You'd be hard-pressed to find a single active athlete in the face-punching business more comprehensively scrutinized than ​Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. The 28-year-old tapatío, despite holding three championship belts, a lineal title, and a claim for the mantle of best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, has routinely faced criticism that tends to fall into three buckets to varying degrees:


​That he didn't deserve his decision win over Gennady Golovkin. ​That he twice tested positive for banned substances and didn't own up to it. And worst of all, that he allegedly doesn't fight with a style that's "Mexican" enough.


Luckily for the champ, he can put the haters right to bed with a resounding, master class victory Saturday night against Daniel Jacobs. And if he's going to make that a reality, ​he can't lean away from embracing the villain's persona.

​As a -500 favorite in the bout, Canelo may just decide to take care of business and edge out the Miracle Man on the scorecards. But if he truly wants to be one of the greats, he must turn the tables on the critics that dragged him for his pair of controversial results against GGG -- ​a 2017 draw and 2018 win -- both of which he could have lost with a different panel of judges in place.  


In so many ways, Alvarez has infinitely more to lose than Jacobs Saturday night in Vegas. The poised and talented Brooklyn-born cancer survivor's reputation simply won't be harmed much at all unless Canelo thoroughly embarrasses him. All told, with his middleweight and pound-for-pound legacy on the line, Alvarez needs to let himself be the bad guy and dominate the action. Unlike either Golovkin fight, he must leave absolutely no doubt.


It's not enough simply to state villain status, however. Remember LeBron James' first year in Miami? The antagonist's role was foisted upon him, but he just wasn't comfortable with the designation. He lacked sufficient killer instinct, and he ultimately got exposed in the 2011 NBA Finals. You can't fake it; you've got to own it and live it.

To be fair, no matter how you felt about the scorecards, it became infinitely more difficult to knock Alvarez for not ​boxing in an aggressive style relatively more similar to Mexican legends like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Marco Antonio Barrera after what he demonstrated against Golovkin. Long chided as overly reliant on a counter-punching game, he was on his front foot for significant stretches against the previously undefeated Kazakh and gave him the two biggest tests of his career. 


Now, it's time for Canelo to take another step forward and stake his claim as not just a generational boxer, but a fearsome fighter by bullying one of the middleweight class's most well-rounded (and, it must be said, well-liked) operators.

It's worth noting that there's even more at stake here for Alvarez than his win-loss record and his belt collection. in October, he signed a massive five-year, 11-fight deal with streaming service DAZN worth an incredible $365 million. The upstart media company has gone in big on combat sports in its early efforts to distinguish itself from the competition, but Canelo will both fumble his bid for all-timer status and fail to justify DAZN's gargantuan investment merely by out-pointing Danny Jacobs; given his opponent's height and reach advantage, he has to be an aggressor and give his stylistic haters the brawler's delight they've long demanded. 


With the whole world watching, Canelo has to unleash his inner bad guy completely and sincerely and grab this match by the throatThere are no half-measures here. There's no use in resisting that devilish persona; rather, embracing it and feeding of it will serve as a bridge to the next step in his career-- one that positions him as the single best all-around fighter on planet earth.