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Canelo Alvarez Will Move Up In Weight To Challenge For Cruiserweight Title

James Murphy
by in Boxing on
  • The WBC has approved Canelo Alverez’s plans to move up in weight to challenge Ilunga Junior Makabu for the cruiserweight championship.
  • Alvarez TKO’d Caleb Plant earlier this month to become the undisputed champion at 168 pounds.
  • A win over Makabu would make Alverez a five division champion.

Canelo Alvarez is considered almost unanimously to be the best ‘pound for pound’ fighter in the world and following his 11th round TKO win over Caleb Plant earlier this month he’s unified the title at 168 pounds. Alvarez is now a four division champion having held titles at 154 pounds, 160 pounds and 175 pounds. That puts him in a very elite class of just over a dozen fighters fighters that have won four divisional championships from the major sanctioning bodies. The names on this list are a ‘who’s who’ of boxing legends including Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Erik Morales, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Alvarez apparently isn’t content to be remembered as a ‘garden variety’ legend–he’s looking for bigger challenges. More specifically, he’s planning to move up in weight to challenge for the WBC Cruiserweight Championship currently held by Ilunga Junior Makabu. The WBC has approved a request from Canelo’s trainer and manager, Eddy Reynoso, to move up and challenge for the title. Since he’s never fought at the weight class it was necessary for the organization to approve Reynoso’s petition. Now that the fight has been approved, the two camps will try to make a deal. Should that not be possible, a purse bid will be ordered.

Should Canelo beat Makabu to claim the cruiserweight title he’ll become a five division champion and that would put him in a small group of extremely elite competitors. Only five men have held five division championships from the major sanctioning bodies–Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Alvarez now has a spectacular career record of 57-1-2 with 39 knockouts. His only loss came in September 2013 when he dropped a majority decision to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. In all actuality, it should have been a unanimous decision loss but judge CJ Ross scored it 114-114 while Dave Moretti had it 116-112 and Craig Metcalfe 117-111 (FWIW, I had it 120-108 Mayweather). Ross took a ‘leave of absence’ immediately after the fight. Canelo’s two draws came famously to Gennady Golovkin in their first fight in September 2017 (I had that 114-114) and not so famously against Jorge Juarez in the fifth fight of his career (6/17/06). The only fighters that have won more than five divisional titles are Oscar De La Hoya (six division champion) and the great Manny Pacquiao who is a downright ungodly *eight* division champion. To be fair, that includes a non-major sanctioning body’s title (the IBO Junior Welterweight title he won from Ricky Hatton in 2009) but winning seven division titles from the major sanctioning bodies is no joke.

The cruiserweight limit is currently 200 pounds but the WBC is moving it down to 190 pounds and introducing a ‘bridgerweight’ class with a limit of 224 pounds. There is some historical precedent for this–when the cruiserweight division was introduced in 1979 the limit was 190 pounds. It was increased to 200 in 2004. That makes the weight gain a bit more reasonable since Canelo has fought once at 175 pounds. Ilunga Junior Makabu is a 34 year old native of The Congo with a 28-2-0 record including 25 knockouts. He last fought in December 2020, beating 41 year old Olanrewaju Durodola by TKO in Kinshasa. He has fought mostly in Africa with just a handful of bouts in Europe. In terms of weight, he’s the naturally larger man but in terms of quality of opposition he’d be taking a massive step up in class to fight Canelo. Makabu now resides in Johannesburg, South Africa and isn’t afraid to step in to fight against anyone:

“I’m feeling very happy because I fight the best boxer in the planet. Canelo has been beating everyone … but now he’s fighting one tough man. I’ll fight anywhere. Even if they put on the fight in his own house with no public. I’ll fight.”

Canelo’s trainer, Eddy Reynoso, has plenty of confidence in his fighter’s ability to compete at the higher weight:

“I know … what he has done with the heavyweights he spars with, and that is why we asked for the fight. We know that [Makabu] is strong, but Canelo can beat him. … Many may say that it is crazy, but they also said that it was crazy when Canelo was junior middleweight champion and we were looking for middleweights, super middleweight, light heavyweights.”

“I have a lot of confidence in Canelo. He is very strong and has many qualities, and I know that he is going to win that fight.”

Reynoso says that there have been some offers to fight in Makabu’s native Congo:

“Let’s see if something can be arranged for that to happen. It is one more challenge. Just as we took the challenges at 168 and 175 pounds, now we are going to cruiserweight.”

If the fight happens it *won’t* happen in The Congo. Canelo is too big of a box office draw, plus the time difference would torpedo PPV buys. The Congo is on West Africa Time (WAT) and if they had a bell time of 8 PM WAT it would be 11 AM Pacific. If they scheduled it for a live PPV to the Pacific Time Zone starting at, say, 11 PM it would be 6 AM WAT. Canelo’s last 10 fights have been held at the MGM Grand Garden (2 fights) or the T-Mobile Arena (4 fights) in Las Vegas, the Alamodome in San Antonio, the AT&T Stadium in Arlington (Dallas) Texas, the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and Madison Square Garden. The recent fight against Caleb Plant did 800,000 PPV buys, absolutely crushing projections (500K). Makabu is no dummy and likely realizes that fighting Canelo in the US could set him up for life financially. He won’t make a fraction of what Canelo will make but he could easily make out like Sergey Kovalev did ($3 million USD).

As far as the outcome, Reynoso wouldn’t have sought out Makabu to face Canelo unless he was pretty sure he’ll win. Makabu is the #4 ranked fighter (ESPN) in his own weight class though BoxRec has him at #2. Latvian Mairis Briedis is the class of the division by a wide margin. Class of opposition between Makabu and Canelo is night and day–Makabu hasn’t fought an opponent remotely near Canelo’s class. Assuming that the fight will be in Las Vegas or another high profile US venue it becomes another advantage for Alvarez as Makabu has never fought in the US. Off the top of my head I’d probably make Canelo at least a -350 favorite and likely much higher.

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