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.