Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (55-1-2) vs Billy Joe Saunders (30-0-0)
WBC, WBA, WBO and Ring Magazine Super-Middleweight Titles
World pound-for-pound number one, Canelo Alvarez, faces what will be his seventh English opponent in Saunders when he looks to add the WBO 168lbs title to his collection.
Saturday's contest will be Alvarez's third bout in quick succession, having faced Scouser Callum Smith in December before knocking out Turkey's Avni Yildrim.
Canelo looked flawless in either bout but faces an entirely different proposition in Saunders. Unlike Smith or Yildrim, Saunders is a back-foot boxer that moves incredibly well. He is elusive and damn near impossible to catch on his day. Just ask David Lemieux.
The fights with Gennady Golovkin aside, the two opponents that Canelo has struggled with are Floyd Mayweather and Erislandy Lara. Both are tricky backfoot fighters that are notoriously hard to pin down, just like Billy Joe. Though Canelo did lose to Floyd, it was not all plain sailing for 'Money' Mayweather by any stretch of the imagination. Despite being just 23 and fighting arguably one of the greatest fighters of all time, Canelo still had some success in the bout.
Canelo was fortunate to get the nod of Lara when the two met in 2014. Though the result was ruled a split decision victory for the Mexican, many felt the cards were unfair to the Cuban Lara. Lara moved well throughout, dancing away each time Canelo tried to get inside. However, Canelo did have some success when looking to push the action, though could not stamp his authority on the contest. A draw would have been a fair result.
Since the Lara fight, each opponent Canelo has fought has not been someone he has had to go looking for. Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Smith (Callum and Liam), Danny Jacobs, and Kovalev are all entirely different fighters to the slippery Saunders. They all tried to come forward and make the fight, trying to land their own work, and not just avoiding Canelo’s.
Only Golovkin has matched Canelo in terms of chin, strength,and sheer fighting ability. Both of their two fights were near incredibly hard to split: one a controversial draw and the other a close majority decision for Canelo. There is no fighter in the world like GGG. Golovkin ate Canelo’s best shots and kept coming. The Kazakh was at his prime at the time of bothcontests and still could not budge Canelo. The only way Canelo can be beaten is by a mover. Mayweather proved that.
Lara’s success against Canelo and Saunders’s masterclass over Lemieux has led some boxing fans to feel that if anyone will halt the Canelo Alvarez gravy train, it's Hatfield's Saunders. Personally, I just can’t see it.
Since the Mayweather fight in 2013 and Lara fight in 2014, Canelo has had seven years working on his craft. He was terrific back then, and each battle was razor close. Surely, in those years, the Mexican can only have improved. His shot selection is marvellous, and Eddy Reynoso devises game plans which are second to none. Just look at how Canelo targeted Callum Smith's left arm, negating the scouser's best shot.
Saunders is a controversial character for sure. I don’t believe he is a bad person, and though he makes some questionable decisions, he does do a lot for charity. That doesn’t excuse the silly comments or silly behaviour, but I think deep down he means well. For all his flaws, he is extremely talented and is one of Britain’s all-time best defensive fighters.
Saunders can make it tricky for Canelo, yes. But I cannot see him landing enough to win the fight. What’s more, when we talk of the fights Canelo has struggled in, we talk about Mayweather and Lara. Elite fighters. When we think of the contests in which Saunders has struggled, Coceres, Eubank Jr, Ryder and Akavov. The difference is night and day.
I know Saunders struggles with motivation and discipline from time to time. I know his best performances have come with fear factor against better fighters like Andy Lee and David Lemieux, but you wouldn’t fancy either to compete with Canelo, not even on their very best day.
Canelo is a special boxer. So is Saunders, but less so. No matter how hard I try to make a case for it, I just cannot see Saunders winning.
Canelo’s shot selection is arguably one of the best in boxing history. His own lateral movement is incredible, and he is damn near impossible to hit too. His speed is phenomenal. His power is ridiculous. His judging of distance is sublime. He is incredible at the whole lot and simply does almost things everything better than Billy Joe.
The only ways Saunders wins is by an undisputable pure boxing clinic in which he is virtually not hit.
In turn, the ways Canelo can win are endless. He can target Saunders' body and take his legs away, meaning Saunders cannot move as he likes. He can control the distance, keeping out of the range of Saunders jab, before diving in and out, keeping the Brit at the end of his own jab. He can knock Saunders out at any one second. He can benefit from an early stoppage or a contentious decision.
If Billy Joe can pull off such a masterclass and prove the likes of me wrong, he needs to win every single round. It is a cliché, but each variable is stacked against Saunders. It is Canelo's own show, and the crowd will all be pro-Canelo. The judges will not give Saunders the benefit of the doubt, so he really is up against it. Though Saunders has been granted a larger ring following the fight 'cancellation' controversy, it's but a small victory.
I think Canelo will target the body of Saunders and look to take his legs away, immobilising Saunders' best asset. If Saunders is unable to move as he wants, I feel Canelo will then be able to land to the head and stop Saunders late on. However, Saunders has never been dropped and is allegedly very tough, so he could rough it out, and see the final bell.
I hope Saunders wins; I really hope he does, but if he does it would be the biggest shock in British boxing history, bar none.
Prediction: Canelo late stoppage.
Rest of Card
Elsewhere on the bill, Mexican Elwin Soto defends his WBO light flyweight title against Japan’s former minimumweight world champion, Katsunari Takayama. Britain’s Keiron Conway will face AJ managed Souleymane Cissokho after their cancelled bout scheduled for the AJ versus Pulev card. Cuban heavyweight contender Frank Sanchez who trains with Canelo and gets a runout, while American prospects Keyshawn Davis, Marc Castro, and Kelvin Davis all feature.
Aaron of SimBoxx