It’s Saul Well and Good. Or Is it?
By Aaron Lloyd
Mexican sensation Saul Alvarez defended his WBC junior middleweight title on Saturday night with a 5th round technical knockout over veteran Kermit Cintron in front of 7,000 fans at the Plaza de Toros in Mexico City. Over the first three rounds, Alvarez fought a calculating, yet tactically conservative fight, however, in the fourth round, he managed to land well to the body, before finally connecting with several hard overhand rights that landed flush on the cheek and temple of the challenger, forcing him to one knee. As the round ticked to a close, Cintron looked to be in trouble once again, however, the bell sounded before Alvarez was able to put enough punches together to finish his opponent off for good. In round five, Cintron turned the tables briefly, and landed well with a series of combinations, however, with ten seconds to go in the round, Alvarez landed a solid straight right hand, which prompted referee Hector Afu to step in and immediately call a halt to the action. In all, Alvarez out landed Cintron by a total of 79-41, and at the time of the stoppage he was ahead on all three official scorecards by a margin of 40-35.
So, the 21 year old remains undefeated and keeps intact his standing as the world’s youngest current titleholder. The question now is do you keep pushing him to take bigger and bigger fights while he is still arguably in the formative years of his career? Or do you capitalize on the current momentum, accepting that his abilities are near peak levels, on the off chance that he implodes and self destructs before the age of 25 anyway, like a certain former heavyweight champion that shall remain nameless?
On one hand, Alvarez does have 40 professional fights under his belt, and more than six years worth of prize fighting experience. He has beaten Carlos Baldomir, Matthew Macklin, Ryan Rhodes, and now Kermit Cintron, and as Roy Jones Jr. pointed out, “He grew up boxing; you can tell by the way he reacts in the ring, and how patient he is, that he is not a guy that just came to the sport.” That being said, you still have to be mindful of not pushing a thoroughbred to the point that his proud heart simply bursts from too much desire. Alvarez is an excellent fighter, but he is still just 21 years old, and he had a very limited, twenty bout amateur career. For his age he shows great maturity and poise, however, sometimes a fighter must be protected from himself above all else, and in this case, he must be protected from his own off the cuff, post-fight celebratory remarks in which he calls out Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Personally, I believe Alvarez will be a better fighter several years from now than he is today. I think his work ethic, attitude, and genuine passion for the sport will only continue to aid his progression, and as a result, there is no reason to put him in over his head at the present. After all, the great Julio Cesar Chavez was only 17 years old when he turned professional, and it wasn’t until his 44th fight (almost four and a half years later) that he received his first title shot. More importantly, it wasn’t until a few years later (between 1986 and 1989) that he truly began to hit his stride, with successful defenses against top caliber fighters like Rocky Lockridge, Juan LaPorte, Edwin Rosario, and Jose Luis Ramirez.
Alvarez has stated repeatedly that he wants to fight the best available regardless of money. Unfortunately, as tempting as it may be to capitalize on the boom times, all it takes is one ill-advised matchup too early in a fighter’s career to send him into a demoralizing flat spin that could ultimately ruin his career. Just ask Meldrick Taylor.