LAS VEGAS - As referee Russell Mora raised Canelo Alvarez's arm aloft to signify his triumph over Sergey Kovalev, the smiling Alvarez extended four fingers.
Alvarez, boxing's biggest star, was making another statement, just as he had with his ferocious 11th-round knockout of Kovalev minutes earlier on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
By knocking out Kovalev, the 175-pound division's biggest name -- spectacularly so, as he left Kovalev on his knees with his arms hanging over the middle ring ropes -- Alvarez had done what he had set out to. He moved up two weight divisions to win a world title in a fourth division: junior middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight (albeit a secondary version) and now light heavyweight.
He claimed belts in each of those divisions, except junior middleweight, in the past 14 months.
Alvarez was the lineal middleweight champion when he won two sanctioning organization titles from Gennadiy Golovkin by majority decision in their rematch in September 2018. Then he picked up a super middleweight belt with a one-sided third-round destruction of Rocky Fielding in December. Alvarez followed by dropping back to middleweight in May and soundly outpointing Daniel Jacobs, the No. 2 middleweight, to unify three titles.
That is pound-for-pound level stuff. Alvarez has been highly ranked on nearly every P4P list for years, but now it's time to put him on top of the mountain.
ESPN will release new pound-for-pound rankings later this week. In the most recent edition of those rankings, three-division titlist and current unified lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko owned the No. 1 spot. Terence Crawford, who has won titles in three divisions and currently holds a welterweight belt, was No. 2. Alvarez was the clear No. 3.
I voted those three in that order as well, but with all due respect to Lomachenko and Crawford, both truly special fighters, I am elevating the 29-year-old fighting machine Alvarez to No. 1. I didn't struggle with the decision.
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya, whose rocky relationship with his star fighter was one of the major storylines of the week, agreed with my view and had plenty of good things to say about him at the postfight news conference.
"He is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world today. And we have to give him that acknowledgement," De La Hoya said. "We have to understand that Canelo moved [up] two weight divisions to fight at light heavyweight. You can't tell me that Crawford or Lomachenko or anybody else in boxing is daring to be great like Canelo. Is anybody else moving up in weight class? Is anybody unifying titles? No. Canelo is, because he wants to be great."
Instead of giving Golovkin a third chapter of their rivalry, Alvarez sought out the much larger Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KOs), who at 36 was still formidable, because he wanted to win a title in a fourth division. Alvarez accomplished his goal in sensational fashion and now simultaneously holds world titles in three divisions.
"It was a hard fight. It was harder than we thought [it would be]," Alvarez said through an interpreter. "Obviously, he is a much larger fighter than I am so I did feel him hitting me but I was able to deal with it. We had to have patience. .... It [went] further than we thought [it would go]. In the 11th round, [trainer Eddy Reynoso] sent me to close it out and that's what we did."
Alvarez is taking care of business at the highest level, against top opposition, and in various weight divisions. That is, to me, how one should measure pound-for-pound.
It's a snapshot in time and Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs) right now is the best even without putting much stock in the win over Fielding, a solid pro Alvarez simply hand-picked to grab a belt.
If you measure pound-for-pound based on resume, Canelo also has that covered with significant wins over Kovalev, Jacobs, GGG, Miguel Cotto, Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout and Shane Mosley. Alvarez's one official loss (because we all know Golovkin really deserved the nod in their first fight) was as a 23-year-old forced to make a 152-pound catch weight in a junior middleweight unification fight against all-time great Floyd Mayweather in 2013.
Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, who represents Kovalev, gave Alvarez his just due after the fight.
"[Kovalev] fought a great fighter tonight, a legendary fighter, and you can't make a mistake against a guy like Canelo," Duva said. "Canelo Alvarez is the best fighter of his time, I believe, and he continues to prove that."
It was by no means an easy fight for Alvarez, who appeared to struggle with Kovalev's size and a snappy jab that kept him from employing his vaunted body attack with any consistency. When one plan doesn't work, the greats have a Plan B. They figure it out and adjust, as Alvarez showed he was able to do.
"That was very difficult for me to get to the body," Alvarez said. "But we practice for many other strategies. Thank God we practiced other strategies."
Alvarez said that he doesn't care much about where anyone puts him on a pound-for-pound list. His main concern is to keep fighting top opponents and adding to his legacy. It's a legacy that could someday force us to have a serious conversation about whether Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. or Alvarez is the greatest Mexican fighter in history.
"I really don't care. I don't care if they believe that I'm the best, if I'm the best pound-for-pound," Alvarez said. "What I care about is to come here and make history, to show people who I am and create history and I'm here to do that.
"Obviously, we want to continue making history and now I have to figure out what Eddy is going to come up with, what crazy idea he comes up with, but we are ready for anything."
Will that "anything" be at light heavyweight? A fight with unified titlist Artur Beterbiev, anyone?
Will it be at super middleweight? Hello, Callum Smith!
Will it be back at middleweight? Paging a GGG trilogy!
All that remains to be seen, but one thing that doesn't right now, in this snapshot in time, is that Canelo Alvarez is the pound-for-pound best.