Canelo Alvarez: Perfecting boxing’s basics

Canelo Alvarez’ win over Jermell Charlo was a legacy building fight that saw an undisputed champion take on an undisputed champion. During the fight, Alvarez battered the body en route to a unanimous decision victory that marked a return to form for the Mexican sensation.

Much of what late-career Canelo has done is simplify his game and do those very basic things extremely well. Alvarez adopts a mindset of discipline wins fights and the most discipline wins the biggest fights. Today, I would like to take a look at the Canelo Alvarez vs. Jermell Charlo fight and look at how the undisputed super middleweight champion uses those basic tools to systematically break down his opponents.

Canelo Alvarez lowering his opponent’s guard

Ever since his fight Gennadiy Golovkin and most pronounced against Sergey Kovalev, Canelo Alvarez has made it a point to attack the arms of his opponents. Throughout the fight, he will literally blast the biceps of both shoulders with heavy, heavy hooks to lessen their guard and hurt their arm.

Traditionally, these punches are not scored but just because they’re not doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Attacking an opponents shoulders has an effect on the fight that can open up other, more ruinous blows.

Canelo smashing the arm of Jermell Charlo

When Canelo attacks the arms, he’s making the guard of his opponent hard to maintain. He effectively turns his boxing into a high-stakes round of dead arm. Numbing and pain are all things that come with getting smashed in the arms with a glove or not.

Another thing that Canelo has that’s incredibly dangerous and that he utilizes insanely well is the lead left hook. This left hook is snappy, tight and heavy. Canelo goes to the body with it the majority of the time but he also can be found hitting the arms and going up to with it as well.

Maintaining space: pushing, framing, and right hooks

Throughout the entirety of the fight, Canelo Alvarez marched forward with his patented high guard and cut the ring off wonderfully. This forced Jermell Charlo to have to think, “How do I get out of this corner?” and “How do I keep from getting put in the corner?” all night. Much criticism was thrown Charlo’s way because of his lack of offense. But when you watch the fight, you’ll see there’s a reason: Canelo’s forward pressure is suffocating and Charlo is constantly on the back foot, trying to move laterally, and having to escape from corners as Canelo looks to unload.

As Canelo came forward, he consistently threw the jab. Going into the fight fingers were pointed at Canelo for not jabbing and overall not doing enough during his last few fights. He made it a point to jab, and jab often, against Jermell Charlo.

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Double jab to right cross

In fact, Canelo Alvarez quite often double up on his jab to push Charlo into the corner. This opened up the right cross which, in turn, opened up a left hook. This doubling of the jab played a part in backing Charlo into those corners. Once Charlo was there, Canelo Alvarez would jab, jab again into a frame, and then unload his right hand over the top as Charlo looked to escape to the right. Should Charlo go left, Canelo would either let him escape and reset or fire that left hook into the body.

In our first diagram, (1) Canelo has Charlo in the corner. Instead of jabbing in, (2) he frames off of Charlo with his lead hand, covering the top of his right, the power shot, to win the hand fighting. Framing is a good practice and controlling the lead hand even better. If Canelo can feel Charlo’s right move, he can get a jump on the slip or counter from his power shot. No punch is without risk and hand fighting is a way to see these shots coming so you can react with the appropriate counter in time. (3) As Jermell Charlo is covered up, Canelo throws the right hand over the top. Charlo will step in to smother Canelo and clinch up to prevent any more big punches. (4) Canelo is having none of this and shoves Charlo back to the ropes to open up again.

I’ve talked about the shove in the past with my work on Substack titled What makes Teofimo Lopez so effective against southpaws? There, we looked at the fight with Josh Taylor and Vasyl Lomachenko. Our example from Lopez is a bit different from Canelo and Charlo’s. The latter is a orthodox vs. orthodox matchup whereas Lopez vs. Taylor is southpaw vs. orthodox. The battle of the lead foot is a big factor in that fight and Lopez needed space to stop the bigger fighter (Taylor) or the faster fighter (Lomachenko).

Teofimo Lopez vs. Josh Taylor: shoving a southpaw

(1) We start off with Josh Taylor wanting to step to the outside and smother Teofimo Lopez. As he steps to the outside, Lopez (2) keeps his lead arm between he and Taylor. He then (3) shoves Taylor back with his forearm, creating space and keeping from being clinched. With the bigger fighter, Taylor, looking to weigh on Lopez, keeping out of the clinch was important and Lopez did a masterful job at avoiding that.

Note: if you want to learn more about the topic, What makes Teofimo Lopez so effective against southpaws? is available for paid subscribers on Substack. But if you want it for free, drop your email below and I will send you a PDF of the full post to your email.

Canelo does the same thing, though against an orthodox opponent from the bladed stance, and for different reasons. Canelo Alvarez isn’t looking to keep Jermell Charlo from gaining an outside angle on him, this is a bladed stance matchup. Instead, he’s trying to keep Charlo from tying up and getting the referee to separate the two allowing Charlo to escape the corner or ropes.

Circling back to our sequence from earlier with Canelo vs. Charlo, (5) Canelo grams off of Charlo’s guard again. (6) As the right lands, Charlo covers up high which opens up Canelo’s favorite punch, (7) the left hook to the body.

As the fight went on, Canelo started to increasingly get more drastic reactions out of Charlo, causing him to think about the dip and exiting exchanges.

In round five, we can see Canelo testing Charlo’s reaction to the left hook. He will (1) step in and lower himself and his lead arm as if to throw the left hook to the body. But instead of throwing the shot, Canelo (2) pulls the punch. Jermell Charlo (3) covers up and turns away from Canelo. It’s at this point Canelo knows that Charlo is worried more about defense then mounting his own offensive attack. While Charlo would get more active as the fight went on, his reactions still showed that he was thinking about that second and the defensive aspect of the fight first, the antithesis of how Jermell Charlo traditionally fights.

The biggest and most defining moment of the fight came in round seven where Canelo Alvarez dropped Jermell Charlo to score a 10-8 round. The knockout was a culmination of the lead hook, ring cutting and distance management from the Mexican sensation.

(1) Canelo Alvarez jabs his way into the pocket with Charlo as he has him against the ropes. Charlo expects the left hook and (2) lowers his right arm to block the body. As Canelo’s right hand lands flush, buzzing Charlo, he expects a left hook up top to follow up and (3) dips to his right. Instead of the left hook, Canelo sees Charlo exposed on the dip and (4) throws the uppercut to the already-buzzed opponent.

After this, Jermell Charlo smartly took a knee and the eight count. He managed to survive the round and even brought out good adjustments. He increased his output from 32 punches a round in the first seven to 34.8 punches a round from round eight to twelve. His aggression couldn’t keep Canelo Alvarez off of him. Canelo continued to march him down and lay out the double jab, arm punching, and left hook that plagued Jermell Charlo all night.

Canelo Alvarez’ performance against Jermell Charlo was a Roy Jones Jr.-esque performance. He faced a lot of criticism with his loss to Dmitrii Bivol and his lackluster performances against an old Gennady Golovkin and John Ryder. Jermell Charlo, who is an undisputed champion, was added to the massive resume of the living legend. At only 33 years old, he’s not done yet. Be it David Benavidez or Jermall Charlo, Jermell’s twin brother, Canelo Alvarez has more to give to the ravenous American fans who cheered more for him than Charlo in Las Vegas, USA. His Mexican faithful will follow him until the ride is over as well. Canelo Alvarez, though young, is still cementing a deep legacy that has him on a projection to become one of the best boxers of all time.

Thanks for reading Canelo Alvarez: Perfecting boxing’s basics. If you enjoyed this article and want more like it directly to your inbox, drop your email below and you’ll be automatically added to my Substack!

Blaine Henry

Just your friendly neighborhood fight fan!

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