Canelo’s cruiser campaign

MEXICAN boxing superstar and reigning undisputed (WBA, WBC, WBO, and IBF) super middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez surprised many with his recent announcement that his next fight will take place in the cruiserweight division.

As super middleweight champion, Alvarez currently tips the scales at 168 pounds. The cruiserweight division has a maximum weight limit of 200 pounds and a direct move to this weight class means Alvarez will really have to bulk up.

Alvarez is looking to fight next year WBC cruiserweight champion Ilunga Junior Makabu. The 34-year-old Makabu totes a record of 28-2 with 25 knockouts and won the WBC cruiserweight title in January 2020 with a decision win over Michal Cieslak.

The record books show that there had been super middleweight champions who boldly moved up to the cruiserweight division, with one even bypassing it and going all the way up to the heavyweight class.

In 1988, Thomas Hearns defeated James Kinchen to become the first WBO super middleweight champ. In 1995, Hearns moved up in weight and captured the vacant WBU (World Boxing Union) cruiserweight crown. The WBU, however, is a fringe title and Hearns’ victory went for naught.

American James Toney is in the record books for having held legitimate versions of the super middleweight and cruiserweight titles.

In 1993, Toney won the IBF super middleweight title. Ten years later, in 2003, he added the IBF cruiserweight title to his collection by beating Vassiliy Jirov. Toney actually moved up to the heavyweight division and defeated John Ruiz in April 2005 for the WBA title. Toney’s win, however, was nullified after he tested positive for a banned substance.

In 1994, Roy Jones Jr. defeated Toney to take the IBF super middleweight crown. Jones did not campaign in the cruiserweight ranks but instead moved all the way up to the heavyweight division. In 2003, Jones beat then WBA champ John Ruiz to become the first former super middleweight champ to win the heavyweight crown.

Alvarez is the latest super middleweight to move up to the cruiserweight ranks, but his journey to the weight class figures to be far more impressive.

When Hearns and Toney campaigned in the cruiserweight class, the division only had a weight limit of 190 pounds. The cruiserweight division now has a weight limit of 200 pounds, which means Alvarez will be vying for a heavier crown.

Alvarez is also making a direct jump from super middleweight to cruiserweight.

Hearns and Toney spent considerable time at light heavyweight (175 lbs.) before moving up to cruiserweight which, to reiterate, only had a weight limit of 190 pounds at the time.

Alvarez did make a cameo at light heavyweight, stopping Sergey Kovalev in 2019 for the WBO title. Alvarez immediately returned to the super middleweight class and his last four fights have all been in the 168-pound class.

There are reports swirling that Alvarez is looking to fight Makabu at a catch weight, which means they will agree on a particular weight limit. Word is that Alvarez is not looking to weigh in at 200 pounds and wants Makabu to meet him at a certain weight or catch weight. This is a big letdown if it pushes through because Makabu, as cruiserweight champ, is allowed to weigh in as much as 200 pounds. If Makabu agrees to meet Alvarez at a lower weight, but with his WBC cruiserweight title still on the line, a victory by Alvarez will tarnish his claim to the crown.

As of press time, Makabu has made it clear that he will not accept any catch weight stipulation and will insist on weighing in at the maximum of 200 pounds.

The heaviest Alvarez has weighed in a fight was 174 pounds, when he defeated Kovalev. According to Alvarez’s trainer, Eddy Reynoso, the Mexican superstar has sparred with heavyweights and did well. This explains Alvarez’s confidence in challenging Makabu for the cruiserweight title.

Makabu has not really defeated any marquee name and he was even knocked out by Briton Tony Bellew in three rounds in May 2016. But Makabu has won his last nine fights (7 by knockout) and will enjoy a considerable size advantage when he meets Alvarez. Makabu boldly stated he will knock out Alvarez when they meet in the ring.

If Alvarez beats Makabu at the legitimate weight of 200 pounds, it will be interesting to see if he will move all the way up to the heavyweight division.

The heavyweights today are supersized, with guys like Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder. But there is one heavyweight champ, WBA, IBF and WBO champ Oleksandr Uysk, who is not that big, having come from the cruiserweight division, the same weight class Alvarez will soon invade.