LAS VEGAS -- Canelo Alvarez pushed and pushed for the knockout that eluded him in his three previous fights, but it never materialized Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
That was through no fault of his own.
Alvarez floored Jermell Charlo in Round 7 with an overhand right, the second knockdown of the challenger's career, but there weren't many more opportunities for the knockout in what ended up being a lopsided unanimous-decision victory for Alvarez, who made the third defense of his undisputed super middleweight championship.
Charlo wasn't willing to engage and rarely threw a punch. He moved away from Alvarez's power shots all night but never attempted to make him pay.
Two judges scored the fight 118-109, with the other tally 119-108.
"Nobody can compete with this Canelo," said Alvarez, ESPN's No. 4 pound-for-pound boxer. "Two months in the mountains [training near Lake Tahoe] without my family. I still love boxing. I love boxing so f---ing much. Boxing is my life. Boxing made me the person I am today."
Charlo (35-2-1, 19 KOs) entered the ring the undisputed junior middleweight champion and had never competed above 154 pounds before. He was stripped of his WBO title once the fight started and said he would return to 154 pounds, where he still holds three titles. Australian star Tim Tszyu will defend the WBO belt Oct. 14 against Brian Mendoza.
"I feel like it wasn't me in there," said Charlo, 33, who fights out of Houston. "I don't make excuses. You win some, you lose some. I'm undisputed in my weight; I was daring to be great. I'm proud of myself. He didn't knock me out; he knocked all the other guys out."
It was clear by the way Charlo competed that he was looking to hear the final bell. Every time Alvarez closed the distance, Charlo slid over, but he wasn't interested in engaging.
Alvarez (60-2-2, 39 KOs) appeared frustrated as he looked for Charlo to open up and afford him some counterpunching opportunities. It never happened.
Instead, Alvarez piled up points on the scorecards by expertly cutting off the ring with effective aggression and clean body punching, the hallmarks of his legendary career.
Alvarez acknowledged in the lead-up to Saturday's bout that he wasn't at his best in his three most recent fights and vowed to return to top form. He did just that. His movement, conditioning and punching combinations all appeared to be peak Canelo, though Charlo never presented much adversity.
Alvarez's last inside-the-distance win came in November 2021, when he scored an 11th-round TKO of Caleb Plant to capture the undisputed super middleweight championship.
He moved up to 175 pounds for a fight with Dmitry Bivol in May 2022 and suffered his first loss since 2013, when he was outpointed by Floyd Mayweather. Four months later, Alvarez returned to 168 pounds to conclude his trilogy with Gennadiy Golovkin with a victory but faded down the stretch.
Alvarez revealed afterward that he fought Bivol and Golovkin with a serious left wrist injury and underwent surgery in October. His first post-surgery competition came in May when he returned home to Mexico for a decision win over John Ryder.
Canelo broke Ryder's nose and scored a knockdown but didn't finish him in a grueling fight. Alvarez conceded this week that his hand wasn't 100% then and that he was not fully confident in his lead weapon.
After the win over Charlo, he reaffirmed that he is back to form.
"Whoever," Alvarez said when asked whom he would face when he returns for his next fight on Cinco De Mayo weekend. "I don't f---ing care."
This victory was the first of Alvarez's three-fight deal with PBC, but it was originally slated to come against Charlo's twin brother, Jermall, the WBC middleweight titleholder. Jermall Charlo didn't proceed with the planned fight as he dealt with a personal matter, and Alvarez quickly accepted the smaller Charlo as the new opponent.
"They look the same," Alvarez told ESPN on Wednesday. "Same size, same everything. I don't really care which Charlo brother it is."
Charlo called out undisputed welterweight champion Terence Crawford afterward and said he was also open to a fight against the winner of Tszyu-Mendoza. Charlo was set to fight Tszyu in January before he broke his left hand in two places.
Saturday's fight was Charlo's first since May 2022, when he scored a 10th-round knockout of Brian Castano in a rematch to win the undisputed junior middleweight championship.
Alvarez, meanwhile, remains the face of boxing and proved without a doubt that he is still on top, quieting the critics who said he was on the decline at age 33 after more than 60 fights.