Abel Sanchez: Canelo Alvarez Is Still Driving the Truck

Watching from a distance this time, Abel Sanchez took note of one particular turn of event in Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s most recent fight negotiation.

“He broke away from [Premier Boxing Champions] and then they went back to him,” Sanchez said. “That shows you who’s driving the truck of boxing.

“That shows you who’s in control. He’s the face of boxing.”

In a BoxingScene discussion with Sanchez and Robert Garcia – trainers who understand the sport and its leading figures better than so many – their takeaways from watching Alvarez’s turbulent selection of countryman Jaime Munguia as his May 4 Cinco de Mayo weekend foe drew compelling reactions.

“Canelo knew, at the end of the day, that Munguia had a good performance in his last fight and stopped a guy Canelo couldn’t – that the boxing fans will see this as a good challenge,” Garcia said.

Tijuana’s Munguia (43-0, 34 KOs), a former 154-pound world champion coming off that ninth-round stoppage of England’s John Ryder in January after Ryder went the distance with Alvarez in May, aligned with famed trainer Freddie Roach before the Ryder bout.

“I would’ve liked to see Munguia take the fight in September – it’s a more important holiday for us, anyway – and I thought he needed one more fight with Freddie to make more of a difference,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez viewed Munguia’s respect for Alvarez as a stark contrast from the position Benavidez (28-0, 24 KOs) and his father-trainer, Jose Benavidez Sr., took for landing the high-profile bout.

“Remember how Munguia responded to questions about a Canelo fight: that it would be an honor to fight him,” Sanchez said. “From the Benavidez’s, it seemed like constant bad-mouthing. And I’ve told [the Benavidez family] this: ‘Just keep eliminating the guys Canelo can fight and he has no choice but to fight you … .’

“But the way it is right now, Canelo drives the truck and he knows he can make the same money [$35 million] no matter who he fights.”

Sanchez, currently training unbeaten WBA cruiserweight champion Arsen Goulamirian for his March 30 title defense against Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez in Inglewood, Calif., has long been a blunt and piercing voice to Alvarez’s career.

When Alvarez tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance between his first two bouts against Sanchez’s former middleweight champion Gennadiy Golovkin, Sanchez verbally jabbed the popular champion and raised the friction between the fighters.

Sanchez said: “I still believe we beat him twice,” but judges viewed those bouts as a draw and an Alvarez victory by decision.

There remains deep respect for Alvarez’s talent.

“The first six rounds [with Munguia] will be difficult for both guys, but Canelo will measure him and size him up, and I expect [Munguia] to be his old [undisciplined] self, when he goes back to being a warrior,” Sanchez said.

“And that will be to his detriment.”

Alvarez “has so much more experience against bigger [talent] guys and he’ll use that against this guy [Munguia] who hasn’t seen all that. That’s why I think after the first six-to-seven rounds, Canelo will be playing with him and could even stop him in the final two rounds.”

With Benavidez heading to a June 15 light-heavyweight bout against former champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Alvarez’s decision to veer from that most-wanted bout will likely be strongly revisited following these contests.

Garcia said he’s not sure how long Alvarez, a certain International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, can stomach that pressure.

“Fighting Munguia is OK for now, but until we see the Benavidez fight, Canelo will never get the full respect from fans that he wants to see. And that matters.”

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