EXCLUSIVE: Canelo had no idea WBC cruiserweight request was coming
When Eddy Reynoso, the trainer and manager of pound-for-pound king and undisputed super middleweight world champion Canelo Alvarez, addressed the WBC convention last month in Mexico City and asked for the organization to grant Alvarez permission to fight for its cruiserweight world title, there were audible gasps in the room because it came as such a shocker.
Do you know who was just as stunned as everyone else by the request? Alvarez.
“I didn’t even know about that,” Alvarez told World Boxing News in an interview. “I heard about it on social media what Eddy did.”
Come again? Alvarez didn’t know that Reynoso was making such an audacious move?
“No, I didn’t even know about it,” Alvarez said with a laugh. “Like I always say, if Eddy says something or he tries to do something crazy, I’m always in. I’m his warrior.”
Alvarez had not yet arrived at the convention when Reynoso made the request, which was approved. He said Reynoso called him later in the day to tell him what he had done.
“He called me after that, and I said, ‘OK, whatever you want,'” Alvarez said. “I never thought (about cruiserweight). Eddy always is thinking about things, but I never thought about it.”
Alvarez has won world titles in four weight classes from junior middleweight to light heavyweight, and on Nov. 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, he knocked out Caleb Plant in the 11th round to achieve the goal he outlined for himself last year of becoming the first-ever undisputed super middleweight champion in the 37-year history of the division.
He had taken Plant’s IBF title with the punishing knockout to go with the WBC and WBA belts he won by one-sided decision against Callum Smith last December and the WBO belt he took from Billy Joe Saunders by eighth-round knockout in May.
After knocking out Plant, Alvarez said at his post-fight news conference that he planned to return to the ring in May rather than a bit earlier in 2022 because he needed some rest after having had four fights in 11 months. But he said he would not get serious about who he wanted to fight until sitting down with his team to discuss the matter in January.
But just a couple of weeks later, Reynoso was there in front of the WBC convention requesting that Alvarez be allowed to challenge Ilunga Makabu in May or June. Makabu won the vacant title in the 200-pound division in January 2020 and defended it last December, with both bouts taking place in Kinshasa – site of the famed Muhammad Ali-George Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” — in his home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Asked if he had ever even heard of Makabu before Reynoso’s request, Alvarez said, “No, never before.”
But after Reynoso’s request lit up social media, Alvarez soon learned about Makabu.
“After that, people on social media started putting up videos and everything. That’s why I saw him in a fight,” Alvarez said. “But never before that (had I heard of him). I really don’t care. I’m a fighter.”
The 31-year-old Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 KOs), boxing’s biggest star, noted that the fight was by no means a guarantee to happen.
“It’s not done yet. We want to see, we want to try to do it, but it’s not done yet,” he said. “So we will see in January what is coming for us.”
If Alvarez does fight at cruiserweight, he said he would not come close to weighing in at the division limit. He said he would weigh “180 max” since he would not campaign in the division but instead go back to super middleweight or possibly light heavyweight afterward.
Makabu (28-2, 25 KOs), a 34-year-old with excellent punching power, is scheduled to make a mandatory defense in a rematch against fellow southpaw Thabiso Mchunu (23-5, 13 KOs), 33, of South Africa, on Jan. 29 at W.D. Packard Music Hall in Warren, Ohio. Promoter Don King recently announced the fight after the camps made a deal, and the WBC canceled a purse bid. In his announcement of Makabu-Mchunu, King claimed that Alvarez would be ringside for the fight since he was looking to fight the winner.
Alvarez said King’s assertion that he would be ringside was not true and that he didn’t think he would attend the bout.
“No, I don’t think so,” Alvarez said.
Once he thought about the prospect of going to cruiserweight, Alvarez said he liked the idea. He has often talked about making history, and becoming the first Mexican to win world titles in five divisions is appealing to him.
“Sounds good, but like I say, nothing is done yet, so we will see what is the best for us. But it sounds good to me to be champion in five different weights,” Alvarez said.
After Reynoso’s request to the WBC, some fans on social media were very critical of Alvarez looking to cruiserweight, claiming that by moving up two weight divisions for a historic bout that he was avoiding the likes of unbeaten former two-time super middleweight titlist David Benavidez (25-0, 22 KOs) and undefeated middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo (32-0, 22 KOs), who has never boxed at super middleweight. They both have light resumes in their divisions.
Alvarez scoffed at the notion that he is avoiding anybody, noting that he ran through three unbeaten super middleweight titleholders – who had a combined record of 78-0 — in 11 months to become the undisputed champion.
“Look, what I see and what I know is I beat the No.1 fighter at 168. It was Callum Smith,” Alvarez said. “Next, Billy Joe Saunders, second. Next, the third one (Plant). So, I beat all the best at 168. They were all undefeated. I beat all the best at 168, and now there’s people saying you need to fight this one — like always.
“This always happens. But I beat the best champion at 168. Then they say, ‘he’s scared of him’ or ‘he’s scared of that guy.’ I am not scared about anything. I don’t avoid anybody. But what does that guy (Benavidez) bring to me? Nothing. Nothing. Mention a champion they (Benavidez and Charlo) fight before. How many? I really don’t care. Haters are always going to be haters.”
Alvarez said he will continue to look for the biggest and best fights, whether that means a cruiserweight title fight or something else, as he formulates his goals for 2022.
“I don’t know yet,” Alvarez said.”I really don’t know. But I haven’t sat down with Eddy yet to talk about it. Something good is coming.
“I’m always looking for the best, looking for history. So, we’ll see what is coming, but I’m sure it’s the best fights out there.”
Award-winning writer Dan Rafael is the Lead Boxing Contributor for World Boxing News. Follow Dan on social media @DanRafael1.