When Canelo Alvarez signed a landmark five-year, 11-fight, $365 million deal with DAZN in late 2018 — then an all-time record contract for an athlete — some questioned whether the Mexican superstar would opt for lesser, safe fights, or if he would continue to test himself against the best opposition in order to justify the deal.
For years, Alvarez had sought out the best opponents, and he promised to do the same under his new agreement. In 2019, he kept to his word.
While he decided against a third fight with rival Gennadiy Golovkin, at least for the time being, Alvarez took two huge fights against two top-notch opponents, the best he could possibly face at the time.
He won impressively in both bouts — both among the year’s most significant fights. And for that reason, Alvarez is my fighter of the year — his second such award, having also received it in 2015.
In May, Alvarez, the middleweight world champion and a secondary super middleweight titlist, squared off against another highly regarded middleweight titleholder in Daniel Jacobs in a much-anticipated title unification bout.
Alvarez (51-1-2, 36 KOs), 29, won a clear unanimous decision in Las Vegas to add yet another belt to his growing collection.
In his second fight of the year, in November — pushed back from his traditional Mexican Independence Day weekend date in September in order to make sure he had a top opponent — Alvarez jumped up two weight divisions to challenge Sergey Kovalev for his 175-pound belt.
It was a very close fight as the bigger Kovalev — who has been the biggest name in the light heavyweight division for several years — gave Alvarez some problems. Eventually Alvarez turned out the lights, though, with a spectacular 11th-round knockout victory in Las Vegas.
Already universally regarded as one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters, it was the sort of resounding knockout that led some voters to move Alvarez to No. 1 in their P4P rankings. The win also gave Alvarez a world title in a fourth weight division and left him as the holder of belts in three divisions — 160, 168 and 175 — at the same time.
“I’m very thankful. This is just a step in my career, in my history, and all I ask of you is to be patient because Canelo will make history. That’s a guarantee,” said Alvarez, who, as boxing’s money man below the heavyweight division, is poised for many more major fights in the years to come.
No. 2: Manny Pacquiao
The Pacman, who has won world titles in a boxing-record eight weight classes and stamped himself as one of the best ever to lace up gloves, was thought by many to be simply playing out the string on his legendary 24-year career in 2019. But the 41-year-old Pacquiao, who is also a senator in his native Philippines, showed everyone he is far from done. In January, Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) toyed with four-division titlist Adrien Broner, a man 10 years his junior, en route to a one-sided decision win to retain his secondary welterweight belt. In July, Pacquiao returned for an exceedingly dangerous fight with undefeated titleholder Keith Thurman, who is nine years younger than Pacquiao. Pacquiao turned back the hands of time in a terrific battle, dropping Thurman in the first round and winning a well-deserved split decision and the WBA “super” welterweight belt for one of his biggest victories in a career filled with them.
No. 3: Errol Spence Jr.
Spence, already considered one of boxing’s pound-for-pound best, craved big fights and he got two of them, winning both and establishing himself on pay-per-view. In March, before 47,525 at AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys), Spence (26-0, 21 KOs), 29, of DeSoto, Texas, faced undefeated four-division world titlist Mikey Garcia, also one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Garcia had relentlessly called out Spence and moved up two divisions to challenge Spence for his welterweight title — and in return, Garcia got a boxing lesson he will never forget. Spence may not have gotten the knockout against a safety-first Garcia, but he won every second of the fight in a clean shutout on all three scorecards. In September, Spence got his wish for a unification bout when he squared off with the fierce Shawn Porter, dropping him in the 11th round to win a well-deserved split decision in one of the year’s most rousing action-packed battles.
No. 4: Josh Taylor
Since turning pro in 2015, big things have been expected from Taylor (16-0, 12 KOs), 28, a 2012 Olympian from Scotland. He lived up to the hype as he unified junior welterweight world titles and won the World Boxing Super Series. In the semifinals in May, Taylor scored two knockdowns of Ivan Baranchyk and won a clear decision to take Baranchyk’s 140-pound belt. Then in October, he met undefeated titlist Regis Prograis, the No. 1 seed in the tournament. They turned in a sensational fight, but it was Taylor who proved to be the better man in winning a majority decision, unifying two world titles.
No. 5: Deontay Wilder
Unable to get Anthony Joshua in the ring for an undisputed heavyweight title fight, and having had lineal champion Tyson Fury put off their rematch until February 2020, Wilder made the most of his 2019 campaign with a pair of massive knockouts to retain his belt. In May, he met mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale, whose only previous loss had come by seventh-round knockout to Joshua in a title fight in 2016. Wilder (42-0-1), 34, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, used his all-time great right hand to starch Breazeale in the first round. In November, Wilder, who had knocked out big-punching southpaw Luis “King Kong” Ortiz in the 10th round of a 2018 contender for fight of the year, gave Ortiz a rematch. After Ortiz soundly outboxed him for six rounds, Wilder did what he usually does: He landed a massive right hand and knocked Ortiz out in the seventh round to retain his title for the 10th time.