2020 will forever be the year of COVID, face masks, pandemics, R-rates, masks and social distancing. This Saturday night though it could also be the year of Callum Smith.
He walks in the footsteps of pluckily British challengers Bob Fitzimmons, John H Stracey and Lloyd Honeghan to cross the Atlantic and take on the best fighter on the planet.
His foe is Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, the tough Mexican street kid turned global boxing icon. A man that needs no introduction he has filled the power vacuum left by Floyd Mayweather at the top of our sport. Wins at Junior Middleweight, Middleweight, Super Middleweight and Light Heavyweight have cemented him as one of the most dangerous multi weight operators of recent times.
Smith though, enters as the champion, not the challenger at the Alamodome this Saturday. In 2018 he entered the World Boxing super series as British champion came out of it the WBA and Ring magazine super-middleweight world champion. After two defences in 2 years he is now being challenged at his own weight by Canelo.
This fight is as intriguing as it is significant, and everyone has their own opinion. I will examine the fight, their attributes and what each will need to do in order to make 2020 their year in boxing.
The first obvious comparison is their physical stature. Canelo Alvarez is 5 foot 8 and has a 70 inch reach, Smith is 6”3 and has a 78 inch reach. The two men could not be built more differently at this weight. Although Canelo has campaigned at 175lbs he did so against Kovalev, who is 6”0 with a 72 inch reach. Callum Smith is by far the physically biggest fighter to ever stand across from Saul Alvarez.
This then surely is advantage Smith. Where he has fought smaller fighters, Canelo has never found himself with this amount of distance to cover to get inside a world class Jab. The converse though could be argued. Joe Frazier often said it was much easier to punch up than down and if this becomes a firefight, Canelo’s being a smaller target, may play into his hands.
What Alvarez lacks in height he makes up for in experience. Canelo has had 17 world title fights since 2011 and amassed a 53-1-2 record. This record includes wins over world champions; Mosley, Trout, Lara, Kirkland, Cotto, Khan, Golovkin, Jacobs, Kovalev and even Callum’s elder brother Liam. His resume is only rivalled in the modern era by living legend Manny Pacquiao.
It shines when compared to Smiths resume, which although a very respectable 27-0 doesn’t include a single name that can rival Canelo. His win over Groves was a career high, and his wins over Fielding and Skoglund are good names but they pale in comparison to what Alvarez brings to the ring.
This opinion too, has a rebuttal. Every man has a limit, the number of hard rounds, in sparring and competition that become too many. Canelo has been a professional boxer since 2005. Will the 15 years of Spartan like training begin to wear on his body? How much of him was lost to 24 brutal rounds with Gennady Golovkin? Only time will tell.
Stylistically too they are very different, Smith is a tall boxer who does a lot of his best work on the inside. Canelo is a compact brawler who has since transitioned to be a master technician at mid and long range. Both have punishing left hooks and brutal body work, how they will choose to deploy them against one another though will be up to two men not competing in the ring.
The final key battleground is between the two trainers. Smith’s trainer Joe Gallagher has made no secret that his goal in the fight is to out think, out plan and ultimately out manoeuvre his counterpart Eddy Reynoso. Both Gallagher and Renynoso are seen as two of the most prolific trainers on their respective sides of the Atlantic and each is keen to test his boxing mind against the other.
They are equal in Ring magazine trainer of the year awards with one a piece but in head to head competition it is 1-0 Reynoso, on account of the first ‘Canelo Smith’, a loss Gallagher is keen to avenge.
Despite everything though, like Joe Louis once said “When That Bell Rings You're on Your Own. It's Just You and the Other Guy." Both fighters will have this at the forefront of their minds, Callum as he battles the skill and power of Canelo, Alvarez as he navigates Callum’s massive frame.
Saturday night we bear witness to a super fight. A battle for the ages between a British world champion and a Mexican legend to see who will become the best 12 stone fighter on the planet.
Ewan Breeze for SimBoxx