benavidez, an undefeated former two-time champion at super middleweight (he lost his belts both times due to out-of-the ring issues), is also an atypical puncher in that he can take out opponents from every range. Although his bread-and-butter is beating people up with body shots on the inside, he is a major threat from distance. In the fourth round against Andrade, he connected with an overhand right from the outside that changed the fight for good. Andrade even had a glove up and partially blocked the shot, but the punch was so concussive that he still fell to the canvas a moment later.


In addition, Benavidez has one of the true sledgehammer jabs in the sport. Although he possesses towering dimensions in the super middleweight division at 6'2", Benavidez somehow can jab to the body as effectively as he does to an opponent's head. While Benavidez isn't considered an elite athlete by many (which is off base...and I'll get to that in a minute), he can give up his height without putting himself at a major risk to be countered. These are athletic maneuvers that appear to be easier than they actually are.


Benavidez has been accused of being a weight bully, of being clunky, of lacking athletic polish. People will criticize his footwork (he occasionally will cross his feet!) and his straight-line movements. Yet Benavidez has now beaten two of the better movers in the sport (Caleb Plant and Andrade), and he made sure that neither fight was in doubt. So, if you believe that Benavidez isn't a serious athlete, what would explain his success against top opponents who know how to use their legs? 


Ultimately, Benavidez has a few secrets that have been missed by many observers of the sport. First, Benavidez is an unusual pressure fighter. Sure, he's coming forward, but he often initiates from the outside. And he's not just throwing from the outside; he's hurting opponents from that range. Thus, the movers aren't prepared for how good he is from distance and how much ground his punches can cover. They are worried about the short punches, but it's his longer ones that often hurt them. 


He also has the element of surprise. With a full arsenal of punches, Benavidez has a tool for almost every circumstance. How about an overhand right? How about a long, sweeping left hook? How about a lead right hook? These are often untraditional shots that opponents haven't prepared for. 


Two additional elements of his game further explain his success. One, he has an unwavering commitment to the body. The Plant fight was a sublime example of how to make a mover not move so much. Benavidez may have lost some early rounds, but he was doing damage to the body even if he was mathematically down in the fight.


Furthermore, his defense is far better than given credit for. Yes, you can hit him and even win rounds, but he's almost always defensively responsible. And more to the point, he doesn't mind taking a punch or two to land his. So, in aggregate, we have an unusual pressure fighter who has power from all ranges with pretty good defense and an understanding of how to break down even the most mobile of opponents. This sounds like a pretty good fighter, doesn't it? I'd say that he's on the short list of the best in the sport. And as Al Bernstein stated on the Showtime broadcast after the fight, "You either have to box perfectly against Benavidez for 12 rounds or really hurt him." So far no one has been able to do either. 

Matias (left) throws a short left hook
Photo courtesy of Ryan Hafey/PBC

Now Matias is a little different in terms of his approach in the ring. Like Benavidez, he will give up some early rounds until he gets going, but he's not necessarily doing anything in the interim until he starts to come forward. He got ragdolled by Jeremias Ponce in the first two rounds of their fight earlier this year and Ergashev landed some thunderous left hands in the first against him on Saturday. 

As devastating as Matias is in the ring, there is a pathway to beating him (and he has lost before, to Petros Ananyan, although he did avenge that defeat in impressive fashion). Matias is susceptible to a long-range puncher. But it will take a fighter to have the discipline to keep firing, while not punching himself out. That opponent will also have to be able to move without over-moving. It will require a fighter to thread a very fine needle against Matias to beat him, or perhaps someone who could bomb him out in the first round. 


Although Matias doesn't offer much at long range, he can get inside pretty well. Like the best pressure fighters, he knows how to block or parry a punch while still coming forward.


Matias will also square up a lot on the inside and despite this being a "no-no" from many trainers, I think it's a critical aspect of his success. So often in boxing what is supposed to be "wrong" for many fighters winds up being right for another. Very few trainers would advise their fighters to square up, because that gives an opponent much more of a target to hit. But you know which trainer preached squaring up at close range? Cus D'Amato, the man who molded Mike Tyson. From D'Amato's biography, Cus believed that squaring up at close range gave his fighter the opportunity to inflict maximum damage. At that moment, Tyson could throw power shots with either hand and an opponent would not have the ability to anticipate the selection or sequencing of punches. This position leads to breaking down an opponent's defensive construct. Where does he place his hands? Where will the shots be coming from? 


Matias' success has reminded me of D'Amato's beliefs. Right in front of an opponent, Matias will unspool wicked hooks and uppercuts with either hand. There's no longer a lead hand or a back hand; it's now two hands that can cause maximum damage. Even a decorated amateur and well-schooled fighter like Ergashev fell apart under that type of duress. He couldn't anticipate Matias at that position. His defensive construct suddenly lost its effectiveness. He had no answers.  


Benavidez at 28-0 and 24 KOs and Matias at 20-1 with 20 KOs will never be mistaken for Deontay Wilder or Julian Jackson. They are not one-punch knockout specialists who will be talked about reverently for generations. However, they are two of the best punchers in the sport and possess unique gifts that even top opponents can't acclimate to. How many fighters can beat you up from any range in the ring? Who can end your night with six-inch punches from either hand in no particular pattern?  


Both Benavidez and Matias are must-watch fighters. They provide unique and thrilling dimensions. They remind us that the orthodoxies of "right" and "wrong" can be fungible. Yes, Benavidez will walk forward and not always be in a boxing stance ready to throw. He'll cross his feet. He'll throw rear hooks from what many would consider irresponsible angles. And Matias will square up giving an opponent his whole body to hit. But he knows at that position, he's the far superior fighter with more power and tools. 

Benavidez and Matias break molds. They challenge conventional wisdom. But while all of that is interesting on a theoretical basis, what they really do is deliver hurt. They administer beatings. They thrill the fans. And that's what keeps the sport humming.   

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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. 

Friday, November 3, 2023

What to Make of Keyshawn Davis?

In 2014, the noted baseball writer Bill James conducted a study where he determined eight factors that indicated "younger player" skills vs. "older player" skills. Those with "younger" skills had more triples, more stolen base attempts and a poor strikeout-to-walk ratio. Players with "older" skills had better command of the strike zone, less speed and more grounded into double plays.  

A key part of James' study was an examination of players who were the same age to see if those with "younger" or "older" skills would go on to have a better future. Prior to the study James had a belief that players with younger skills would do better and the results of his study validated his opinion. Those with younger player skills did in fact do better than those with older ones. Although the differences weren't stark, they were present in the data. 

Similar to baseball, I believe that boxing has certain components that would suggest younger vs. older skills, irrespective of the actual age of a boxer. For instance, I would suggest that boxers with "older fighter" skills have a more developed punch arsenal and their knockout percentage starts to go down. (I know that many in boxing like to say that power is the last to go, but I believe this aphorism is erroneous. Consider those top fighters who stuck around into their late 30s and 40s. The knockouts start to evaporate. Think about Mayweather or Pacquiao or Hopkins or Ali. Compare their knockout percentages in the last five years of their career to an earlier point. Even the great Juan Manuel Marquez only had three KOs in his last ten fights, same with George Foreman – three out of his last ten).  

Other older fighter skills include more poise in the ring, a clear ring identity and a more economical punch volume. Now some of these factors can be studied numerically and others are observations I have drawn over my years of watching boxing. If you disagree, I would welcome your comments as to why you believe differently. 

And what are "younger fighter" skills? Much more movement. More reliant on knockouts. Boxers with younger fighter skills don't have as defined a ring identity. It's less clear how they want to try to win. They have a more limited punch arsenal. Their athleticism is more advanced than their ring craft. 

All of this is prelude to specific feelings I have about Keyshawn Davis. Davis is one of the most unusual young fighters I have seen in my time covering boxing. He is preternaturally poised. Nothing seems to bother him in the ring. He's not in any type of hurry. He places his punches patiently and expertly. Although he has a respectable 60% KO rate in his ten pro fights (I'm counting his recent "no-contest" against Nahir Albright in this data), I don’t think that he’s a huge puncher. He already has a developed ring style as a patient counterpuncher. He throws every punch in the book. 

Keyshawn Davis
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams/Top Rank

But what is most interesting to me is his energy level as a young fighter; he wastes no energy. Everything he does is purposeful. He's not punching himself out or fatiguing himself, which many young fighters do when they first face initial resistance. But as a corollary to that, he doesn't seem to have those additional top gears that many young fighters possess. He hasn't had to go to the well in his career, but he also doesn't try. What is in his reserve? Does he have a reserve? 

What I suspect is that Keyshawn Davis will not have a better career moving forward than that of his frequent sparring partner, Shakur Stevenson, despite Davis being two years younger. To me, Stevenson still has many of the young fighter skills that would suggest a longer and better future. His athleticism is top tier. He still moves a lot. His reflexes are as sharp as they can be. He continues to add to his offense, not just in the types of punches he throws but also his temperament in the ring. He's still discovering things about himself in the ring.  And Shakur has the ability to turn it up when needed. 

With the stipulation that both fighters stay out of trouble, I would take the next ten years of Stevenson's career over Davis' without any hesitation. I can still see areas where Stevenson can continue to refine, but what Davis may lack are factors associated with youthful zeal. He may already be close to his finished product even though he's just ten fights in. 

In his last fight, Davis only threw 331 punches in ten rounds, averaging just over 33 punches a round, a troubling number for a young fighter without true knockout power. That result, a majority decision victory, was subsequently overturned after Davis failed a drug test (the early scuttlebutt was marijuana). In the fight before, he threw 465 punches over ten rounds, a much better number, but certainly not an overly active total in the lightweight division. In his fight against Omar Tineda in 2022, he again failed to reach 40 punches per round. 

As a point of comparison, Stevenson threw close to 50 punches a round against Oscar Valdez and was well above the 50-per-round mark against Jamel Herring. And those two opponents were of much higher quality than anyone who Davis has fought. Stevenson also doesn't set punch volume records, but as he has become more offensively oriented, he has increased his punch volume considerably, demonstrating his significant athletic reserves, a key trait of younger fighter skills. 

Now I don't believe that Davis will become a bust, but I do think that he will have an earlier peak than many fighters. I have no doubt in his ability to win a world title in the next two to three years. I just don't think that he will be the guy to hang around into his late 30s. I'm not sure that he has the athletic reserves or the temperament to compete for that long. I believe that his future is now. I don't see a long decade-like reign on the pound-for-pound list. 

Now it's possible that I will wind up with egg on my face. And I'm prepared to accept that. Maybe Davis will incorporate a different strength-and-conditioning regime. Perhaps his self-perception of how he wants to fight will change, leading him to increase his tempo and urgency. But based on what I've seen to this point, I wouldn't expect him to suddenly turn into an offensive dynamo in the ring. 

For several fights, something hasn't sat right with me while watching Davis and I think that the Bill James older skills vs. younger skills rubric helped me realize what it was. We are watching a very advanced fighter in the ring. Davis is 24 right now, but if you think of him as 29 or 30, I think that's far more appropriate. He may only have three of four more prime years left. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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. 

Friday, October 27, 2023

Dmitriy Salita: Ready to Knock the Door Down

"I have an aversion to not being let in the door." Those are the words of promoter Dmitriy Salita, the former title challenger (against Amir Khan) and amateur standout who won the U.S. Golden Gloves tournament. While he was still an active fighter, Salita started his own company and promoted himself on his own shows. In a few short years, many notable fighters approached him about appearing on his cards or signing with him. Salita saw boxing promotion as his future and knew that with his experience in the sport, connections with fighters, and desire to succeed, that he could thrive. 

In 2016 Salita faced a crisis that happens to many young promoters: sharks in the water. Salita had fast-rising heavyweight prospect Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller under contract. Offers came in for Salita to co-promote Miller with bigger companies: he wasn't interested. And when that didn't work, they tried to poach him. Salita didn't take well to being bullied. 

"I’m an immigrant," Salita said. "When I came to the United States, my parents could only afford Payless shoes. All the kids used to make fun of me. So, I had to defend myself. With Miller, when people wanted to push on me, when they wanted to bully me, I stood my ground and I defended my fighters and my business...I hired the best lawyers that money could buy, and I kicked ass."

But an interesting thing happened after that incident. Salita believed that he started to garner a lot of respect from his fellow promoters. They saw that he was willing to stand up for himself. And while Salita wants to win and grow his business, he doesn't believe in boxing as a zero-sum game. He wants to work with others, when it makes sense. He does have co-promotional deals for a couple of his fighters with DiBella Entertainment. He has frequently had his fighters appear on Matchroom Boxing cards. When he has been the lead promoter on ShoBox cards, he has invited other promoters to fill slots on the broadcast. 

Salita (right) with Claressa Shields
Photo courtesy of Salita Promotions

Salita's story takes him from Ukraine, in what was then part of the Soviet Union, to the tough Brooklyn fight scene of the '90s (his trained at the Starrett City Boxing Club, which included notables such as Zab Judah, Danny Jacobs, Shannon Briggs and Luis Collazo, among many others), to now Detroit, where he is working to revive boxing in what was once one of the sport's glamour cities. All throughout his travels, he has made connections that have led to him amassing an impressive stable of fighters, especially when considering he has yet to have a secure network deal. 

His highest profile fighter is Claressa Shields. Salita saw her potential as an attraction before others in the industry did. He had her headlining a show at the MGM Grand in Detroit in just her second professional fight. The place sold out, and it was the venue's first ever boxing card. Salita was able to get Shields a headlining slot for ShoBox, becoming the first woman to headline a card in the franchise's history. Shields' fight earlier this year against Maricela Cornejo sold over 11,000 tickets. 

Salita Promotions has numerous ascendent fighters, from those approaching the championship level, such as Shohjahon Ergashev, who is scheduled to fight Subriel Matias for a world title later this year, and undefeated super middleweight Vladimir Shishkin, to undefeated middleweight prospect and decorated amateur Joseph Hicks. He also has heavyweight contenders Otto Wallin and Jermaine Franklin. 

Salita prides himself on his eye for talent. As a fighter, he originally signed with Top Rank. He had the opportunity to learn from Bruce Trampler and Sean Gibbons as to how to evaluate styles and when to sign or pass on a young talent. Salita was a sponge and always asked questions about the sport. 

One key he believes in is the family situation of a young fighter. Does the fighter have stability? Has he or she been able to overcome adversity in life? What is the fighter's support system? 

Salita also understands the power of branding and marketing. He understands the relative apathy that many Eastern European fighters face in the American market. Often without natural fan bases and with names that aren't easy to pronounce, these fighters, even the talented ones, can struggle to attract attention. Salita had a long-standing relationship with SugarHill Steward going back to his professional career. And when he signed Shishkin (whom he had initially discovered from YouTube!) and Ergashev, he immediately placed them with Steward, which provided those two fighters with instant credibility. 

"There are lots of fighters from the FSU, or former Soviet Union," said Salita. "And to Americans, they are all the same. They are indifferent to most of them. So, I felt I had to differentiate them. 

"First of all, Ergashev is a big puncher. He has a huge following in Uzbekistan. He’s like a national hero there, but he needed to team up with an American brand. And that brand was the Kronk Boxing Gym and SugarHill. So, I brought him to the United States, found him a place to live, and introduced him to SugarHill. 

"Shishkin, I saw two of his fights on YouTube. He beat a former world title contender from France [Nadjib Mohammedi]. I reached out to him. Sugar and him fit perfectly together. I believe that Emanuel Steward’s style of boxing is a combination of European and American boxing. It’s a fusion of the best of both worlds. And SugarHill is the progression of that."

As a transplant to the Detroit area, Salita has invested heavily in the local boxing scene. He was appalled at the quality of local shows when he initially arrived. Although there were talented fighters, very few were getting developed properly. 

"There are a lot of very talented fighters in Detroit," Salita said, "and there has always been. But the fighters weren't being developed, and the streets, the pressure of life, withered many of them away. The problem was that people in Detroit would fight in a local high school. Someone who was 7-0 would fight someone who was 0-3. They were never tested. They were never developed. And then they would go to fight in Vegas against someone who was tested, but they didn’t have the skills or the support to be able to progress themselves. And that was that. No one was looking out for them. 

"If you develop talented fighters wisely and properly, they can become contenders or world champions. If you have an infrastructure and a real system to developing fighters, from matchmaking to media to marketing to training, then the guys that have the talent can develop into something special. So, I feel that there is a lot of potential here."

Among his emerging Michigan fighters, Salita is particularly impressed with Hicks (9-0, 6 KOs, middleweight), Joshua Pagan (9-0, 4 KOs, junior welterweight) and Da'Velle Smith (7-0, 6 KOs, middleweight). And he continues to promote local shows in the area. 

With all the success that Salita has had in a relatively short time in the promotional ranks, he is far from self-satisfied. What he really craves is a network deal. To him, that will take his company to the big time. Without a consistent platform he knows that he will have to continue to scurry and hunt-and-peck to progress his fighters and his own company. 

He has a vision for the sport's growth. He understands the problems with network exclusivity and how it's a disincentive to creating compelling boxing offerings. He believes in retirement and pension plans for fighters. He wants to reengage boxing fans. But without a consistent home, he continues to face an uphill battle. 

However, despite his struggles to break through to the top level, he is optimistic about the future of Salita Promotions. He has created an infrastructure to take his company to the next level, including attorney David Berlin (who used to head the New York State Athletic Commission), matchmakers Steve Clemente and Eric Bottjer and P.R. ace Kelly Swanson. He has an individual plan for each one of his fighters. He knows that if an Ergashev or a Shishkin can break through, even more doors will open. His goals for himself are not modest: 

"I want to be one of the main providers of boxing in the United States," he said. "I want to make the biggest and the best fights. I want to work with everyone. And I want to grow the sport. And I believe I can do all of that."

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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, October 1, 2023

Opinions and Observations: Canelo-Charlo

Let's start at the end, shall we? After Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's domination of Jermell Charlo, Canelo was jubilant during the post-fight interview. "I love boxing so f$&#ing much," the undisputed super middleweight champion shouted, smiling ear to ear. Leading up to Saturday's fight, Canelo had acknowledged slippage in his most recent outings, and he declared that he had rededicated himself to the sport. For this fight he left his comfortable San Diego home base for the mountains near Lake Tahoe and scheduled a 14-week training camp, not the sign of a boxer who is cutting corners.   

The results were striking. It was immediately apparent how much better he looked on his feet. Canelo had a bounce to his step. His footwork wasn't ponderous. And he put together a strong 12 rounds. There was no fade; he didn't look labored. He was focused on the task at hand. He looked like a craftsman who had fallen back in love with his work. 

Canelo lands a left hook to the body
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime

After losing 10 or 11 of the rounds on Saturday, Charlo didn't seem particularly bothered by his defeat. In his post-fight interview, he talked about how he had been proud of himself, that he dared to be great, that he could move back down to 154 lbs. 

Yet his effort didn't live up to the "Lions Only" moniker that he and his brother had given themselves. Charlo never looked comfortable or confident. He was far more concerned with being evasive in the ring than trying to mount a consistent offense. He got in a sharp left hook every so often, but the commitment to win just wasn't there.  

It was a strange performance from Charlo, who had always fought hard during his tough matchups. Even when things hadn't gone his way in several of his bouts, he had a way of willing himself back into fights. He saved a draw with his late-round rally in the first Brian Castano fight. He had trouble with John Jackson's movement before stopping him. Tony Harrison was having a great second fight until Charlo turned it around with a late-round knockout.  

But against Canelo, Charlo was compliant in his defeat. He capitulated. In watching the fight, I never got the sense that he believed he could win, or even if he couldn't, that he would do his absolute best to try for it. I'm sure being knocked down in the seventh spooked him, but well before that point the fight had failed to be competitive.  

Charlo taking a knee in the seventh
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin

Although there was a significant power gap between the two, which certainly affected Charlo, the most striking difference to me was their respective defenses. While Charlo's defense has always been penetrable, he had almost always been able to get through with his best punches. And yet according to CompuBox, he landed less than 18% of his shots. Canelo essentially doubled Charlo's connect percentage. Although Charlo lacked Canelo's power, Canelo's victory was far more comprehensive than that factor. Charlo didn't even have the tools to land on Canelo on a consistent basis. And considering that Charlo entered the fight as an undisputed champion and one of the elites in the sport, that's quite an alarming piece of evidence. 

Canelo will always be known for his left hook, but I think that his right hook was the best punch of Saturday's fight. Like a surgeon, he was able to place the shot perfectly around Charlo's high guard and land it with thudding power. Charlo never made the defensive adjustment for the punch. The knockdown in the seventh was a direct result of Canelo's success with the right hook. With Charlo against the ropes, Canelo was lining up the right hand, but instead of hooking with it, he shot an overhead right between Charlo's gloves. The shot itself didn't knock Charlo down, but he took a knee to regroup; the punch was that devastating. Ultimately, Charlo's inability to defend the right hand was his single biggest defensive issue (and there were others). Instead of taking away Canelo's straight right or his right hook, Charlo was unable to do either. 

Throughout the rest of the fight Canelo mixed in an array of single shots: jabs, hooks, uppercuts. In the past he had several fights where he became too left hook-happy or was overly reliant on his overhand right. On Saturday, he was able to throw and land his entire arsenal. Although he rarely threw in combination, he offered an unpredictability with his punch selection that kept Charlo unsettled.  

The respective performances from Canelo and Charlo illustrate the importance of intangibles. Canelo fought like he had more to prove on the night. Essentially, it was a guy who wanted to be there against a guy who quickly didn't. Charlo is certainly a much better fighter than he showed on Saturday, but he wasn't interested in finding out what would happen if he really went for it. He's a guy who still has options at 154 and 160 lbs., and he fought like it. While Canelo demonstrated that he was the more skilled fighter in the ring, even that advantage can often be overcome or even challenged by an opponent's desire or will, but Charlo manifested none of that on Saturday.   

Charlo will certainly face another notable opponent in a lower weight class, but he will return to the ring with his reputation diminished. In the biggest moment of his career, Charlo made a deal with himself to survive. That is the opposite of what prizefighting is about. And while I'm sure that the additional zeroes in his bank account will take the sting off his loss, the fans and the boxing industry will remember his poor showing. He had a historic opportunity to cement his legacy, to become an era-defining fighter, and he didn't go for it, deciding instead to be satisfied with his participation trophy.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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.  

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Canelo-Charlo: Preview and Prediction

When the fight between undisputed super middleweight champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (59-2-2, 39 KOs) and undisputed 154-lb. king Jermell Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs) was originally announced, I immediately thought that Charlo had a great chance to spring the upset. Let me be more specific; despite Charlo moving up two divisions, I felt very confident that he would win the fight. But as the days and weeks have passed from that initial feeling, and as Saturday approaches (the fight will be at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas), I have significant concerns about Charlo's chances of winning.  

In Charlo's last fight, the rematch with Brian Castano where Charlo won by 10th-round stoppage, I thought that Jermell had the performance of his career. He had finally put everything together: power, boxing ability, purposeful movement, listening to his coach Derrick James, and not loading up on big punches. That Jermell Charlo was clearly among the top fighters in the world, and I could see him giving Canelo or any elite opponent problems.  

But then I asked myself: Can Charlo sustain this new level or was that performance a peak that was unlikely to be duplicated? And this is one of the central questions in analyzing Canelo-Charlo. If Charlo can summon that degree of perfection again, then I believe that he possesses all the attributes he would need to beat Canelo. But what are the chances of him putting together two perfect performances in a row?  

Canelo (left) and Charlo at the kickoff press conference
Photo courtesy of Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions

In digging into Charlo's ring history, I feel less confident that the version from the second Castano fight will be here to stay. He's struggled against boxers before. He was lucky to escape the first Castano fight with a draw. He lost to Tony Harrison in a competitive fight and Harrison was doing very well in the rematch before Charlo stopped him. He also ate some huge shots against Jeison Rosario before ending that fight. In a concerning performance, he struggled to defeat Austin Trout despite knocking him down twice.  

With the exception of the Castano rematch, Charlo has never strung together a dominant wall-to-wall display in his career against a top opponent and I think that he would need to be close to that level to win a decision over Canelo. I don't think that Charlo will be able to stop Alvarez, who has demonstrated a sterling chin throughout his career, so a points win for Charlo would be a must.  

In almost all his fights with Derrick James, Charlo has been a low-volume power puncher who will give up some rounds looking for the knockout. Again, the second Castano fight was a deviation from this pattern. And maybe he found something new with his last fight, but I'm skeptical that he can maintain a higher-volume style against Canelo. Canelo's a master counterpuncher and the more that opponents open up against him, the more opportunities he has to counter. Thus, I do believe that Charlo, especially after feeling some early counters from Canelo, will not be throwing tons of volume in trying to win the fight. 

And if Saturday's match does settle into a low-volume affair with a couple of decisive power punches a round, then the fight will favor Canelo. Alverez's power shots sparkle; they are easy to see; plus, he will have the crowd with him.  

I also have additional concerns about Charlo's preparation and sharpness for the fight. Derrick James has had an absurdly busy schedule over the summer with his involvement with Errol Spence, Anthony Joshua and Frank Martin. There have been videos circulating of Charlo training with former champion Joan Guzman during this camp. Now Guzman was a terrific fighter and a really sharp boxer at his best, but I think that James' connection with Charlo has been vital in taking Jermell to his current level in the sport. Maybe Guzman is an excellent trainer, but I'm not sure that he can replace the bond that Charlo has with James. Charlo and James will need to be in lockstep to beat Canelo and with James having a broken camp with Charlo, I'm concerned that they might not have the dedicated time needed to cover every base needed for this fight.  

In addition, Charlo will enter Saturday's fight coming off a 16-month layoff, which will be the longest period of inactivity in his career as a champion. Charlo is a rhythm fighter who needs to be on point with his counters and power shots to win rounds. I worry about his ability to be sharp throughout 12 rounds against Canelo without having been in the ring recently. 

Now it's true that Canelo hasn't looked terrific in his recent fights. He had big leads against Gennadiy Golovkin and John Ryder but didn't finish either fight strong. He was also summarily outboxed by Dmitrii Bivol, where he couldn't handle Bivol's length, discipline or footspeed. And while Charlo can certainly box, I don't think that he possesses too many similarities with Bivol, who prefers to go in-and-out hitting singles and doubles, not concerned with knockouts or landing his best power shots. 

In the final analysis for Saturday's fight, I edge the fight to Canelo. I think it will be a battle of intermittent power punches. I think that Canelo hits a little harder, he can take a big shot, and is more comfortable with his style on the big stage. I believe that Charlo at his very best possesses the traits to win, but I'm not sure that he will be on point from the opening bell or have the ability to stick with his game plan for 12 rounds. Ultimately, I think that Canelo will be just a little bit better throughout the fight. Expect some ferocious power punches landed, but also a fair amount of staring in the fight, with many rounds coming down to one or two decisive punches. I think that Canelo would welcome this type of fight and I believe that he will do enough to have his hands raised when the final scores are announced. 

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez defeats Jermell Charlo via decision. Let's call it seven rounds to five or eight rounds to four. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
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