Time For Canelo Alvarez To Become Elite Is Now

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” ― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The final arrival of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez as an elite caliber fighter has been something boxing fans have been waiting for in the past several years. After a dismantling of Shane Mosley underneath Mayweather/Cotto, before an even more devastating dismantling against Josesito Lopez, Alvarez finds himself in a unique spot. He’s not quite an elite, pound for pound talent just yet. But he’s no longer just a prospect on the rise, either. He’s in that growing phase of his career, where he has to show that when the rubber meets the road he can thrive.

He’s exceptionally close to graduating from the finishing school of Contender College, and into his post graduate work at Elite Fighter University. This weekend’s matchup with Austrin Trout marks what should be his graduating ceremony, the moment where we point to years from now as being the start of Canelo’s ascendance into that rarified air of elite boxers regardless of weight class.

So far Alvarez has had a tough but manageable road to being the WBC Light Middleweight champion. His last two fights have been fighters he was supposed to beat and did so in spectacular fashion; Shane Mosley doesn’t get taken apart like that by mediocre fighters and Josesito Lopez hadn’t been knocked down, much less stopped, before he fought Alvarez. Both of those wins mean something and Alvarez so far passes the eyeball test of whether or not he’s an elite talent. We know how good he is right now, and how good he could be, but his ceiling isn’t in view yet.

Alvarez is still in the star-building mode … but not for long.

There’s always something about both of those fights that doesn’t make it feel like Alvarez is an elite fighter, just a very good one. Mosley isn’t shopworn but he’s at the tail end of his career. The win didn’t feel as big after Mosley was dismantled by Mayweather and Pacquiao after drawing with Sergio Mora. It’s a tough stretch of fights but Mosley didn’t look elite anymore. Mosley was more of a name than a talent when Alvarez fought him; it was a good win, ala Mayweather over De La Hoya, but made more to build one fighter than as a competitive matchup of elite talents. That ship had sailed prior to Mosley/Alvarez for the man called “Sugar.”

Lopez was an unexpected opponent after he upset Victor Ortiz; Ortiz/Alvarez was the fight that was viewed as more profitable and being built towards. Alvarez’s big win was expected but it didn’t make you think “Canelo could beat Mayweather” right after like a similar win over Ortiz could’ve. It felt like “Canelo just tore up another guy,” and nothing more, which is a shame because Lopez is a great fighter in his own right. Alvarez’s win was special but it didn’t feel as special as it could have.

Right now Alvarez’s career has been managed exceptionally well and he’s fought accordingly. It’s not much of a stretch to see him taking over the mantle of Mayweather/Pacquiao as the best fighter alive sooner than later. He can’t take any steps back and from here on out as he’s potentially a handful of fights away from taking on Mayweather or Pacquiao in what should be a massively successful fight of its own right. Right now we have to find out whether or not he’s ready for a fight of that magnitude and that’s where Austin Trout comes in.

Now we find out whether or not the red-headed Mexican fighter’s hype has been warranted. This weekend is the final step, the final fight before every fight is against someone who’s a tough out and not designed to do “x” in his career. This isn’t to show he can handle a power puncher, or someone with great movement … this is to determine whether or not he can take that final step into elite level territory.

Austin Trout is boxing’s equivalent of a final exam for Alvarez.

It’s why this weekend’s fight is easily the most intriguing of a fairly stacked combat sports weekend. This is what could be the start of Saul Alvarez’s ascendance to the top of the boxing world or the latest in a long line of boxing hopefuls who’ve fallen just when their star seemed to be burning brightest.

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