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Canelo Alvarez is the 2021 TSS Fighter of the Year

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  • Canelo Alvarez is the 2021 TSS Fighter of the Year

    Click image for larger version  Name:	Canelo.PNG Views:	21 Size:	703.7 KB ID:	20589

    By Bernard Fernandez

    In boxing’s strange and curious year of One-Hit Wonders, it makes perfect sense that The Sweet Science’s 2021 Fighter of the Year is the busiest bee of elite pugilism, Santos Saul Alvarez Barragan.

    That’s admittedly quite a mouthful, but you can call the fully unified ruler of the super middleweight division Canelo. Hey, everybody does. The nickname the man who is widely considered to be his sport’s pound-for-pound best has come to be known by globally is short, descriptive (of Alvarez’s red hair, fair complexion and freckles), easy to remember and as appropriate for a superstar of his stature as “Pele” was for Brazilian soccer legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento or “The Babe” was for 1920s/’30s New York Yankees slugger George Herman Ruth.

    “Family members and friends call me Saul, but sometimes they’ll slip and call me Canelo,” the 31-year-old Alvarez explained in 2017, when he was already near the peak of his powers but with additional room for legend-building that may still be quite a way from completion. “It doesn’t matter. I’m happy to accept that. [Being called Canelo] became natural to me.”

    Something else that comes naturally for Mexico’s most popular fighter and accomplished active fighter is winning, often spectacularly, and collecting world championship belts as if they were discount coupons for a fast-food joint back in his hometown of Juanacatian, in the province of Jalisco. His 11th-round stoppage of IBF 168-pound titlist Caleb “Sweethands” Plant in their unification showdown on Nov. 6 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena enabled him to annex that strap to go along with the WBC, WBA and WBO ones he already held, making him just the sixth male, and first Latino, to fully unify a weight class in the four-belt era that dates back to the division’s creation in 1984. He joins an exclusive club that includes middleweights Bernard Hopkins (2004) and Jermain Taylor (2005), junior welterweights Terence Crawford (2017) and Josh Taylor (2021) and cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk (2018). Canelo and Taylor are the only two fighters who currently claim that distinction.

    “This means so much for the history of Mexico to become an undisputed champion,” Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 KOs), who previously enjoyed reigns at junior middleweight, middleweight and light heavyweight, told the sellout crowd of 16,586. “There are only six undisputed champions (in the four-belt era). It keeps me happy and very motivated to be one of the six.”

    How active was Canelo in 2021? In a year where other premier fighters by choice or circumstance were one-and-dones, he fought and won three times, retaining his WBC and WBA super middleweight titles on Feb. 27 on a third-round TKO of WBC mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim of Turkey, who did not come out for the fourth round; added Englishman Billy Joe Saunders’ WBO belt on May 8 on an eighth-round stoppage before a crowd of 73,126 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and then systematically broke down the undefeated and very capable Plant, a Tennessean who now lives in and fights out of Las Vegas. If you include his unanimous decision over the United Kingdom’s Callum Smith on Dec. 19, 2020, for the vacant WBC super middle crown, Alvarez logged four wins in as many tries against high-grade foes over an 11-month period.

    But remaining on an unshared throne that other dipped-in-gold passers-through in the super middleweight division missed out on, including Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roy Jones Jr., James Toney and Joe Calzaghe, may not be enough of a challenge to make Alvarez stay put. He already has set his sight on a jewel-encrusted belt in a fifth weight class, cruiserweight, against the winner of the Jan. 29 clash pitting WBC champ Ilunga Makabu of Congo and Thabisco Mchunu of South Africa. Now that he’s cleaned out the super middles, who can blame him for getting right back into action and against a significantly larger opponent? If you’re going to dare to be great, the bigger the hurdle, the greater the reward when you clear it.

    It was a strange year for boxing, 2021 was, what with COVID-19, among other factors, impacting a lot of top fighters’ schedules. The four top contenders for TSS Fighter of the Year other than Alvarez – Usyk, Taylor, Tyson Fury and George Kambosos Jr. – all fought just once. Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs), the former undisputed cruiser king from Ukraine who was fighting for just the third time as a heavyweight, scored an upset unanimous decision over WBA, IBF and WBO ruler Anthony Joshua on Sept. 25 before a massive crowd of 70,000-plus in London; Taylor (18-0, 13 KOs), the WBA and IBF super lightweight champ from Scotland, on May 22 annexed Jose Ramirez’s WBC and WBO belts on a 12-round unanimous decision; WBC heavyweight titlist Fury (31-0-1, 22 KOs) on Oct. 9 dominated former champ Deontay Wilder in winning via 11th-round knockout, and Kambosos (20-0, 10 KOs), mostly unknown outside of his native Australia, came to Madison Square Garden and on Nov. 27 wrested the favored Teofimo Lopez’s WBA, IBF and WBO lightweight belts on a 12-round split decision.

    Collectively, Canelo – who turned pro at 15, had his first 12-round fight at 17 and has now faced 21 world champions in 60 professional outings – and the four TSS FOY runners-up are now 125-1-3 with 87 KOs.

    Editor’s Note: Bernard Fernandez, named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the Observer category with the class of 2020, was the recipient of numerous awards for writing excellence during his 28-year career as a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Daily News. Fernandez’s first book, “Championship Rounds,” a compendium of previously published material, was released in May of 2020. The sequel, “Championship Rounds, Vol. 2,” with a foreword by Jim Lampley, arrived last fall. The book, published in paperback, can be ordered through and other book-selling websites and outlets.

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel
    Last edited by AcidArne; 01-03-2022, 09:24 AM.

  • #2
    Who else?