Canelo Alvarez recently became one of the highest-paid athletes in the world as he pocketed a new $365 million for 11-fight deal with sports streaming service DAZN.
And that’s not an outcome of pure promotion but also a demonstration of his great talent. Canelo is among the most prized fighters in the world today.
After his highlighting victory against Gennady Golovkin a couple of years ago, Canelo has never looked back.
Having discussed the aura behind this man and the record number that follow, let’s check out what makes him stand apart.
What are the skills and unique Canelo Alvarez boxing strategies which help him to overcome odds time and time again? In this blog post, we’ll be studying Canelo’s boxing strategies and look into his strengths and aspects of his boxing game which make him one of the finest in the current generation.
Without wasting much time, let’s jump on to the topic.
Canelo Alvarez is one of the most complete boxers on the planet. However, one thing which you don’t hear often is how good his defense is along with his offense.
He possesses a multitude of defensive variance. Many believe in the variations of offense but not so much in defense.
However, that’s not true and we can see Canelo’s ability to use pre-emptive head movement, distance management and slips based upon his opponent’s movement.
In the clip above you can see Canelo using head movement to great effect and adjusting his wavelength as per his opponent’s move. His incredible defensive composure helps him to dominate the offensive front. All of which is possible due to feinting and combinatory punching.
Canelo punches long and with precision whilst taking long strides to cover up the distance. This leaves absolutely no room for his opponents to think and come up with a counter. It all happens at a breakneck pace.
In the clip below, you can see Canelo intercepting. After a drop step to the corner, Alvarez anticipates the 45 D plants feet and establishes a position for the long 4. Exiting at a 45-degree strong side on his right.
A pugilist can be bracketed into either of the following categories – Slugger, Out Boxer, Boxer-Puncher and Swarmer i.e. in-fighting.
Though many of these terms have either become abstract or disingenuous in the modern landscape.
We can use these terms to classify a boxer’s fighting style. For instance, in this case, we know that Canelo is not a slugger like Foreman or an out-boxer like Ali.
His fighting style puts him somewhere between the boxer-puncher and the counter-puncher category.
He loves counter-punching, punching hard and fighting on the inside. However, he is not the purest of fighters when it comes to swarming as his style is always accompanied by range-changing.
That’s the reason why I said he’s one of the most complete fighters on the planet.
Never undermining defensive responsibilities
Though with his attack, Canelo is in the league of his own. When it comes to defense, he sure has taken a page from Floyd, these include techniques such as hand positioning, defense from distance and jab setups.
Though not a “shelling” type like Floyd, Toney or Guzman, Canelo does slips at distance similar to these fighters. He employs incredible head and torso movement to frustrate his opponents from distance.
That shoulder roll at 3.21 in the clip below just goes to show how good Canelo is with his alertness. That’s purely fooling the opponent right in front of them, that’s like Mayweather caliber of defense right there.
Counterpunching at its finest
In the clip below, you can see wonderful, scientifically technical counterpunching. You can see how off the framed jab, his opponent, trout attempts a cross to the body.
However, Canelo re-blades with a high cross that doesn’t quite land flush but the next cross he slips outsides and comes in with a devastating split. ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL FROM CANELO.
In the clip below, you can see a great example of his counterpunching abilities from a distance. Here you can learn about the conventional wisdom which is the left hook or the right cross are the best weapons in an open stance. But Canelo adds his own twist to it by feinting a lancing jab and instead throws a wonderfully quick and accurate right cross.
Even with such precision, Canelo has had mixed results when it comes to brawling. His fight with Austin Trout wasn’t as one-sided as we’ve seen in the clips.
Against veteran Miguel Cotto, Canelo showed off some of his tremendous counter-punching and feinting techniques (Boy! What a bout that was). We covered the brilliance of Miguel Cotto’s boxing techniques in that one, and here we are discussing Canelo’s strengths. Watch the clip below, a beautiful open-eyed outside jab slipping into a powerful right.
The reason why I seem to find similarities between Floyd and Canelo can be visually seen below. Canelo, similar to Floyd approaches hands high into level change, body jab and immediate high 2 follow up.
Composed when cornered
Though Canelo beats up his opponent straight up and doesn’t like to get cornered. When he does seem to face a tougher opponent, he remains calm and collected when cornered.
He employs counterpunching to a great effect when his back is against the wall. Using ropes as a spring in his step, he seems extra-ordinarily comfortable even though he’s only dodging.
A wonderful boxing combination is the guard splitter combination to bring the guards of the opponent toward their center of mass to defend that strike that unfortunately and often leaves a clear part to low right cross to the liver.
Working your body when at ropes is something Canelo is extremely talented at.
The clip below showcases the sentiment that the liver shot is not only slow to hurt but slow lingering i.e. slow to heal as well. After one solid shot lands, it’s smart to find another few if possible, in a quick time.
The more you connect in quick succession, the lesser the time your opponent has to regather himself. This allows you to create openings as it is now much harder for your opponent to keep his hands higher, and thus he more likely to defend body shots thereby leaving his chin unguarded. The SYMBIOTIC THEORY IS APPLICABLE IN THIS CASE.
Often when Canelo’s opponent uses a tighter guard, he flashes round strikes into their peripheral with a left hook as seen in the clip above.
His following round strike into their peripheral is faked and he is able to open his opponent’s guard for straight punching. Watch the wonderful foot feinting, as well as the up-jab to cap off.
Similar to a game of chess, Canelo ensures his defeats his opponents mentally by thinking a step ahead. By targeting the body, he makes them draw attention towards their body and exposing their temple and vice-versa.
In the following clip, you can see him flashing a fake 3 into a straight right.
Brilliant Conceptual Expansion
Confident counterpunchers tend to drop their guard often to encourage and allow their opponent to throw strikes. This requires high fight IQ as the objective is pattern-recognition for later extrapolation.
This allows them to open up more and more with proper footwork and ideal punch selection.
Subsequently, leading the offensive, totally not reliant on the opponent’s punching. Pressure based counter-punchers do this well.
The more success you have mixing up sequentially, the more likely you will get over commitment on punches. Here as Cotto tries to “no-sell” 2, Canelo pulls counter with a 6 and then does a wonderful duck-under Miguel’s follow up 3 out and away.
This is the sort of reflex-based striking that every fighter must strive for. (You can check our boxing guide if you’re having difficulty in understanding boxing combinations)
Wonderful jab invitation at a close range and subsequent overhand right counter and the following shovel hook.
Excellent Foot Feinting
Yet another masterful technique in Canelo’s arsenal is foot feinting. A great disruptive tactic which is a great way to get an opponent off their heels and trap them. Essentially, you are shuffling into them without pronating hands.
Look at Canelo’s combination punching and its accuracy.
Alvarez likes to use uppercut feints/fakes as flashes to disrupt the guard and open lanes.
Cutting the distance
Canelo is as good as it gets when it comes to cutting distance. You can see Canelo cutting the distance on Jacobs who is still on the ropes by taking a small step forward with his lead foot.
Notice how his head and body didn’t move any closer, keeping himself safe. Jacob is a top boxer who noticed Canelo’s movement and he sensed Canelo stepping into range and thus he was looking to throw a counter jab.
Much to his despair, Canelo only moved his lead foot forward, he still had enough distance to not only see the jab coming but also making Jacobs extend further than he probably anticipated.
Brilliant defensive responsibility is shown by Canelo whilst cutting the distance.
In this frame above, look at how Canelo steps his lead foot forward but keeps his head and body back. You can see the green line for his foot and the blue line for his head. The distance is huge.
In the frame above, you can see Canelo leaning forward bringing his head into the range to bait Jacobs. However, Jacobs probes with his lead hand (Similar to what we learned in the Mayweather Case Study) to measure the distance.
In the frame above, you can see Jacobs gearing up to shoot the jab as he has measured the distance.
Canelo meanwhile is successful in luring Jacobs to think that he is in-range and vulnerable to a punch.
But Canelo being Canelo, pulls his head back leaving a huge distance between his head and his lead foot, thereby creating deception.
In the clip above, you can see Jacob pulling the jab and Canelo is able to counter it with a devastating left hook to the body.
Exposing the opponent’s defense
An effective strategy against a counterpunching opponent like Canelo is to feint them to expose a potential hole in their defense which you can capitalize on.
However, Canelo has different plans when his opponent’s think so. Look at how he deals with feints. In the clip below, you can see Canelo biting off his opponent jab feint but he quickly gathers himself back.
Before Jacobs can capitalize on the opening he exposed Canelo on, Canelo changes his head slot three times. He starts with pulling his head back, slips to the outside and changes his levels to show Jacobs just how good he is. Canelo doesn’t just stand there and allow Jacobs to capitalize on the opening.
Here you can see another instance where Canelo falls for a body jab feint. But watch what he does next. He takes an immediate step back and comes in with changed levels. But props to Jacobs as he read it and was able to avoid Canelo’s lead hand. However, that goes to show how Canelo switched the table on his opponent.
The purpose of throwing combinations is to breakdown an opponent’s defense by means of series of punches which take advantage of defensive weakness. There is no one guard which offers complete protection.
Every guard of defensive posture i.e. generic, cross-armed or half-guard, etc has vulnerabilities. And staying stationary target can make you an easy target and you will learn that in a hard and painful way.
Mobility should ways be your first line of defense, especially when you’re up against someone like Canelo. If you maintain the range and use distance as defense, you ultimately cannot be hit.
Here Alvarez doubles on his lead hand. The left hook upstairs forces Angulo to cover up and expose his lower right side, setting him up perfectly for a left hook to the body.
After landing the rear uppercut, Canelo smothers Angulo’s face with his lead hand. By obscuring his opponent’s vision, Alvarez manages to conceal his next offense – a right hook to the body behind Angulo’s left elbow.
You only need to take a look at Alvarez’s bout with Floyd Mayweather to gain a clear understanding of how best to diffuse a combination puncher. Because of his pro-active defense and purposeful movement, Mayweather was never in one place long enough for Alvarez to bring his combinations into play.
In the clip above, you can see Canelo landing a splitting uppercut. Much can be credited to his opponent Angulo’s lack of movement.
Angulo lowers his guard and leans forward in an attempt to cushion the force of Canelo’s body jab.
Canelo follows by changing levels, luring Angulo into expecting another body jab. Here’s were Canelo has his opponent completely, and catches him leaning forward with a rear uppercut between the gloves.
In the clip above, you can see Canelo interchanging not just his targets but also the depth of his punches.
This allows him to deceive his opponent, gain leverage and create openings for more damaging blows further down the line.
You can see Alvarez landing a left, forcing Angulo to raise his guard. Having spotted that, Canelo switches his attack to the sides, where he uses a left hook to set up a soft right hand, which in turn sets up a hard left hook to the body.
From Canelo’s boxing, we can learn that hooks work well when thrown after uppercuts and vice versa. Each serving to set up the other. Similarly, sweeping blows aimed around the opponent’s guard help set up straight punches through the middle.
Canelo for sure is present-day boxing’s prized asset and is far from a done deal. With nearly 10-15 fights still left, you can only imagine, what he’s heading towards.
Overall, you can just appreciate the gift we’ve been provided watching talents such as him, Lomachenkho, Pacquiao, Mayweather and many more.
Canelo’s abilities separate him from the rest, and though he might not yet be the face of it like Pacquiao or Mayweather, he is working towards cementing his legacy as one of boxing’s all-time greats.