Rafael: Canelo is my No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer

Dan Rafael
ESPN Senior Writer

LAS VEGAS – As referee Russell Mora raised Canelo Alvarez’s arm aloft to signify his triumph over Sergey Kovalev, the smiling Alvarez extended four fingers.

Alvarez, boxing’s biggest star, was making another statement, just as he had with his ferocious 11th-round knockout of Kovalev minutes earlier on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

By knocking out Kovalev, the 175-pound division’s biggest name — spectacularly so, as he left Kovalev on his knees with his arms hanging over the middle ring ropes — Alvarez had done what he had set out to. He moved up two weight divisions to win a world title in a fourth division: junior middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight (albeit a secondary version) and now light heavyweight.

He claimed belts in each of those divisions, except junior middleweight, in the past 14 months.

Alvarez was the lineal middleweight champion when he won two sanctioning organization titles from Gennadiy Golovkin by majority decision in their rematch in September 2018. Then he picked up a super middleweight belt with a one-sided third-round destruction of Rocky Fielding in December. Alvarez followed by dropping back to middleweight in May and soundly outpointing Daniel Jacobs, the No. 2 middleweight, to unify three titles.

That is pound-for-pound level stuff. Alvarez has been highly ranked on nearly every P4P list for years, but now it’s time to put him on top of the mountain.

ESPN will release new pound-for-pound rankings later this week. In the most recent edition of those rankings, three-division titlist and current unified lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko owned the No. 1 spot. Terence Crawford, who has won titles in three divisions and currently holds a welterweight belt, was No. 2. Alvarez was the clear No. 3.

I voted those three in that order as well, but with all due respect to Lomachenko and Crawford, both truly special fighters, I am elevating the 29-year-old fighting machine Alvarez to No. 1. I didn’t struggle with the decision.

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