LAS VEGAS -- Canelo Alvarez was, at one point in his career, reserved and respectful ahead of his massive showcase fights -- a departure from the traditional fighter archetype. Despite his calm demeanor, Alvarez was still the biggest attraction in boxing due to his incredible fighting prowess and his legion of fans -- in Mexico, the United States and worldwide.
But this new side of Alvarez that he's revealed this year? It's only going to catapult him to another level of superstardom.
Alvarez promised to punish Billy Joe Saunders in May and then delivered when he shattered his foe's orbital bone in three places. Moments later, he took it another step by unleashing a profanity-laced tirade on Demetrius Andrade, who dared crash the champion's postfight presser.
The bombastic personality truly shone through in the lead-up to his 11th-round TKO victory over Caleb Plant on Saturday to become the undisputed super middleweight champion -- the first time he's collected all four major belts in his career. Plant called Alvarez a cheater, among other insults, and made the promotion "a little more personal" for Alvarez. The 31-year-old vowed that bad blood would carry over into the 168-pound title fight: "I always try to hurt them more."
He did just that, battering Plant to the body and finally finishing him off in Round 11. A left hook, followed by a right uppercut scored the first knockdown, and a barrage of punches ended the fight moments later. Plant boxed well early on, but he ended up in the hospital (for precautionary reasons), just like Saunders.
"He was making the fight pretty difficult, but [trainer] Eddy [Reynoso] told me to just stick to the game plan in the last two rounds," Alvarez said. "In the end, I got him. That's the way it had to finish. He was already hurt and I went for the kill."
Alvarez told ESPN on Wednesday that he held more disdain for Plant than anyone else he's ever fought -- even his bitter rival, Gennadiy Golovkin.
And in the midst of this success -- and his still rising star -- Golovkin is exactly whom Alvarez should fight next.
There remains unfinished business between the pair, even as Golovkin has fallen out of the spotlight. Since their September 2018 rematch, which Alvarez eked out on the scorecards, Alvarez has gone on to cement himself as the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world, while GGG has failed to impress.
Golovkin has fought just three times since then, most notably a disputed decision victory over Sergiy Derevyanchenko in one of 2019's best fights. Golovkin hasn't fought in 2021, but is scheduled to get one bout in this year under the wire, in his return to action on Dec. 29 in Japan against Ryota Murata. GGG will have a chance to once again become a unified middleweight champion.
If the power-punching Golovkin wants a third crack at Alvarez, though, he'll finally have to leave the comfort of 160 pounds.
"I would love the fight [with GGG]. Why not?" Alvarez told ESPN. "If he's open to come up to 168, I'm ready. Always.
"I'm always available to fight the best fights out there. Being [an] undisputed fighter is not easy. You are asking me, so why not? I'm always ready for anybody."
The failure to deliver Alvarez-Golovkin 3 helped crumble Alvarez's relationship with DAZN, and led to his newfound independence as a promotional and network free agent. Since he broke away from Golden Boy, Alvarez has been incredibly active, with four fights in a 12-month stretch starting with his December 2020 win over Callum Smith.
Looking ahead to 2022, it appears Canelo could return to his former routine -- long reserved for boxing's top star -- of twice-a-year fights on Cinco De Mayo and Mexican Independence Day weekend.
"My body is responding splendidly and all I need is time to rest until May," Alvarez said. "... I'm a free agent because I want to do the best fights out there."
With his desire to stay busy and make the biggest fights, Alvarez-Golovkin 3 makes too much sense. But Golovkin is 39 now, and time is running out. The window could close quickly, especially if Alvarez chooses to fight David Benavdiez or Jermall Charlo next. Both are fantastic matchups and would keep Alvarez in the PBC universe after a successful debut with Al Haymon.
But one look at the wildly entertaining trilogy bout between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder last month proved that sometimes, when two fighters at that level hold such contempt for one another, you can throw logic out the window and an incredibly memorable, fan-friendly bout was the result. And Alvarez-Golovkin has all of that, and then some.
Financially, the best fight out there for Alvarez is the Golovkin trilogy. The first meeting in September 2017 (a disputed draw the public believed Golovkin won) and the subsequent encounter both produced over 1 million PPV buys and over $50 million in gate receipts.
It's a fight that serves multiple ends. A win would only serve to bolster Alvarez's surging momentum as boxing biggest superstar. It's a chance for Alvarez to bring some closure to one of the best rivalries in recent memory, while delivering a fight that fans want to see. And beating Golovkin would strike down any lingering doubt about the one big question mark in his career, and further pad his already Hall of Fame-worthy legacy.