Canelo Alvarez still has a ways to go before he can merit a spot on the shortlist of Mexico’s greatest boxers, according to one educated observer’s opinion.
Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Beristain, the Hall of Fame Mexican trainer, does not believe his countryman Alvarez, the most accomplished fighter to come out of his homeland in this generation, deserves to be regarded with the greats of the past – at least not quite yet.
“I recognize that he’s a great fighter and athlete because he trains very well and his trainer prepares him well,” Beristain recently told FightHubTV, which provided subtitles of the interview in English. “But I don’t agree [that he is one of the greatest Mexican fighters ever].”
In boxing circles, at least, Beristain may be in the minority.
Alvarez, a four-weight class champion, is coming off a 2021 in which he unified the super middleweight division with a stoppage over Caleb Plant in November, making him the first fighter ever to completely unify the division. He also became the first fighter from Mexico to unify any division in the three or four-belt era, drawing a shower of hosannas from the boxing public.
Beristain, who has trained countless Mexican champions, from Gilberto Roman and Ricardo Lopez to Juan Manuel Marquez and Oscar De La Hoya, was pleased to see such a record made by a compatriot, but he also made it clear he was not impressed with those accolades. For Alvarez to truly rise up to the ranks of Mexico’s gilded fistic past, Beristain says, he must find a way to inflame the passions of his people in the way that Julio Cesar Chavez consistently did in his career. A high bar, no doubt. Unlike Chavez, Beristain admits, Alvarez’s performances leave him feeling a bit cold.
“Doesn’t matter that he’s won the titles that he’s won and the money he’s making," Beristain said. “I recognize he’s a great fighter, but there’s still a little more he needs to do to be in the hearts of Mexican boxing fans.
“What’s missing is one or two fights of the type that Julio Cesar Chavez had and others. He fights and keeps fighting, but personally for me, as a trainer of many fighters, he doesn’t fulfill me. He hasn’t had a fight that has really captured the hearts of the people. He fights and wins and wins millions of dollars and that’s good. It makes me happy to see that he’s having success, but he hasn’t had that one fight we all want to see. He hasn’t had it.”
Beristain said he did not watch Alvarez’s last fight against Plant but recalls friends telling him it was not especially compelling and that even some skullduggery may have been afoot. (Alvarez won by a resounding 11th round knockout, and there was, to be sure, nothing fishy about it).
“I got three calls from people saying – and these are badass trainers – that said to me, ‘I’m watching this farce of a fight with Canelo. Plant fell without getting hit hard,’ Beristain said. “I didn’t see it. I can’t give my opinion, but those people said that Plant threw [the fight]. That makes like five fights that leave a lot of doubt. Because they can fool you or fans but not me because I’ve had a s- - - ton of time watching boxing.
“I still have hope to see him in a fight where he looks sensational. Because he wins and looks good but he doesn’t go that extra mile.”
In addition to Chavez, another fighter whom Beristain believes would behoove Alvarez to model himself after, in terms of a ring persona, is Manny Pacquiao, a fighter that Beristain went up against multiple times when he was the head trainer for Juan Manuel Marquez.
“Pacquiao, now that's a guy that deserves to be praised the world over because he fought and went through the ringer. He gave exciting fights. Canelo, no!
“He wins and knocks people out and they raise his hands and he wins a ton of money but he is not convincing [inside the ring].”