If the thrill and fallout of former two-time tremendous middleweight champion David Benavidez’s spectacular resolution win over Caleb Plant final Saturday on Showtime PPV taught us something, it is that the 168-pound division is firmly within the dialog of finest in all of boxing.
Canelo Alvarez (58-2-2, 29 KOs), who returns May 6 in his native Guadalajara, Mexico, to defend his undisputed tremendous middleweight crown towards necessary challenger John Ryder (32-5, 18 KOs) stays the category of the division after closing out 2021 by stopping Plant to develop into the primary four-belt champion at 168 kilos.
But Alvarez is contemporary off a troublesome 2022 marketing campaign that noticed him lose common standing as boxing’s pound-for-pound king. First, the Mexican star proved unsuccessful in difficult WBA mild heavyweight titleholder Dmitry Bivol in a better weight class. Alvarez then seemed all the pieces from flat to uninspiring in outpointing 40-year-old rival Gennadiy Golovkin of their trilogy combat.
Even earlier than Benavidez battered Plant following a second-half surge final weekend in Las Vegas, the hole between Alvarez and the remainder of the division appeared to seem as if it was closing. But now that there is hypothesis as as to if the 32-year-old Alvarez has misplaced a step as he navigates his nineteenth 12 months as an expert, tremendous middleweight has develop into even that extra enjoyable.
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Should Alvarez defeat Ryder as anticipated, he’ll probably have a troublesome resolution relating to his September plans to return throughout Mexican Independence Day weekend in Las Vegas. Will Alvarez chase a second alternative towards Bivol after arising two factors brief on all three scorecards final 12 months or will he welcome an all-Mexican battle with the red-hot Benavidez?
To additional illustrate the depth of the division he at the moment resides over, let’s take a more in-depth take a look at the largest threats to Alvarez’s undisputed title at 168 kilos.
David Benavidez (27-0, 23 KOs)
Age: 26Last combat: Def. Caleb Plant by way of UD12 (March 25, 2023)Threat stage: High
Long hailed because the “Boogie Man” in ready for the division at giant, Benavidez has lastly appeared to get his stuff collectively after twice being stripped of his WBC title in recent times for drug check and weight points. Considering his measurement, heavy palms and stress model, Benavidez proved towards Plant simply how a lot of an issue for any tremendous middleweight he continues to be. Sure, Benavidez was outboxed by Plant within the early rounds, however as soon as his quantity of brief energy pictures start to gradual opponents down, “The Mexican Monster” turns into a nightmare for foes to take care of within the second half of fights. Thanks to his iron chin and excessive output, Benavidez stays the hardest combat on paper that is out there to Alvarez. And given how a lot the Mexican boxing fan base confirmed out in droves to see him headline his first PPV towards Plant in Las Vegas, there isn’t any query that Benavidez is among the many most tasty opponents commercially for Alvarez.
David Morrell Jr. (8-0, 7 KOs)
Age: 25Last combat: Def. Aidos Yerbossynuly by way of UD12 (Nov. 5, 2022)Threat stage: Medium
It’s exhausting to know precisely what boxing has within the Cuban-born Morrell, who has matched himself extremely powerful by eight professional fights however hasn’t but confronted an elite opponent. Morrell, who know fights out of his adopted dwelling of Minneapolis, has all of the instruments to be nice. The southpaw, who’s co-trained by Ronnie Shields and Bob Santos, captured a secondary WBA title in simply his fifth professional combat in 2021 and has gone on to make three defenses over the previous 14 months. Morrell has fast palms, good energy and appears uniquely motivated for greatness at such a younger age. He’s additionally an amazing athlete who makes use of fixed motion to keep away from massive pictures and counter even greater (all of the whereas being massive for the division at 6-foot-1). Luis DeCubas Sr. has stated publicly that Morrell is one of the best Cuban prospect he has ever seen, which says loads contemplating the veteran supervisor’s historical past of recruiting younger fighters from the island with such a wealthy boxing custom. The solely factor Morrell wants is a chance to show that he belongs on the highest stage.
Jermall Charlo (32-0, 22 KOs)
Age: 32Last combat: Def. Juan Macias Montiel by way of UD12 (June 19, 2021)Threat stage: Medium
It has been 21 months since Charlo final defended his WBC middleweight title after a string of accidents and private points have saved him idle. And whereas the unbeaten two-division champion is anticipated to return this June, most definitely in protection of his 160-pound belt, he has lengthy teased an inevitable transfer up in weight. In truth, whereas showing on the Showtime weigh-in stream at some point earlier than Benavidez-Plant, Charlo stated he can be keen to combat any high 168-pound fighter, together with Alvarez, after they develop into out there. Although he might want to shake off some ring rust first (whereas bouncing again from a lackluster efficiency final day trip), Charlo stays an attention-grabbing candidate to parachute into this already loaded division. With benefits of 4 inches in top and three inches in attain, he is additionally a possible bodily menace for Alvarez given his equal pairing of elite energy and hand velocity. Charlo, like his twin brother, undisputed junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo, can be an clever boxer. The wildcard right here, nonetheless, is that Charlo fights with a nasty perspective given the hefty measurement of the chip on his shoulder that helps him elevate his sport to a better stage when the second requires it, like when he outworked Sergiy Derevyanchenko late in his finest middleweight win up to now.
Demetrius Andrade (32-0, 19 KOs)
Age: 35Last: Def. Demond Nicholson by way of UD10 (1/7/2023)Threat stage: Lukewarm
The former two-division champion made his 168-pound and PBC debuts on the identical evening in January, snapping a 13-month layoff. That’s vital as a result of the expertise of Andrade has by no means been in query. His potential to make massive fights as a excessive threat/low reward opponent choice has been, nonetheless, for greater than a decade. Andrade beforehand got here up brief in drawing the eye of Alvarez again when each fought solely on DAZN. (In truth, Alvarez humorously dismissed Andrade in 2021 after “Boo Boo” tried to crash his press convention after unifying titles towards Billy Joe Saunders). But now that Alvarez is actually a community and promotional free agent, the chance for Andrade may emerge however provided that he can first knock off a giant identify or two beneath the PBC banner. Andrade is a possible trap-fight-in-waiting for any elite foe. With velocity, lengthy arms and distinctive footwork, he is a southpaw who is difficult to look good towards on account of his spectacular management of distance. But after years of frustratingly feasting upon second-rate competitors in hopes that his quantity will get drawn, the trail to Alvarez stays cloudy at finest simply as some concern lingers over whether or not Andrade possesses the firepower to actually give Alvarez pause. Either method, he stays extra more likely to defeat Alvarez than he’s more likely to get an opportunity to seek out out.
Caleb Plant (22-2, 13 KOs)
Age: 30Last: Lost to David Benavidez by way of UD12 (March 25, 2023)Threat stage: Low
Considering he is contemporary off a defeat to Benavidez and was stopped by Alvarez of their 2021 assembly, Plant stays a transparent longshot to achieve a second likelihood at defeating the undisputed champion. An absence of firepower, regardless of proudly owning 2021’s knockout of the 12 months, stays a difficulty for Plant towards the perfect within the division. Yet, Plant is among the many finest pure boxers within the sport and he proved towards Benavidez that he is keen to stroll by hell with a purpose to defend his shot at profitable. For now, it is again to the drafting board. One can nonetheless anticipate the previous IBF champion to seek out himself in massive fights transferring ahead, simply not going towards Alvarez, who bested him in nearly each class after they met two years in the past.
Edgar Berlanga (20-0, 16 KOs)
Age: 25Last: Def. Roamer Alexis Angulo by way of UD10 (June 11, 2022)Threat stage: Low
Just over two years in the past, “The Chosen One” was one of many hottest younger prospects in boxing after knocking out all 16 of his professional opponents within the first spherical. Crossover celeb attraction got here calling as Berlanga was typically seen FaceTiming on social media with rapper Fat Joe, amongst others, who anointed the younger boxer from Brooklyn, New York, as the subsequent nice Puerto Rican fighter to look at. So what occurred subsequent? Berlanga received his subsequent 4 fights however not solely failed to attain a knockout in any of them, he struggled at instances whereas boxing within the face of veteran resistance. To open 2023, each Berlanga and promoter Top Rank mutually agreed to finish their partnership. Berlanga, who has since moved on by signing a multi-fight take care of promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport, will probably all the time be a giant win or two away from consideration within the Alvarez sweepstakes solely due to the attract of manufacturing one other high-profile chapter within the timeless boxing rivalry of Mexico vs. Puerto Rico. The undeniable fact that Hearn has been Alvarez’s promoter of alternative in latest fights does not harm both. But the jury continues to be out as as to if he’ll find yourself being nearly as good of a boxer as his knockout streak steered early on in his rise.
Jaime Munguia (41-0, 33 KOs)
Age: 26Last: Def. Gonzalo Gaston Coria by way of KO3 (Nov. 19, 2022)Threat stage: Low
In 2018, after crushing Sadam Ali to win a 154-pound title at simply 21, Munguia was thought of a future Mexican star within the making. But as soon as he moved as much as middleweight in 2020, Munguia has seen his profession caught in impartial from the standpoint of matchmaking. Yes, Munguia is 7-0 with 5 KOs, whereas sustaining an lively schedule. He additionally has Mexican legend Erik Morales in his nook as a coach, together with the promotional muscle of fellow Hall of Famer Oscar De La Hoya. But his decisions of opponents has been meandering, at finest, which makes a showdown reverse Alvarez at 168 kilos merely not going anytime quickly. Munguia, whose lack of protection additionally stays a obvious problem in any potential combat towards an elite foe, has not too long ago been embroiled in rumors surrounding his need to maneuver up two weight divisions to problem Alvarez conqueror Dmitry Bivol at mild heavyweight. Once once more, the latest actions of Munguia simply do not make a ton of sense.
Christian Mbilli (24-0, 20 KOs)
Age: 27Last: def. Carlos Gongora by way of UD10 (March 23, 2023)Threat stage: Very low
The unbeaten French slugger, who hails from Cameroon, has began to quietly achieve a reputation for himself throughout the division, due partially by his excessive rating and shiny file. An explosive knockout of former title challenger Nadjib Mohammedi final March in Montreal went a good distance in getting folks’s consideration. Mbilli has received three extra instances since then and the 2016 Olympian may at some point discover himself as a compulsory opponent for Alvarez, whom he continues to name out publicly, ought to each fighters proceed to win. But Mbilli does not fairly have the abilities to declare himself a real menace to the undisputed crown and would probably carry nothing greater than a puncher’s likelihood towards Alvarez.
John Ryder (32-5, 18 KOs)
Age: 34Last: Def. Zach Parker by way of TKO4 (Nov. 26, 2022)Threat stage: Very low
The southpaw stress fighter from London is understood for his blue collar model and trustworthy aptitude. His hardworking wins over unbeaten Zach Parker and former middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs converse for themselves over the previous 12 months, as does his 2019 defeat to then-WBA champion Callum Smith in a combat many felt Ryder deserved the choice. But defeating Alvarez looks as if a activity too giant for somebody of Ryder’s skillset. He may also discover himself because the determined customer (and monster betting underdog) when he steps into the ring on May 6 in Alvarez’s first combat on Mexican soil since 2011.
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