Although Saul Alvarez is 38-0-1 (28 KO) and will be making the third defense of his WBC super welterweight title against Kermit Cintron, many still consider "Canelo" a work in progress. After all, the 21-year-old is boxing's youngest champion and the only one born in the 1990s.
Will Alvarez brighten his star with a victory over the seasoned Cintron or will the Puerto Rican become a two-division titlist and turn Alvarez's star into a black hole? Only they can answer those questions, but their respective CompuBox histories offer these factors:
Alvarez's Evolution: Much like Julio Cesar Chavez -- the fighter to which Alvarez is most often compared -- Alvarez's .718 knockout percentage is the result of steady, methodical pressure and pinpoint power punching. Even as his level of opposition has increased, so has his accuracy and effectiveness.
In five CompuBox-tracked fights between June 2009 and July 2010, Alvarez averaged 68.9 punches per round -- 15.1 percent above the typical welterweight and 14.9 percent above the 154-pound norm. His 27.9 percent overall connect rate was slightly below the average welterweight (32.7 percent) and junior middleweight (31 percent) but his 43 percent power punch rate trumped the divisional norms of 39.1 (147) and 37.4 (154). His jab was a non-entity: Despite trying 32.4 per round (23.4 percent above the welterweight norm and 23.2 percent above the junior middleweight average), Alvarez landed just 10.8 percent of them.
On defense, Canelo's opponents struck him 20.5 percent of the time overall, landed 13.1 percent of their jabs and 29.4 percent of their power shots, all of which are better than most welterweights and junior middleweights.
In his last five fights -- against better opponents with diverse styles -- Alvarez's output dropped 23 percent (from 68.9 to 53.1) but his marksmanship has improved. He now lands 40.4 percent overall (a 31 percent improvement), 49.4 percent of his power punches (a 12.8 percent jump) and 26.1 percent of his jabs (a 241 percent surge).
Because Alvarez is more aggressive -- 61.7 percent of his punches are power shots as opposed to 52.9 percent then -- he tastes more of his opponents' punches as they land 25.1 percent (overall), 23.2 percent (jabs) and 27.6 percent (power). But the gaps have grown: Alvarez currently enjoys a plus-15.3 overall gap (it was plus-7.4), a plus-2.9 on jab connects (it was minus-2.3) and a plus-19.7 in power punches (it was plus-13.6). So far it's been a positive trade-off; he's taking more, but he's dishing out plenty.
Cintron learning new tricks: As a welterweight Cintron was a tightly-coiled power puncher who craved the instant knockout -- and with 26 KOs in 30 wins he was far more successful than not. But after rising in weight, this master-blaster turned into a volume puncher whose offense is predicated by the jab.
This new approach was particularly effective against Alfredo Angulo (W 12), Juliano Ramos (KO 5) and Antwone Smith (W 10), his most recent outing. Averaging 91.2 punches per round, Cintron managed to out-throw (1,094-957) and out-land (316-277 overall, 149-122 jabs and 167-155 power) Angulo, but the most surprising development was that Cintron fired 56.5 jabs per round, more than double the 24.9 junior middleweight average and the 28.7 he averaged at 147.
Similarly, Cintron averaged 92.4 punches and 60.4 jabs against Ramos and 112.8 punches and 56.1 jabs against Smith en route to out-landing Ramos 118-17 (overall) and 66-9 (power) as well as out-doing Smith 338-278 (overall) and 254-246 (power). The hyperactive jab not only keeps opponents at a safer distance, it also protects Cintron's surgically repaired right.
But this approach isn't fool-proof. Smith landed 40 percent of his overall punches and power shots despite losing. Plus, Cintron struggles when opponents either match or exceed his pace. Carlos Molina, who scored an upset 10-round decision, led Cintron 658-657 in total punches, 154-66 in power connects and 100-39 despite throwing 128 fewer jabs (287-415). He also struck Cintron with 41.5 percent of his power punches to Cintron's 27.3 percent.
Paul Williams -- who won a bizarre four-round technical decision -- limited Cintron's output to 37.6 while throwing 51.8 and trailed 29-27 (overall connects) and 10-7 (jab connects) while leading 20-19 in power connects.
Prediction: This is a fascinating style match that pits Cintron's volume against "Canelo's" accuracy, body punching and patience. If Cintron finds his rhythm early he'll test Alvarez's poise. The most likely outcome, however, is that Cintron will fare well early only to bow to Alvarez's pressure and power. Alvarez by decision.
HBO BAD - Nov 26, 2011
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