The Rise of Canelo: From 15 year-old pro to Floyd Mayweather successor


Ed Mulholland

Canelo is now recognized as the number one star on the planet, firmly taking the mantle from ex-Pay-Per-View king Floyd Mayweather.

Santos Saul Alvarez Barragan was born July 18th, 1990 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

After just 20 amateur fights, young Saul made himself acquainted with the professional fight game as a fresh-faced 15-year-old light-welterweight. He knocked out 18-year-old Abraham Gonzalez in four rounds.

With his pale complexion and ginger hair, a trait which he gained from his mother, he was given the nickname ‘El Canelo’. In English, it means Cinnamon.

Later shortened to ‘Canelo’, the teenager quickly gathered a fanbase due to his distinctive looks.

After three more victories – two by knockout – and now boxing at welterweight, Canelo experienced his first setback in boxing. Jorge Juarez held him to a draw in June 2006. It’s a decision that still hurts Alvarez to this day.

Canelo quickly got back in the ring three weeks later. Taking his frustrations out on Juan Hernandez, he knocked out his opponent in two rounds.

This triumph was the first of seven straight knockouts. The prospect was gathering a reputation for hurting his opponents and stopping them early.

A year later, with his record at a healthy 17–0-1 with 14 knockouts, Alvarez took on unbeaten Gabriel Martinez for the WBA Fedecentro welterweight title. He took the title at the age of 18 due to Martinez retiring after 11 completed rounds.

Alvarez would make two defenses of the title in his next five fights, four of which were convincing ten-round points wins. These longer bouts would give him valuable experience, even though they were all one-sided affairs in favour of the young Mexican. The last of which, against Larry Mosley, a cousin of ‘Sugar’ Shane, was his first fight across the border in the United States.

After dispensing of Raul Pinzon in one round, in his second Stateside bout, Alvarez knocked out Antonio Fitch within 120 seconds to gain the NABF welterweight title. Canelo would add the WBO Latino title immediately as he battered Euri Gonzalez into an eleventh round submission.

Another four knockouts followed on his way to picking up the WBC Youth welterweight title in August 2009. Canelo defended it with ease, predictably by knocking out Carlos Herrara.

Canelo then gave up the third fringe title of his career.

Still holding the NABF title as he moved into 2010, Canelo defended it for the last time with a third-round knockout win over Brian Camechis in March of that year. He then noticeably struggled to make the 147lb limit when taking Jose Miguel Cotto, brother of Miguel Cotto and stopping him in nine rounds.

With his fanbase across the US border noticeably beginning to swell, Alvarez decided to make a permanent move up the weights. He took on Luciano Cuello eight days before his 20th birthday for the WBC Silver light-middleweight title. Another impressive performance transpired as he stopped the Argentinean in six rounds.

Alvarez then defended it in his most high profile fight so far. Canelo knocked out shamed former world champion Carlos Baldomir in spectacular style at the end of the sixth round at the Staples Center.

In December, a unanimous points victory over IBO welterweight champion and boxing veteran Lovemore N’dou followed. Winning almost every round in a stand out performance, Canelo earned a place in the WBN P4P Top 50 for the first time due to his efforts.

Rising to world champion status in March 2011 was no surprise giving the heart and desire of Canelo held to reach the top. Beating Matthew Hatton, an experienced fighter, was not as easy as Canelo made it look.


Becoming the youngest ever world light-middleweight champion put Alvarez in the big leagues. It had promoter Oscar De La Hoya purring of what would evolve in the future. His prediction came to pass as Canelo has been sitting at the top table ever since.

Those early championship wins over Ryan Rhodes, Alfonso Gomez, Kermit Cintron, Shane Mosley and Josesito Lopez gave Alvarez the platform to shape his future career. One which would ultimately place him as the natural successor to Mayweather.

Losing to the ‘Money’ man in 2013 was not the end of the world for Canelo. Furthermore, some believe he wouldn’t be the fighter he is today without it.

Gaining middleweight and super-middleweight titles since, Canelo’s lucrative deal with DAZN in 2018 only moved to further cement his position as the best.

How long can he stay there?


52-1-2 (35 KO’s)


WBC super-welterweight

WBC middleweight

WBO super-welterweight

WBC middleweight

WBA middleweight

WBA super-middleweight

IBF middleweight


Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay