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Last laugh? Canelo Alvarez out to prove Jermell Charlo wrong — and show he’s still elite

LAS VEGAS — Canelo Alvarez assessed his next opponent in two separate face-offs on Wednesday, vowing to show Jermall Charlo “mine” in between real Skill”.

The emphasis is on authenticity, a tacit admission that Alvarez’s form over the past three fights has not been his best.

When Alvarez was in his prime, it was easy to see why he was the greatest player of all time. He can fight back on the back foot with the best of them. As he showed in his rematch with Gennady Golovkin, he can apply non-stop pressure and cut off the ring with punishing body attacks.

Alvarez possesses a multi-layered game and a well-educated boxing mind, as evidenced by his strategy of targeting Callum Smith’s left arm to neutralize his jab. The result: a separated bicep for the Brit.

Alvarez remains a towering figure in boxing, a global superstar and the fourth-ranked fighter on ESPN. He’s eager to put those three mediocre performances (by his standards) behind him.

With three days left to defend his undisputed super middleweight title for the third time, Alvarez is confident that he will dispel any doubts about his fitness after 33 years and 63 professional fights. Rumors go downhill.

“I agree there were a few games where I looked different, but that doesn’t mean anything else,” Alvarez told ESPN on Wednesday. “I feel fresh, I feel young, I feel strong. I feel like I’m in my prime and you’ll see on Saturday.”

Alvarez became ESPN’s Top Fighter when he captured all four belts with an 11th-round TKO of Caleb Plant at 168 pounds (one of the four weight classes in which he won world titles). That’s November 2021.

Alvarez returned for a second fight at 175 pounds in May 2022 against Dmitry Bivol and was soundly defeated by the Russian boxer. It was Alvarez’s first setback since losing to Floyd Mayweather in 2013 and knocked him off his pedestal of equal status.

Alvarez returned four months later to complete his trilogy by unanimous decision against the 40-year-old Golovkin, but Alvarez once again didn’t look like himself. He faded into the final stretch and didn’t seem to be fighting with his signature combination of ferocity and ruthlessness.

Alvarez later revealed that he suffered a serious injury to his left wrist in the games against Bivol and GGG and underwent surgery in October. He returned to Guadalajara in May to play his first game since wrist surgery in Mexico against John Ryder.

Ryder, while unspectacular, was a powerful boxer and proved to be tough as he was knocked down with a broken nose in the 12-round fight. But the Englishman stuck to his guns in his exchange with Alvarez, impressing the Mexican star.

“He’s not that easy, it looks easy but he’s a little tricky,” Alvarez said. “…I was happy with what I did in that game.”

Prior to his clash with Ryder, Alvarez was rehabbing his surgically repaired hand, which meant he was unable to train as intensely as he would have liked. Now 100 percent confident in his main weapon, Alvarez has ramped up his training regimen ahead of Saturday’s matchup with Charlo.

Instead of training full-time near his home in San Diego, Alvarez moved training camp to the mountains of Truckee, Calif., near Lake Tahoe for the past eight weeks, according to coach and manager Eddie Reynoso.

“We’ve put the injuries and all the setbacks behind us,” Reynoso said in a Spanish translation. “Now we are 100 percent… We will do it by giving the fans a great show, a great game.” Fight to show you how motivated we are.”

Alvarez spent a month in Guadalajara before facing Ryder and realized the benefits of altitude training. He replicated this effect in Truckee, at an altitude of over 5,000 feet, to improve his conditioning ahead of the Charlo fight.

The 33-year-old Charlo is in his prime, a Houston resident and the undisputed national middleweight champion. He has superb skills and strong counterattack ability. Charlo defeated every fighter he ever faced and won rematches with Tony Harrison and Brian Castano.

“Canelo is a different type of boxer and you don’t take that for granted,” said Charlo, who will fight the first elite opponent of his career. “He has done everything in the sport of boxing. He has nothing to prove but can bring everything to me.”

However, Charlo has been inactive. He has not fought since May 2022 when he stopped Castano in the 10th round. Charlo himself suffered a serious hand injury. He was originally scheduled to fight Australian rising star Tim Tszyu in January before undergoing surgery to repair a fractured left hand.

Charlo, who has also never competed above 154 pounds, will move up two weight classes in his bid to become boxing’s top star. For Charlo, it’s a chance to end Canelo’s run at the top of the sport, and for Alvarez, it’s a chance to prove that injuries, not decline, are causing these nights.

“He’s been calling me out for a long time, maybe 10 years, but he never believed in my skills,” said Canelo, who is almost a 5-1 favorite. “This kind of fight, big fight, motivates me.

“…Everyone is surprised when they feel my strength…I think he can also bear weight because he is taller. He is strong…I Thinking (the extra weight) will do it for him…maybe he’ll have a hard time getting to 154.”

Jermell wasn’t even Charlo’s original opponent. His brother Jermall was first seen as Alvarez’s foe in the first of three fights with PBC.

The twin brother, the WBC middleweight champion, has not competed since June 2021 due to personal matters, so Jermell stepped in.

“They look the same,” Alvarez said. “Same size, same everything. I don’t care which of Charlo’s brothers that is.”

If Alvarez can neutralize and stop Jermall Charlo, there’s no doubt he’s still in his prime. But if Alvarez struggles, the whispers will be louder than ever.

Alvarez has nothing to prove at this point in his career, he’s already made hundreds of millions of dollars and his Hall of Fame legacy is solid.

“I think now I’m 100 percent confident in my hand, and that’s the most important thing,” Alvarez said. “It’s another thing when you feel confident. You’ll see on Saturday night because I can say a lot of things now, this and that, but on Saturday you’ll see.”

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