Boxing — the sweet science — has always been a sport that demands not only strength, speed, and stamina, but also finesse and technique. However, when matchups are made, there is often an overlooked element: Where both boxers are in their respective careers. How a fighter is doing physically, mentally and emotionally will always impact a fight’s result.
It’s all about timing in matchmaking. Not the timing to land a punch, but when a fight agreement gets sealed and delivered. We all know Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao came five years too late. There might have been a different outcome if both were in their prime, but we will never know.
Perhaps years ago, when the current undisputed junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo and now the current undisputed super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez shared the same weight class (154 pounds), the outcome and the pre-fight hype of this matchup may have been different, swaying back and forth for oddsmakers and fans alike.
But it’s been seven years since Alvarez campaigned at 154 pounds. Although both men have showcased distinct approaches that led them to dominate the boxing world in their respective weight classes, this matchup seemed impossible to finalize at that time. Now, years later, it has now been penciled in for September 30 and in all reality is a surprise.
Let’s break down the styles
Charlo is known for his aggressive boxer-puncher explosive style. He possesses excellent hand speed and devastating punching power, particularly in his right hand. The chief of his operation is his stiff lead jab, freezing most opponents for a split second before deploying his thunderous right cross. Charlo is a knockout artist, with four knockouts in his last five fights. He often incorporates a high guard, using his defensive skills to block and deflect incoming punches. He’s a master at countering his opponents, using precise timing and sharp accuracy to land powerful shots while avoiding damage.
One notable aspect of Charlo’s style is his ability to work from a distance. He uses his 73-inch reach to keep his opponents at bay, utilizing his jab to control the fight’s pace. Charlo’s footwork is decent. He showed good footwork in his last fight against Brian Castano, enabling him to maintain a steady first-line defense while constantly angling for his devastating hooks and right crosses with occasional uppercuts. Charlo also is remarkable at managing his energy. That ability, combined with his pressure, technical skills and heavy hands make him a force in the ring.
Alvarez has an enticing boxing style that perfectly blends aggression, intelligence and defensive prowess. Alvarez is a highly adaptable fighter who uses different variations of his high guard trap, alternating from a double-high guard to a single while surveying the field. He also implements various punch selections depending on his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.
In the early stages of his career, Alvarez was predominantly an aggressive fighter, relying on his youthfulness, exceptional hand speed and explosive combinations. However, as he has grown older, moving up in weight and facing bigger, taller opponents, Alvarez has displayed improved counterpunching and defensive abilities that keep him ranked among the best defensive fighters in boxing.
He sparingly utilizes his excellent head movement, slipping punches with finesse when forced to. Recently, Alvarez has been fighting behind a high guard, swiftly repositioning himself by stepping forward back foot first (generally, the proper footwork is pushing off the back foot, stepping first with the front foot than the back foot follows) and using subtle slips to land powerful counters.
Alvarez has a remarkable upper body and lower body movement, making him a difficult target to hit squarely. His defensive skills and solid chin have allowed him to absorb punches well.
Alvarez is also a great body puncher, consistently targeting his opponents’ midsections to sap their energy and weaken their resolve. Attacking the shoulders and arms of his opponents is another way to isolate his offense, dissolving their defense and increasing his chances of landing the perfect blow to end a fight.
While both Charlo and Alvarez possess aggressive technical styles, there are subtle differences between the two. The height and reach favor Charlo, and keeping the distance is critical for the challenger in this matchup. Charlo tends to rely on his raw power to escape unwanted situations. In contrast, Alvarez is the bigger man having won a title at light heavyweight. He is known for his counterpunching ability and constant forward pressure, forcing mistakes from his opponents to capitalize on.
Charlo’s style is centered on boxing’s fundamentals: hands up, chin tucked, jab, and right cross, slowly breaking down opponents with his pendulum attacks.
Alvarez is skilled at finding openings and capitalizing on them with precision. Understanding both styles helps appreciate the artistry behind their punches, footwork and defensive techniques.
How can Alvarez win?
Alvarez can win by pressuring and cutting off the ring on Charlo. Make the ring smaller for him. In boxing, putting immense pressure on a fighter inside the ring can trigger anxiety and worry, forcing a boxer to expend excessive energy and fight harder than necessary.
Charlo, with his tall frame, relies on having space for his sharp counters to generate leverage and power at the end of his punches. His punches are delivered mechanically, using his physical attributes effectively. To exploit Charlo’s occasional lapses in decision-making, it becomes crucial to capitalize on these moments.
Opponents can disrupt Charlo’s preferred distance and timing to neutralize his power and gain an advantage in the fight. Alvarez must carefully close the distance and operate within the mid-range to inside the pocket. He can exploit Charlo’s vulnerability when he resorts to frantic jabs from a close range, presenting opportunities for Canelo to unleash his devastating counterpunches, overhand rights and left hooks. By recognizing these moments and capitalizing on Charlo’s flawed approach, Alvarez can use his offensive prowess, inflicting significant damage to gain a decisive advantage.
How can Charlo win?
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Given the size difference, Charlo shouldn’t engage in prolonged exchanges with Alvarez. Charlo should focus on slipping and evading punches, rather than directly catching or deflecting them.
As Alvarez’s pressure intensifies, so will his powerful strikes. Charlo can’t afford to let Alvarez compromise his stamina by absorbing his heavy shots. Charlo must prioritize defensive maneuvers like slipping and weaving and making punches fall short. It’s crucial for Charlo to make Alvarez miss and capitalize on his mistakes while draining his energy.
Alvarez is susceptible to stamina issues in the latter half of championship fights, making it a suitable time for Charlo to take advantage and sway the outcome in his favor. Two effective blueprints have emerged from Alvarez’s defeats. Following a similar formula will be vital. Mayweather and Dmitry Bivol, the only fighters to beat Alvarez, showcased exceptional footwork, control on the outside, superior counterpunching skills and impeccable timing in evading and landing punches. Additionally, mental toughness plays a crucial role in executing these strategies. Charlo must box a perfect fight to combat Alvarez’s size, power, countering abilities, and relentless pressure.
In Charlo’s recent training videos, I see a persistent emphasis on attacking Alvarez’s body. This approach would set Charlo apart, as no previous opponent has genuinely targeted Alvarez’s body due to the inherent risks involved. Alvarez’s high guard creates an enticing opportunity. However, reaching his body requires stepping into the middle range and dropping levels, which exposes openings up top, especially for a taller man. Alvarez can exploit those with his counters.
It’s a high-risk strategy, which Charlo must sharply attempt to navigate, if that’s his plan. Alvarez’s high-guard traps are like the hinges on a mouse trap. One touch and smack! Considering Charlo’s preconceived plan and his decision to fight two divisions above his current weight class, coupled with the fact that he absorbed a significant percentage of power shots from Castano in both fights, I strongly favor Alvarez in this matchup. Charlo’s move to a higher weight class and his vulnerability to power shots make Alvarez the clear favorite in this contest, either a stoppage or the distance.