By Paul Magno | September 25, 2023

Leading up to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Jermell Charlo this Saturday, you’re going to see lots of nuts and bolts breakdowns of the matchup comparing and contrasting styles, techniques, and fighting mindsets-- including my own over at Premier Boxing Champions, itself. But what I want to get at right here is something beyond the actual fighting, something that might affect the way the fight is sold and definitely affects how the outcome is measured against history. 

So, I’ll just come out and say it.

Neither Alvarez nor Charlo have gotten the respect they deserve as fighters. 

Alvarez, the Mexican superstar who’s been the undisputed box office king in the post-Mayweather era, has been given a degree of acknowledgment, begrudgingly, at various times in the past. But that respect  has always been fleeting and has been quickly pulled back when any opportunity arises to do so.

Early in his career, when the perception was that he was being matched too lightly, he chose to take on boxing riddles Austin Trout, Floyd Mayweather, and Erislandy Lara as part of a four-fight run as a 22-23-year-old at the time. But instead of getting credit for jumping into deep, deep waters, he was criticized for looking less than dominant against Trout and Lara (as if anyone would look good against the Trout and Lara of that time) and flat-out denigrated for losing to pound-for-pound king Mayweather.

When he was accused of ducking Gennadiy Golovkin, he would respond by fighting him twice and then a third time years later. But, somehow, he was still accused of ducking Golovkin and/or not fighting the Kazakh at the “right” time. 

When he tested positive for trace amounts of the banned substance clenbuterol, his name was gleefully dragged through the mud. Little-to-no attention was given to the fact that he did all the right things of someone trying to establish his innocence in such a situation. He provided receipts and other proof to affirm his declaration of meat contamination. He immediately signed up for 24/7/365 PEDs testing. He even submitted himself to hair follicle testing to confirm that he was not a “dirty” fighter. Now, none of that may absolutely prove his clean fighter status, but the effort to prove his innocence was certainly greater than most fighters in similar situations whose transgressions are forgiven and forgotten without even a quarter of the effort. That’s because, well, a good number of people were eager NOT to believe Canelo.

In the present tense, that “slow-to-no respect” dynamic continues as the critics seize on the opportunity to close out his career for him after his loss to Dmitry Bivol and back-to-back less-than-stellar showings against Gennadiy Golovkin and John Ryder. And this “the end is near” narrative comes not long after an outstanding 4-fight, 11-month run in 2020-2021 that saw him fully unify the super middleweight division and force himself into the pound-for-pound no. 1 slot for about six months, for whatever that’s worth (not much). 

Jermell Charlo has had a less storied career than Alvarez, but the general disrespect towards him has been at superstar level. If we’re going to use “in the 4-belt era” as a reasonable measuring stick/qualifying term, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Charlo is the most disrespected and disregarded fully unified world champ of the 4-belt era in boxing. 

In a present tense where boxing nerds twist their nipples over the orgasmic importance of winning all four belts in a division, Charlo got comparatively little fanfare for that feat. As a matter of fact, out of all the boxing nerd groups that do pound-for-pound rankings, Charlo is only ranked in one-- a begrudging #10 placement in the transsexual boxing rankings board, or whatever that nonsense is called. 

Of course, we all know (or should know) that “P4P” is meaningless fluff. But the way he’s been treated there does help tell the tale of a fighter who has done everything media and fans ask of a fighter to earn respectability, but has yet to get that respect he deserves.

There are a litany of possible reasons for this. 

Jermell and his twin brother Jermall can be abrasive in interviews and their trash talking can sometimes border on delusional. But there are a lot of insufferable loud mouths in boxing. 

Jermell’s path to full unification saw him go through the less-than-murderer’s row gauntlet of Tony Harrison (when he won back his WBC belt), Jeison Rosario, and Brian Castano. But Terence Crawford at 140 and the beloved Naoya Inoue at 118 were also blessed with some relative soft-touch title acquisitions en route to unified champ status. 

Another possible reason for the odd level of derision is Charlo’s affiliation with the much-targeted Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) and adviser Al Haymon. As I previously wrote: “When Haymon first started making major waves in the boxing business, doing things in a pro-fighter and non-traditional way, he got major blowback from the boxing establishment and the boxing media, which is usually made up of lap dogs for the establishment and status quo. The negative press washing over all things Haymon, also washed over fighters associated with Haymon. It only stands to reason that if extremely likable early-day Haymon fighters like Vernon Forrest and Paul Williams got odd amounts of negativity from the media, not-so-likable fighters like Jermell and Jermall would get more and worse.”

But, ultimately, we’ll never know the “whys” with something like this. 

One thing is for certain, though. If Charlo can beat Alvarez, moving up two full weight classes to become undisputed in a second division, he has to get that respect he deserved to see for the last couple years. Right? Maybe? Maybe from SOME of the cynics and critics at least. 

Alvarez, on the other hand, may not get all that much of a rub from beating Charlo. If he crushes Jermell, critics will say he merely streamrolled a smaller fighter (although that wouldn’t be a very valid sticking point, not really, because Charlo is naturally just as big-- if not bigger-- than Canelo). If he struggles with Jermell and wins a close fight, the critics will say that he’s, indeed, on the steep decline for struggling to beat a junior middleweight. And, of course, if he loses to Jermell, the know-it-alls will be demanding his immediate retirement while aggressively disassembling his professional legacy. 

Bullshit cynicism sure can drop turds into punch bowls. 

In boxing, though, we must learn to move past the bullshit and, I guess, drink around the turds in the punch bowl (?). 

Saul Alvarez vs. Jermell Charlo is just a damn good fight with a lot of variables in play. It’s also significant that both fighters will be entering the ring as fully unified 4-belt champions (although the WBO plans on stripping Charlo of their 154 lb. title immediately after Saturday’s opening bell). 

There’s also a pretty damn good undercard below the main event, especially Jesus Ramos vs. Erickson Lubin. 

That should be enough to get fight fans hyped. Should.

The winner of Alvarez-Charlo should get the appropriate amount of respect for their accomplishment-- although, realistically, we know that won’t happen in certain corners of the boxing universe. 

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