On Friday, Canelo Alvarez and his trainer Eddy Reynoso celebrated their ESPN Fighter and Trainer of The Year awards. Canelo (57-1-2, 39 KOs) was voted as the best fighter by the ESPN network for 2021 based on him becoming the undisputed champion at super middleweight.
Canelo wasn’t in a real fight this year, though, as the guys he beat were second-rate champions in a weak division at 168. He beat two paper champions and his old sparring partner that he campaigned for.
You had to feel sorry for DAZN putting on the terrible Canelo vs. Avni Yildirim fight and paying Alvarez top dollar for that mismatch.
The real problem with Canelo being made the Fighter of the Year for 2021 by ESPN is that he didn’t beat any talented 168-pounders. Let’s face it.
There are only two talented fighters at super middleweight besides Canelo, and that’s David Benavidez, and David Morrell Jr. Canelo didn’t fight either of them. The guys he did beat were flawed belt holders.
In this writer’s view, ESPN messed up by giving Canelo the Fighter of the Year because he didn’t beat anyone good in 2021. Had he defeated Benavidez or Morrell Jr, then you could argue that he deserves the award, but he didn’t fight those guys. He arguably ducked both fighters.
Oleksandr Usyk deserved the award
The guy that did deserve the award for Fighter of the Year is Oleksander Usyk for 2o21 based on his massive win over IBF/WBA/WBC heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
That win for Usyk was far better than the three victories that Canelo notched this year against the two paper champions, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant, and his old sparring partner Avni Yildirim.
As his trainer, Reynoso’s fighters did well this year, but Canelo is the only one who stood out in achievement. Reynoso’s other fighters, Oscar Valdez, Andy Ruiz Jr, Ryan Garcia, Luis Nery, and Frank Sanchez, didn’t register any great wins this year.
Valdez’s win over Robson Conceicao last September in Tucson, Arizona, was controversial. And Valdez’s win before that came against a weight drained Miguel Berchelt in February. It would be one thing if Valdez had beaten a prime Berchelt, but this was not the best version of ‘El Alacran.’
Canelo earned the 2021 Fighter of the Year award from these wins in the undisputed champion at 168:
- Avni Yildirim
- Billy Joe Saunders
- Caleb Plant
Not too many boxing fans were impressed with the 31-year-old Canelo’s wins this year, though, as Yildirim, who was his WBC for his 168-lb title, was a fight that he requested. The 30-year-old ‘Mr. Roboto’ Yildirim (24-4, 13 KOs) had been Canelo’s sparring partner in the past, and some believe the whole reason Alvarez pushed for the fight was that he liked the Turkish fighter.
Here are the facts: Yildirim was coming off a loss in his previous fight against past his prime Anthony Dirrell in February 2019. Also, Yildirim hadn’t fought in TWO years.
Let that sink for a second. Canelo defended against a mandatory coming off a loss and a two-year layoff, which boxing fans weren’t interested in seeing because he was an unknown guy who hadn’t beaten anyone recently or for a long, long time.
When you see a low-level win over Yildirim on Canelo’s resume for 2021, that’s an immediate red flag that suggests that the Mexican star didn’t deserve being named the Fighter of the Year for 2021.
It would have been interesting to see if Canelo would have pushed to defend against David Benavidez the way he did Yildirim if he were his WBC mandatory challenger.
Somehow, I doubt that Canelo would have campaigned so hard to get a title defense against Benavidez if he was the mandated contender.
Billy Joe Saunders
Former WBO super middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders looked like a shot fighter against Canelo last May. Still, interestingly, he was beating the Mexican star up until suffering an eye injury in the eighth round.
Saunders is not nearly as talented as David Benavidez or David Morrell Jr, and they were far more deserving of a fight with Canelo than him.
IBF super middleweight champion Caleb Plant looked weak and tired against Canelo.
Additionally, the conversation that Plant had during the ninth round in which Caleb seemed to be looking for validation from the Mexican fighter by asking him if he felt he was a good fighter. That was beyond weird.
Again, I disagree that Canelo deserves the Fighter of the Year award for 2021 based on his wins over marginal fighters. If he had beaten a talented guy, that’s one thing, but we didn’t see that this year.
Aside from Benavidez and Morrell, you could have voted Canelo as the fighter of the year if he’d beaten these types of fighters:
- Jermall Charlo
- Demetrius Andrade
- Artur Beterbiev
- Joe Smith Jr.
- Dmitry Bivol
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