Canelo Alvarez still searching for September opponent after Caleb Plant bout falls through

Canelo Alvarez is still in search of a foe after a long-negotiated deal with Caleb Plant fell through at the 11th hour.

Boxing's top star traditionally fights on two weekends: Cinco de Mayo and again on Mexican Independence Day weekend in September. Those are the dates Floyd Mayweather and Alvarez's former promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, once occupied.

If Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) is going to fight on Sept. 18, time is running out. Fortunately for Alvarez, a fight with 175-pound champion Dmitry Bivol was explored, sources told ESPN, as a potential Plan B option in the event a matchup with Plant couldn't be finalized.

Matchroom Sport's Eddie Hearn and Bivol's promoter, Russia-based World of Boxing, are planning the 30-year-old's next fight on DAZN. If Alvarez wants to pursue the Bivol showdown, talks could quickly resume.

"Bivol is a great fight, and Saul has proved time and time again his willingness to fight champions," Hearn, promoter of Canelo's [and Bivol's] last three fights on DAZN, told ESPN on Thursday. "It would be another great fight in an incredible run. ... Bivol is looking for that legacy fight as well. We'll have to see what happens over the next few days."

The Sept. 18 bout with Plant would have been contested for the undisputed 168-pound championship. Alvarez holds three super middleweight titles. Plant owns the fourth.

A matchup with Bivol, though, would be for the 175-pound championship. Alvarez, 31, has competed at light heavyweight once, a November 2019 knockout of Russia's Sergey Kovalev that won Alvarez a title in a fourth weight class. He also claimed titles at 154 pounds and 160 on his way to earning recognition as ESPN's No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer. Alvarez is also rated No. 1 at 168.

Bivol, on paper at least, presents a more difficult matchup for Alvarez because of his superior size. Like Plant, Bivol (18-0, 11 KOs) is a gifted boxer with an excellent jab. Unlike the American, Bivol has far more experience as an elite amateur.

"Any confident and ambitious champion would want this type of challenge, to meet the pound-for-pound best," Bivol, 30, told ESPN through his manager, Vadim Kornilov. "This would be an exciting challenge for me."

Added Hearn: "It's the unknown, isn't it? How good is Dmitry Bivol? For a long time, many people felt he was the best light heavyweight in the world. But he hasn't had the opportunity to showcase that against elite opposition. Is this the moment? ... He's young, he's fresh and he's extremely motivated."

ESPN's No. 2 light heavyweight, Bivol has made six defenses of his 175-pound title. His most notable wins came via decision against former champion Jean Pascal and current titleholder Joe Smith Jr. A bout with Bivol would also ensure Alvarez remains aligned with Hearn and DAZN -- at least for one more fight. Canelo signed an 11-fight, $365 million deal with DAZN in 2018. But after three fights, Alvarez filed a lawsuit against the streaming platform and his then-promoter, Golden Boy.

The matter was settled and Alvarez parted ways with both parties, only to return to DAZN for a December 2020 clash with Callum Smith under the Matchroom Sport banner. Alvarez then signed a two-fight deal with Hearn for bouts against Avni Yildirim and Billy Joe Saunders, the last of which took place in May.

Once again a network and promotional free agent, Canelo entered talks with Haymon and PBC for a one-fight deal that would be broadcast on Fox pay-per-view. If Alvarez can't close a deal for a Sept. 18 fight in short order, he could be forced to move off his coveted weekend. When negotiations dragged on in 2019, Alvarez missed Mexican Independence Day weekend and instead fought Kovalev in November.

It appears his best chance to remain on the date is a clash with Bivol that would see him return to light heavyweight.

"It was always the intention [for Alvarez] to fight on the September date," Hearn said. "There is an opportunity to do so, but obviously time is against us. We're in regular communication and a decision will be made in due course."