Commentary

What we learned from Saturday's fights

Originally Published: November 27, 2011
By Jason Langendorf | ESPN.com

A recap of what we learned from Saturday's Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, Adrien Broner and Gary Russell Jr. fights:

We're still getting to know Canelo

Already, at age 21, Saul Alvarez has much of the makings of a great fighter, and his career arc seems on an ideal course to keep him tied up with moderate but manageable challenges until, eventually, he's ready to peak at the perfect moment.

Saturday in Mexico City was the next stage of that carefully calibrated development, with Canelo facing a long, hard-punching former titlist (or, as it turned out, the ghost of one) who, had he been a live opponent, might have posed the young champion some questions he had yet to be asked.

Instead, the fight amounted to five rounds of target practice and a counterpunching clinic for Canelo, who had Kermit Cintron nearly out on his feet in Round 4 before dismantling him moments later, logging his third title defense with a TKO at 2 minutes and 53 seconds in the fifth. If Alvarez learned anything new about himself from Saturday's fight, he likely was the only one.

What about, if you can follow the Rumsfeldian logic, Canelo's many known unknowns? His chin, for the most part, has yet to be tested. How will he handle that first good wobbling? And there's the flip side: Does he possess true knockout power at the highest levels? Then there's his defense. What sort of trouble awaits Alvarez when he takes his slow feet into the ring against the very best junior middleweights, or -- gasp! -- Floyd Mayweather Jr. (whom Canelo called for after Saturday's fight)?

There's more. HBO analysts Max Kellerman and Roy Jones Jr. praised Canelo's patience against Cintron, but I wonder if they mistake preternatural calm for uncertainty. Alvarez is plenty aggressive when there's blood in the water, and it's not as if he's some red-headed shrinky-dink Klitschko clone; he'll press the action at times and doesn't merely probe endlessly until his foe falters.

But I'd be interested to see him in with a true-blue brawler, someone who will throw caution to the wind, cut off the ring and test some of Alvarez's questionable defenses and calculating demeanor. James Kirkland, anyone? Or ...

A Canelo-Chavez Jr. fight has legs

Of course a match of Mexico's two heartthrob 154-pounders is an interesting fight. But I'm starting to believe it's more than just a novelty bout between media-made punchers with meaty backstories.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. arguably showed more in his latest bout, last Saturday's TKO of Peter Manfredo Jr., than he had in any previous outing. He demonstrated increasingly refined boxing skills, true counterpunching acumen and a seemingly more instinctive inclination to set up his power punches off the jab. And his grit and durability, proven in taking Sebastian Zbik's title in June, suggest JCC Jr. might be just the man to make a stand against Canelo, forcing him more frequently out of his shell and demanding that he answer some of those aforementioned questions.

If nothing else, Alvarez-Chavez would afford fans a fun, compelling resolution to Mexico's version of Mayweather-Pacquiao. And this one even seems like it might happen.

Cintron is cooked

Poor Cintron, the former welterweight titlist who had lost three of his past four fights (some in almost comical fashion), desperately needed to at least put up a fight against Canelo on Saturday. Instead, he fired up the way-back machine for a solid 15 seconds before the plug was pulled.

Cintron lasted into the fifth round only because Canelo allowed him the courtesy. The young champion took his time measuring up his target, and Cintron responded by throwing tentative, utterly unthreatening jabs -- mostly at air. After suffering a knockdown in the fourth and ending the round all but dangling from the ropes, Cintron, finally, decided to go all-in. He was aggressive -- salty, even -- coming out of his corner for the fifth, and landed several hard shots that stymied, perhaps even stunned Alvarez.

And that was it. Canelo then responded in kind and Cintron instantly appeared spent and, for all intents and purposes, unwilling to engage. The challenger made a passing effort to hang on -- really, a microcosm for Cintron's career since his infamous spill against Paul Williams last year -- but seemed to have rethought his brief offensive and packed it in. If the 32-year-old Puerto Rican isn't a shot fighter, he certainly can no longer be called a contender.

Believe the hype

Adrien Broner and Gary Russell Jr., eye-popping prospects building on extensive and excellent amateur backgrounds, hadn't fought any professional opposition of serious import before this Thanksgiving weekend. Saturday night's bouts at Cincinnati's U.S. Bank Arena did nothing to change that.

Still, it's hard not to be swayed by the results. Broner got the slightest hint of a challenge from Vicente Rodriguez in the second round before swarming him with speed, footwork and plenty more for a third-round knockout. Russell, quick-handed but with questionable power, completely outclassed Heriberto Ruiz before dropping him like a stone to notch a one-punch first-round knockout.

Broner won a belt Saturday but probably still is a step or two away from being fully prepared for the best in his division. And Russell simply isn't ready for a featherweight stud like Yuriorkis Gamboa -- or probably even, say, Gamboa's most recent victim, the durable and experienced Daniel Ponce de Leon. These things take time.

But neither gave a single reason to believe he can't someday reach the pinnacle. And with each fight that passes in which they can say that, the less room they give us to doubt their current accomplishments.

Jason Langendorf is the boxing editor for ESPN.com.

Jason Langendorf is the boxing editor for ESPN.com.