Saturday, April 01, 2023  |



Is Canelo Alvarez a cherry picker?

Fighters Network

It’s always been a hard ask to get everyone on board with something. Rarely do we see unanimous appreciation for any measure, any potential plan which might affect a good number of folks. And doesn’t it seem that in this era, it’s harder than ever to get everyone on the same page of, well, just about anything? So it goes with word that Canelo Alvarez is going to hit another weight division to try and make his mark. Will he be great at cruiserweight, if the planned tussle against Ilunga Makabu, holder of the WBC cruiserweight crown, comes off?

My guess is yes, because I think Canelo Alvarez is now the premier picker of foes in the game, having taken over that title from Floyd Mayweather. Now, some people will take issue with that characterization. Hardcore Canelo rooters will take umbrage at the notion that Canelo “picks” his opponents with excessive care, and infer that I’m lumping him in with Danny Garcia, who used to get tons of stick from critics saying he was a “cherry picker.”

Canelo has the power to fight who he wants, where he wants, when he wants. So, it figures that he’s going to be more diligent about the fights he wants to take on, yes? If you have the power, you generally use the power, right?

Many of you haven’t seen Makabu in action. He’s a cruiser, not in a sexy division, so even the top guys in that class don’t get the love from the platforms that other divisions’ standouts do. Maybe you hadn’t even heard of the 28-2 boxer until you saw that he joined Canelo Alvarez onstage at the WBC convention which just ended, in Mexico.

Canelo Alvarez sits next to WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman at the 2021 WBC convention.

Canelo Alvarez listens on the last day of the WBC convention as ‘BC boss Mauricio Sulaiman gives info on the next challenge for the Mexican pack leader.

The red head and the boxer promoted by Don King did a meet ‘n’ greet at Salon Castillo of the Hotel Presidente Intercontinental two days after Canelo crew boss Eddy Reynoso asked the WBC if they’d sanction a Canelo v Makabu match, and the ‘BC said sure.

“Yes, I accept the fight,” said the 34 year old man from the Democratic Republic Of The Congo, which maybe you knew as ‘Zaire.’ “When I got this news from my manager and the president of the WBC Mauricio Sulaiman, I said ‘Wow, this is something good.’ Canelo is the best boxer on the planet right now. So, I want to fight the best, and I accept, but there will be no catchweight for this fight.”

Interesting…So Canelo Alvarez weighed 168 pounds for his Nov. 6 triumph over Caleb Plant, who proved he’s a top level defender, but that his offense was over-rated a bit because he’d not fought a murderers row during his super middleweight title reign, and power that bothered those guys didn’t make Canelo blink twice. Makabu, who debuted as a pro in 2008, gets into the ring weighing 200 pounds. (Though we’d assume that by May 2022 the WBC would drop the cruiserweight max to 190, what it used to be, as they announced they’d do when they created the 200-224 lbs.”bridgerweight” division.) The weight jump in itself makes a Canelo v Makabu scrap intriguing, though it would be more compelling if the cap stayed at 200 pounds. I’ll still be curious to see how Canelo handles the bulk up, how his power looks at cruiser, how his chin looks against a dude that big.

“I think Canelo is making a big mistake, which he is going to regret, because I’ll walk away with all the (goodies),” Makabu said. “Canelo wants to prove to people that he can do better than others and I am quite prepared to let Canelo try for this dream, but I’ve got my also story to write down. Yes, this is boxing. I lost to Tony Bellew, but I came back. Now I`m telling you one hundred percent, I will knock out Canelo.”

I think not. Because I think Canelo Alvarez knows as much as one can, without stepping in with a fighter, what Makabu could bring to the table in a May match, which is the target month for this latest weight class foray for the 57-1-2 Mexican ace. Alvarez sees a southpaw whose best “name” scalp is Glen Johnson, the 54-21-2 Jamaican road warrior, in his third to last fight, in 2014. Check out the video below, that is Makabu in his last outing, in December 2020, versus Olan Durodola.

Makabu stepped up against Tony Bellew in 2016, and made it compelling. He dropped the Brit in round one of their clash, but Bellew kept his wits, and came back to score a stoppage in round three, winning the vacant WBC cruiser belt. If Canelo watched the Makabu-Bellew event, he saw in round one the born-in-South-Africa Congolese athlete being very deliberate, waiting patiently, and taking some pops from Bellew before countering swiftly with a straight left which put Bellew on his butt. Makabu is not a mover, he’s inclined to keep his feet on the ground, and stays erect in his posture a good deal, so Canelo would be thinking he’ll have plenty of space to whack the body.

Makabu’s punching power might be a tick better on paper than it is in the ring. He has 25 KOs in his 28 wins but his KO efficiency drops when he meets solid B or better fighters. Canelo Alvarez knows with a decent degree of certainty that his chin can handle incoming from the lefty.

Canelo might like how Makabu tends to square up, with a high guard, when he’s getting strafed, and his counter-punching then isn’t going to strike fear into the fighting pride of Gaudalajara. Yeah, I think the power of Canelo is in the same ballpark as Bellew’s on the night he dropped and stopped Makabu.

Canelo Alvarez sounded fearless when he was asked about this new division test. “I’m a very smart fighter,” Canelo said. “I believe in my power and my skills, so this is why we’re going to try. It’s a great challenge and a question of twenty kilos. It’s a fifty/fifty challenge, but I feel very strong. I love challenges and making history. That’s why I’m here, and I like this challenge. We will see if it is the most difficult challenge of my career on that day!”

Canelo Alvarez exults with trainer day Reynoso.

Canelo Alvarez and Eddy Reynoso are today the top fighter/trainer pair in combat sports. They seem totally in sync, don’t they?

Like I said, there will be no shortage of pundits and analysts who aren’t too impressed with this splashy plan. Tim Bradley told Fight Hub that this move is “orchestrated greatness.”

Bradley said that the belts are for TV, and they help draw money…but it’s about the fights, not the straps.

He made a good point, asking the interviewer if he knew what belt Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler fought for. Don’t know, and don’t care, Bradley said.

“Canelo Alvarez versus Makabu is not a fight that everybody wants to see,” said the ESPN analyst, now at the top of the heap among prominent on-screen analysts who are willing to share sharp opinions.

And “regular” Joes and Janes, what are they saying?

I put the question out to the masses–or the folks who use Twitter and follow me, that is…Is Canelo a cherry picker, yes or no? And do you like the Canelo Alvarez leap up the ladder, to cruiserweight, versus Makabu?

Canelo Alvarez talks about moving to cruiserweight as WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman listens at the WBC convention.

“Canelo has the deepest resume in boxing,” replied Matt Andrzejewski. “People forget about his fights many years ago with dangerous southpaws Trout and Lara. In addition Makabu is a dangerous opponent and is much better now than he was when he fought Bellew. I personally really like this fight.”

Pedro Gonzalez thinks that yes, Canelo is sneaky-savvy at picking foes who have some deficiency that he can exploit. “I think it’s fair to call him a cherry picker, and I’m Mexican. Wasn’t it he that said when he was waiting for GGG to age a bit that belts didn’t matter. He fought for honor and glory? But for a while now they matter? I didn’t like Mayweather cherry picking and I as a Mexican can’t give him a pass.”

Paul DiNitto, however, thinks that Canelo Alvarez is not a cherry picker. “Makabu is WBC champ and ranked No. 3 by Ring. 28-0 (25 KOs) so he can crack. Reminds me some of when Sugar Ray Leonard went up to fight Donny Lalonde.”

Neither does Roy Foreman…”I’ve been around and involved in boxing now for over 40 years and I have seen it all,” Roy said. “If Canelo was doing something that was not done before I would be the first to jump on him …but need I say ‘The Bum of the Month Club?’ Joe Louis, and Ali fighting Chuck Wepner, Rudy Lubbers, etc.”

Jacob Rodriguez says no way, Canelo Alvarez isn’t one to diabolically pick ‘n choose: “He is moving up in weight and challenging Makabu, who may not have the same skills but he does have a 90% KO ratio and that in itself is risky given he is the heavier fighter. How is this any different than Roy Jones Jr challenging heavyweight Jawny Ruiz in 2003 when Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko were available?”

I’m going to finish up by answering my own question: No, I don’t think Canelo Alvarez is a “cherry picker,” if you take that to mean he’s pulling one over on us, he’s avoiding obvious challenges and instead picking iffy opposition while portraying the foes as being world beaters. The man has leverage, as the leader of the pack pound for pound, and, no shocker, he uses it.


Michael Woods is a Brooklyn resident.The former NY Newsday reporter and ESPN Magazine staffer is publisher of You can reach him here.