It’s not the kind of fight that will elevate Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’ standing at the top of the sport, but as he approaches his 63rd walk to the ring, nearly 50,000 people at Akron Stadium will provide the aesthetics that few could claim these days.

Tyson Fury? Yes. Anthony Joshua? Possibly still. Gervonta Davis? He’s getting there, especially after a star-making turn against Ryan Garcia a couple weeks back.

But the king is still the 32-year-old Mexican battler, free of controversy, free of out-of-the-ring issues and free of questions about his motivation to be the best. Let’s face it, someone whose motto is “no boxing, no life” can’t be doing this half-assed.

So while the man he will risk his four super middleweight title belts against – John Ryder – isn’t expected to be the one to knock him off his perch atop the boxing world, after fighting top level foes nearly every time out for over a decade, Alvarez has earned a gimme (or at least the appearance of one) for his first fight at home in Mexico since 2011.

Back then, Alvarez was fighting at junior middleweight, where he successfully defended his WBC crown for the third time, stopping Kermit Cintron in five one-sided rounds. At the time, he was 38-0-1 and a rising star, but nothing would be the same after that bout with the former welterweight titlist.

The names were boxing royalty – Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto. Filtered in around those mega-bouts were keep-busy affairs with quality foes just below that crossover star level – Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout, James Kirkland. And along the way, Alvarez mixed those A-side battles with SuperFights as the B-side, and eventually, it was Alvarez commanding his place as the first name on the marquee and the last one to be introduced on fight night.

It was as organic as any fighter’s rise from obscurity to stardom, built not on marketing plans but the simple idea that fighters fight. Like clockwork, Alvarez would fight twice a year for several trips around the sun, until he wanted to be more active in 2021 and turned in a year in which he defeated Avni Yildirim, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant. It was back to two fights in 2022, a loss to Dmitrii Bivol and a win in his third bout with Gennadiy Golovkin. 

Injuries kept Alvarez sidelined until now, also adding to the reasoning behind taking a fight with the unheralded Brit, but frankly, everyone in the boxing world knows that is simply the prelude to something bigger. And how he plays everything after May 6 will determine whether he’s in the all-time great conversation or just the best of the post-Mayweather era. Either way, Alvarez is a hall of famer. His resume is rock solid no matter what happens from here on out, but the beauty of boxing is that there’s always someone else, always another big fight, if a fighter wants it.

And Alvarez has always wanted it. So what does he want next?

If making 168 pounds is not an issue, the only name is David Benavidez. Alvarez isn’t one for addressing future matches, but he’s been asked about the recent Caleb Plant-conqueror enough that he’s got to be a thorn in his side at this point. Stylistically, it’s as good as it gets when it comes to being a fan-friendly matchup, and Benavidez is already all-in.

Then there’s a matchup with middleweight champ Jermall Charlo, who will likely have no issue going to 168, especially for a fight he’s demanded for years. 

But these are big what ifs, especially when it comes to promotional and network entanglements, always an issue when it comes to making – or not making – the fights fans really want to see.

But they do want to see them, and if Alvarez wants to maintain his “face of boxing” status, something has to give with either Benavidez or Charlo at 168. Then again, there’s always light heavyweight, where Alvarez knocked out Sergey Kovalev in 2019 before suffering only the second loss of his career to Bivol a year ago. For revenge’s sake, a rematch with Bivol is intriguing, while not necessarily thrilling, but if he wants to make that seven-pound move north again, the most exciting possibility is named Artur Beterbiev. Of course, there’s a lot of risk attached to a reward that would only be personal for Canelo, who can pretty much make as much money as he demands against anyone he chooses.

But he’s never been a cherry picker. Sure, there are the mandatories and the tune-ups, but that’s everybody’s sin these days. And when you mix in the great fights with the not-so-great on a regular basis, you become the face of boxing, a title that Alvarez doesn’t look like he wants to give up anytime soon.