2019 CBS Sports Boxer of the Year: Canelo Alvarez silences critics with masterful showing

If there's responsibility that comes with being the biggest star in global boxing, Canelo Alvarez lived up to the job description in 2019 from the standpoint of making difficult fights that mattered. 

No, the 29-year-old Alvarez never quite gave in to the peer pressure from fans and both his promoter (Golden Boy) and network (DAZN) to consummate a trilogy with Gennady Golovkin after two action-packed and controversial fights. 

What Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs) did accomplish, however, was still worthy of praise. In fact, it was worthy of declaration as the 2019 CBS Sports boxer of the year amid a crowded group of contenders. 

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Armed a 10-fight, $365 million deal from DAZN to open the year, Alvarez outboxed a difficult Daniel Jacobs to unify middleweight titles in May by a close yet convincing decision. But six months later, the Mexican superstar upped the ante considerably more when he moved up two weight classes to deliver a knockout of the year contender and capture Sergey Kovalev's WBO light heavyweight title

Alvarez's ability to jump divisions without sacrificing his power or punch resistance -- he claimed a secondary title at super middleweight by knocking out Rocky Fielding last December -- helped him make a strong claim for pound-for-pound king of the sport in addition to being such a massive draw. 

Given the handsome nature of Alvarez's DAZN deal, one would think he has the power to demand a certain level of opponent and the fact that he has so consistently challenged himself over the last two years shows his dedication to padding his legacy. 

Both of Alvarez's performances this year also showcased opposite sides of his well-rounded game as he relied on footwork, defense and clean counterpunching against Jacobs before becoming a full-time stalker against a much bigger Kovalev en route to a knockout win. 

2. Errol Spence Jr. 

The southpaw from Desoto, Texas, established himself as a pay-per-view headliner in 2019 as the A-side in a pair of successful welterweight title defenses. Spence (26-0, 21 KOs) handed three-division champion Mikey Garcia his first defeat in a near shutout in March at AT&T Stadium outside of Dallas. Six months later, he unified 147-pound titles in an exciting and high-speed chess affair against Shawn Porter that ended in a split decision and became an instant fight-of-the-year contender. The 29-year-old Spence closed out the year by surviving a nasty car accident in which he was ejected from his vehicle and charged with a DUI although he maintains a return in spring of 2020 is in reach. 

3. Manny Pacquiao

The only eight-division champion in boxing history authored one of his most impressive years in an already legendary career. Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) also proved he's still got it as a draw, benefiting from Alvarez's move to the all-streaming platform of DAZN to headline the two biggest PPV bouts of the year. The fact that the Filipino icon did all of this at age 40 is still mind blowing, especially considering he followed up his dominant decision win over Adrien Broner in January by handing WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman his first defeat in a thrilling 12-round affair. Pacquiao, who turned 41 in December, has shown no signs of slowing down or shying away from taking on the very best. 

4. Naoya Inoue

The Japanese "Monster" continued his dominance by unifying bantamweight titles and capturing the Ali trophy as the winner of the World Boxing Super Series tournament. Maybe more importantly, Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) faced legit adversity inside the ring for the first time in his career and passed with flying colors. The 26-year-old began the year by blowing away unbeaten Emmanuel Rodriguez in May before his spectacular WBSS final six months later against future Hall-of-Famer Nonito Donaire. Inoue overcame a broken eye socket suffered early in the fight and rebounded from being hurt to outpoint the Filipino slugger in the best fight of 2019

5.  Teofimo Lopez

The flashy 22-year-old from Brooklyn, New York, proved that his self-proclaimed "Takeover" of the sport was very real in 2019, at least as it pertained to the lightweight division. Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) recorded an impressive four victories this year, including three by sensational knockout, and won his first world title with a December destruction of IBF champion Richard Commey. Up next is a likely spring unification bout against P4P wizard Vasilily Lomachenko in a fight that seems much more reasonable considering the growth Lopez has made. He looked more human than spectacular in a July decision win over Masayoshi Nakatani and blocked out the drama in his personal life to rebound in such spectacular fashion against Commey. The kid is for real. 

Honorable mentions: Deontay Wilder, Artur Beterbiev, Josh Taylor, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Jose Ramirez

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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