Canelo: 'I can do whatever I want;' but Benavidez, Crawford should be next

LAS VEGAS — For the fifth time in five fights for the undisputed super middleweight crown, Canelo Alvarez remained king and more importantly, maintained his status as the face of boxing.

As the fight game’s most bankable fighter, Alvarez calls the shots and once again found an opening to score a knockdown, even if it didn’t lead to a KO win. Alvarez floored Jaime Munguia in Round 4 of Saturday’s victory, but like Jermell Charlo and John Ryder before him, beat the count to lose via a lopsided decision.

Now, public demand will grow louder for Alvarez to fight rising star David Benavidez, “The Mexican Monster,” who broke out last year with brutal beatings of Caleb Plant and Demetrius Andrade.

If the money‘s right … I can fight [Benavidez] right now,” Alvarez said. “I don’t give a s—. It’s only a matter of money at this point. Everybody is asking for everything.

“When I fought [Erislandy] Lara, Austin Trout, Miguel Angel Cotto, [Floyd] Mayweather, Billy Joe Saunders, GGG, everybody said I don’t want to fight them, and I fought all of them. So right now … I can do whatever I want.”

Alvarez (61-2-2, 39 KOs) has resisted the cries to fight Benavidez, repeatedly saying that he can do whatever he wants after all he’s accomplished. There’s no doubting his legacy and credentials. The 33-year-old is an all-time great. But when you’re the biggest star in an entire sport, it’s accompanied by the demand to deliver what the public wants.

“The fans now are getting upset because this is the biggest fight on the table,” Benavidez, 27, told ESPN earlier Saturday at the news conference to promote his June 15 fight vs. Oleksandr Gvozdyk. “And why are we going to leave it on the table for no reason?

“This is a fight that has to happen. … And I’m going to keep putting these types of performances on where people are going to want to see it. The demand of this fight is really high. It’s bad blood. I don’t like him. He doesn’t like me.”

Alvarez is ESPN’s No. 4 pound-for-pound boxer and hasn’t lost a fight since he moved up to 175 pounds to challenge Dmitry Bivol in May 2022. Since then, he’s turned back some worthy fighters, most notably a trilogy battle with Gennadiy “GGG” Golovkin.

But none of those fighters — not even an aging GGG — possessed the danger Benavidez presents at this stage.

“He’s not going to fight me,” Benavidez added. “I think he’s just running out of things to say. He’s literally said every excuse. He said that I only bring 25 pounds in and I’m not nothing. I’m this and that. I’m not dedicated, I’m not respectful.

“I think he’s scared of him losing and then me taking all his [fans]. That’s what it is. I don’t really think he’s scared of me. I think he doesn’t want me to get the torch passed.”

But Benavidez is not the only fighter Alvarez can meet to quiet the critics. There’s also Terence Crawford, ESPN’s No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer. Crawford was ringside and came away impressed with Alvarez’s performance.

Crawford, 36, scored a ninth-round TKO victory over Errol Spence Jr. in July to become the undisputed welterweight champion. He’s set to move up to 154 pounds for a title fight against Israil Madrimov on Aug. 3, bringing him closer in weight to Alvarez for a potential showdown.

The Crawford-Madrimov fight is the first boxing event presented by Saudi Arabia outside of the Kingdom. Turki Alalshikh, the chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, told ESPN last week that he would like to deliver a Canelo-Crawford fight in December or January.

“You got two of the top fighters of this decade, not just in the past year or so,” Crawford told ESPN following Alvarez’s win over Munguia when asked why he believes a fight against him would be bigger than Alvarez facing Benavidez. “You got two fighters that’s been at the top for 10 years. You got the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world and you got the No. 1 money man. I never like to overlook anybody, I got a fight coming up Aug. 3, and that’s where my main focus is at.

“I thought it was a good fight. I thought Munguia fought hard, I just think his inexperience caught up to him and made him fall in and square up and not stepping in with his punches allowed Canelo to sit back, counter and pick his shots. … Canelo was real patient.”

Whomever Alvarez picks, he’s proved that it will be on his terms. He’s earned that autonomy at this stage of his career. So whether he’s a major favorite for his next matchup against a fighter like Edgar Berlanga, or faced with the challenge of either Benavidez or Crawford, one thing is for sure: Canelo will do whatever Canelo wants.

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