There are at least three things you can say about Canelo Alvarez after his fifth-round TKO of former champion Kermit Cintron Saturday night: He is still unbeaten, still an alphabet champion and still untested.
The 32-year-old Cintron was supposed to be a step-up fight for Alvarez, but the Puerto Rican, while game, was clearly a shadow of himself as he took a steady, patient beating from the red-haired young fighter. What seemed inevitable fifth-round stoppage thrilled a big crowd in a Mexican bull ring but left many questions unanswered. Namely, just how good can this 21-year-old prodigy, who began fighting at 15, become?
In the flush of victory, Alvarez (39-0-1, 29 KOs) was asked by HBO's Max Kellerman who he wanted to fight, and his answer revealed both youth and ambition: Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Based on what Alvarez showed against Cintron (33-5-1, 28 KOs), he is not remotely ready to take on one of the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. One day, yes, but by the time that day comes, in all likelihood Mayweather will be retired. With all his talent and potential, Alvarez clearly remains a work in progress.
To Cintron's credit, the veteran was game, but his punches lacked zip, and the power that was once his trademark came up missing. Except for a crisp jab and an occasional right hand that landed, Cintron offered little challenge to Alvarez. More impressive than the Mexican's stoppage was the patience he showed, a maturity ahead of his years that bodes well for his future.
Unlike typical Mexican warriors who fight with reckless abandon and are willing to take two shots to land four, Alvarez worked hard on his defense and fired precision shots, most of which landed, a trait rare in young fighters, especially the south-of-the-border variety.
Alvarez set up his TKO by landing left hook body blows, round after round, which took its toll on Cintron. Canelo stripped Cintron of whatever power and speed he had left at this late stage of his career by simply breaking him down.
It was clear in round four that Cintron was not going to last against the hugely popular young Mexican. A short, crisp right hand by Alvarez stung Cintron and forced him to take a knee for an eight count. Cintron was able to get up, but a left hook to the head just before the bell had him hurt again. Had there been more time in the fourth, there wouldn't have been a round five.
Cintron came out after the break fighting as if it was the 12th round and he needed a knockout for any chance to win. He tried to be the aggressor, but Alvarez did not get drawn into a brawl, instead waiting until he could pounce. With less than 10 seconds left in the round, the fast-handed Alvarez landed a left-right combo to the head and a straight right to the body that forced Cintron to bend over, obviously hurt. The ref jumped in and stopped it before Alvarez could inflict more damage.
The only troubling aspect of the fight for Alvarez is that Cintron, a very good boxer and athlete, was able to land his jab consistently, along with several clean power shots. Had Cintron done so four years ago in his prime, one has to wonder what would have happened.
Before Alvarez entertains the idea of fighting Mayweather, there are plenty of more logical tests for him in the loaded 154-pound division, including Miguel Cotto, James Kirkland, Erislandy Lara, Alfredo Angulo and Cornelius Bundrage. At 21, Alvarez has a world of potential, but he needs careful matchmaking in order for him to become the next big boxing superstar, as so many expect.
In the co-feature, unbeaten and highly-touted junior lightweight Adrien Broner scored an impressive third-round knockout of Argentinean Vicente Rodriguez. Often compared to a young, defensive-minded Mayweather, Broner (22-0, 18 KOs) showed a lot more aggression than he has in the past while fighting in front of a home crowd in Cincinnati. Like Alvarez, the 22-year-old has a huge upside.