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Firmly in his prime, Canelo Alvarez seeks challenges, history

Updated May 6, 2022 - 10:46 pm

The silk pajamas are supposed to represent the champion, hip spoils. The kind of contentment befitting a lifelong commitment to the sweet science.

But for boxing’s pound-for-pound king, Canelo Alvarez, they would seem to represent the opposite.

Sure, he sports his silk Dolce & Gabbana pajamas publicly, brandishing them Thursday for the final news conference and again Friday at the weigh-in before his fight against WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol.

Don’t be fooled by the duds.

The four-weight world champion three-weight unified world champion and undisputed super middleweight champion is far from content — and won’t be so long as there’s history on the horizon.

“This kind of challenge is going to put me in the top in the history books of boxing,” Alvarez says. “I feel alive when I have this kind of challenge. … It’s my time. I feel in my prime. And I enjoy these kinds of moments.”

Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 knockouts) on Saturday faces another undefeated champion, his fourth such foe in his past five fights. Bivol, though, is bigger and better than Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant, the once unbeaten titleists from whom Alvarez claimed the four 168-pound championships.

A victory over the 31-year-old Russian at T-Mobile Arena would be his literal biggest to date, equaling that during his 175-pound debut Nov. 6, 2019, over former light heavyweight juggernaut Sergey Kovalev.

Big as that may be, though, the Mexican icon has his sights set on ever bigger challenges.

“There isn’t a fighter you could work with that you’d have more confidence in, going into a fight,” said Matchroom Boxing chairman Eddie Hearn, with whom Alvarez has a promotional partnership. “You’re not that nervous when (Alvarez) fights because of the way that he talks to you. The way that he carries himself. The belief that he has. There’s nobody you’d rather put in the ring than him.”

You can scan Alvarez’s boxing record for a moment and realize quickly why Hearn has so much faith in the stubble-faced champion. He was a professional at 15, a world champion at 20, a prime pay-per-view draw at 23 and now at 31 the greatest fighter of his era with 21 world title fights under his belt.

Er, his four belts.

He’s enthralled by boxing history and determined to earn his rightful place within it, fighting champion after champion and challenging for world titles in eight of his last 10 fights.

Bivol, Alvarez says, is another great champion. Perhaps the first one capable of truly testing his mettle since middleweight stalwart Gennady Golovkin, against whom Alvarez will defend his super middleweight championship if he wins Saturday.

Beat Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs) and cap the trilogy against Golovkin with a victory, and history becomes his personal Play-Doh.

What about fighting for the undisputed light heavyweight championship? Adding an undisputed championship in a second weight class after Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr. unify their three titles in June?

“Yes,” he says, “I like the idea to be undisputed at 175.”

A foray into the cruiserweight division? Against, say, WBC champion Ilunga Makabu?

“Yeah. I like that idea, too.”

How about a fight against former undisputed cruiserweight champion turned unified heavyweight champion Olkesandr Usyk? At a contracted weight of 201 pounds?

“I like it,” says Alvarez, who can practically pick his opponents now as boxing’s biggest draw. “Why not? … I’ll fight anybody. I don’t (expletive) care.”

The speculation mostly stops there, though, because Alvarez first must beat Bivol. The former amateur standout is tall and rangy, fleet of foot with a sharp, scoring jab and a reserved sense of confidence that belies his unbeaten record.

But Alvarez is the best boxer in the world — at his apex, nonetheless — with, he says, six or seven additional years to chase the great ghosts of boxing lore.

“I need to take other challenges for myself, not just for my history, but I need to feel that kind of challenge,” Alvarez said. “To go up to 175, have the opportunity to win another title, it’s amazing for me.”

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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