As much as the boxing world was hoping for it to happen, Gennadiy Golovkin will not face middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez for a third time in his next outing. Instead, GGG will take on his IBF mandatory challenger, Kamil Szeremeta, and then he will entertain the idea of finishing his trilogy with Alvarez. So whom does Alvarez, boxing’s superstar, face when boxing resumes?
Given his status, which allows opponents to earn career-high paydays, and his ability to box in multiple weight classes, Alvarez has a host of options. It might come down to whether he prefers to wait, as it seems unlikely that there will be fights with the types of crowds and ticket gates he is used to for a while, or wants to stay active.
Who would make the most sense? ESPN takes a look.
Callum Smith: WBA super middleweight titlist
Smith (27-0, 19 KOs) won the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight tournament by stopping George Groves in seven rounds in 2018. Since that momentous achievement, Smith, 30, dominated veteran Hassan N’dam in a third-round TKO victory in June and outpointed John Ryder in a tough fight to retain his title in November.
How can Smith beat Alvarez?
Smith is listed at 6-foot-3, has size and reach advantages on Alvarez, and possesses a solid offensive toolbox. Alvarez is a very measured counterpuncher, and Smith would be able to outhustle and outwork him at times. Smith would need to be very active in a fight against Alvarez and make sure he doesn’t stay inside the pocket too long.
How can Alvarez beat Smith?
Alvarez has become a master craftsman inside the ring. Under the direction of trainer Eddy Reynoso, Alvarez has really honed his skills. He has become a dangerous counterpuncher and an effective body puncher. Ryder showed that if you smother Smith, you can blunt his effectiveness. Alvarez has a certain command in the ring that is rare.
Prediction: Alvarez by late-round stoppage. Smith would have some success early in the fight, throwing a multitude of punches — landing his share — but Alvarez would welcome such an abundant offensive attack, pick his spots between the shots from Smith and wear Smith down with a steady body attack.
Dmitry Bivol: WBA light heavyweight titlist
Although he’s one of the belt holders at 175 pounds, Bivol (17-0, 11 KOs) and his management have said that they are more than willing to move down in weight to face Alvarez. Bivol, 29, is a skilled boxer who has a great sense of spacing inside the ring and has a strong set of legs that allow him to move in and out of range of his opponents.
How can Bivol defeat Alvarez?
Bivol scored some eye-opening KO wins as he came into the consciousness of American boxing fans, but he has since settled into a boxing style in which he methodically wins round after round. It isn’t always exciting or entertaining, but it is effective. It’s perhaps this type of style that can trouble Alvarez, who would much rather work with an opponent who is coming at him. Also, Bivol has a powerful left hand that would consistently be in Alvarez’s face while at a distance.
How can Alvarez defeat Bivol?
One thing that isn’t known about Bivol is just how he will react on a big stage. For years, Alvarez has been on the largest platforms in the sport, and he is used to having an international audience in the most important events. From a pure fight perspective, Bivol will have to be more assertive than usual and work to consistently close the gap.
Unlike an aged Sergey Kovalev, Alvarez would be facing a fresher fighter with fewer miles on the odometer. It would be imperative for him to turn this into a fight as much as possible. The more action-packed it is, the more it favors him. A pure boxing match is more advantageous for Bivol, even though he is the naturally bigger man. Alvarez has shown to be durable, and he has a strong chin and a better inside game than Bivol. He can’t let the fight be dictated from the outside.
Prediction: Bivol by decision. Now, some will scoff at the notion of anyone having the scorecards go against Alvarez, but that’s a discussion for another column. Bivol has all the tools and the boxing IQ to stay away from the traps that will be laid by Alvarez, and he has just enough power to keep Alvarez honest.
David Benavidez: WBC super middleweight titlist
Benavidez, 23, is an offensive machine if you decide to stay inside the pocket against him. He has above average hand-speed and a wide array of punches that hurt from either side. Thus far, the only blemish on Benavidez’s career is a positive test for cocaine in 2018. But Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) is a talented, young fighter who is ascending.
How can Benavidez defeat Alvarez?
Very simple. Because Benavidez isn’t going to outbox Alvarez — that isn’t really his ring identity — he has to turn the battle into a bit of a firefight and test how much of a super middleweight Alvarez really is. Fighting at a faster, quicker pace benefits Benavidez, who can reel off fast combinations with ease. That’s the risk he has to take if he wants to win.
How can Alvarez defeat Benavidez?
Slowing the pace will be key for Alvarez, as that would take away what Benavidez does best: letting his hands go from close distance. Alvarez has shown great versatility in recent fights, and in this particular matchup, keying his attack with the jab and keeping Benavidez from dictating the tempo will be the way to go. Alvarez has taken early salvos from the likes of Golovkin and Kovalev, while it can be argued that Benavidez has never really had his chin checked from a superior offensive fighter.
Prediction: Alvarez by close decision. Benavidez will make a really good account of himself, but there is something to be said for seasoning and experience. It will be the poise of Alvarez — and his precision — that will get his hands raised in victory.
Billy Joe Saunders: WBO super middleweight titlist
Saunders, 30, is the consummate slick, well-schooled, southpaw boxer, but he’s also an incredibly inconsistent fighter. He can be very good on certain nights and incredibly mediocre on others. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs) was in line to face Alvarez on May 2. In late March, the British Boxing Board of Control suspended Saunders’ license for a video he posted to social media.
How does Saunders defeat Alvarez?
While some might not love this matchup, once in a while, boxing’s biggest names should take on difficult styles that aren’t always favorable. This fight might not provide fireworks, but it’s intriguing. It would be interesting to see how much Alvarez has grown since his bouts against Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara, who, like Saunders, are left-handed fighters with boxing acumen. What Trout and Lara did would be exactly how Saunders should approach this fight: by doing what he does best and sticking to it. Throwing punches from different angles and making Alvarez consistently reset his feet would be vital.
How does Alvarez defeat Saunders?
Alvarez has to be much more adept at anticipating Saunders’ movements by cutting off the ring than he was against Trout and Lara. But he has really come into his own as a complete prizefighter since those fights. When Alvarez does close the gap against Saunders, his left hook downstairs — which has become a key part of his arsenal — will have to be used early and often. Given that Alvarez is the naturally stronger puncher, the more exchanges he could provoke, the better.
Prediction: Alvarez by decision. The harder, more meaningful punches will be landed by Alvarez, and Saunders won’t have enough of a sustained offensive attack to win the necessary rounds to come out with the victory.
Jaime Munguia: Former junior middleweight titlist
Munguia, 23, the former WBO junior middleweight belt holder, is a fun but green fighter. The legendary Erik Morales has been brought into Munguia’s camp to help smooth his rough edges. Munguia (35-0, 28 KOs) is a hell-bent-for-leather type of fighter. In the past, he has punched often without much regard for what was coming back at him. His brain trust has not been hesitant to go big-game hunting. They were close to facing Golovkin a couple of years ago, and they haven’t been shy in expressing their desire to face Alvarez.
How does Munguia defeat Alvarez?
See that kitchen sink over there? Throw that and everything else surrounding it at Alvarez. Munguia isn’t equipped to outbox or outthink Alvarez, so what Munguia would have to do is throw caution to the wind and hope that Alvarez has a bad night. Munguia is not a technically sound boxer, but he is a high-volume pressure fighter with a lot of guts. That said, he would need to let his hands go early and often. Oh, and try to tuck that chin in a bit more.
How does Alvarez defeat Munguia?
By being sound in his technique. Getting into some back-and-forth battles would leave Alvarez with far fewer openings. He’d have to pick his spots and know when to step on the gas pedal. Alvarez wouldn’t have a hard time finding Munguia, who steps right into the breach with all of his opponents. This would work to Alvarez’s advantage, as he’d have plenty of opportunities to pick apart Munguia with well-placed counter-punches.
Prediction: In what will be a fun — if not one-sided — affair, Alvarez stops Munguia in the late rounds. Although Munguia will show great heart and desire, the levels in class will be very evident by the middle stages of this bout.