The best has been saved for last.
After a year dominated by speculation and contractual disputes, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez finally steps into the ring for the first time in 2020. The consensus pound for pound number one Canelo will challenge Liverpool fighter Callum Smith at the Alamodome in Texas this Saturday night.
On the line is Smith’s WBA Super Middleweight title, alongside the vacant WBC World Super Middleweight title. Smith captured his title in 2018 when he knocked out then-favourite George Groves in the final of the World Boxing Super Series tournament.
Smith has since defended his title twice, most recently in a contentious decision win over fellow British boxer John Ryder, a bout which many thought Ryder did enough to win.
Canelo’s most recent bouts include a strong decision win over former WBA champion Danny Jacobs, followed six months later by an eleventh round knockout of Sergey Kovalev for the WBO light heavyweight belt, which Canelo promptly vacated to move back down to middleweight.
Does Smith have a chance?
The Liverpudlian nicknamed ‘Mundo’ stands at an imposing 6’3” compared to Canelo’s 5’8”, and a reach of 78” to Canelo’s 70”. Size and physical advantages should matter, but it might not?
Canelo is a clear favourite for the fight, if Smith can capitalise on his height and weight advantage, make use of his excellent jab and if he can keep Canelo at a distance then the fight will open up for Smith.
However, fighting at range is not a style that Smith typically makes use of, despite having the clear physical tools for it. He enjoys standing on the inside and having a fight, a style that overwhelmingly favours Canelo. In short, size advantages are only advantages if you know how to use them, and Smith has yet to show he can fully make the most of his imposing height.
Canelo is no stranger to facing the taller opponent, in fact he almost looks better against a taller opponent. He dispatched the 6’0”, former super middleweight champion Rocky Fielding with relative ease in the third round. And both Jacobs and Kovalev had the size advantage over Canelo.
Smith’s physical advantages could easily be used against him by Canelo. A staple of Canelo’s game is his famous bodywork, and the bigger the opponent, the bigger the target for Canelo’s hooks to the body. If Smith doesn’t keep Canelo moving and upset his rhythm, then body shots are gonna be crucial to Canelo’s victory.
Canelo actually fought Callum’s brother Liam and won via a body shot KO.
Smith has pure power in both of his hands, with 19 of his 27 victories coming by way of knockout. But Canelo has some of the best punch resistance in boxing today, not to mention acute defensive awareness. He’s able to block punches with ease and his excellent head movement plays into his elite counter-punching.
Smith could arguably be Canelo’s hardest test at super middleweight right now, but Canelo will be Smith’s hardest test of his entire career.
Smith will need to operate at the highest of his ability, and even then that might not be enough to beat Canelo, who’s singular loss came at just 23-years-old, at the hands of Floyd Mayweather in 2013.
The 12 round bout takes place this Saturday at the Alamodome in Texas. The undercard will start at around 1am UK time, and the ring walks are expected from 4.30am-5am UK time on Sunday.
The card is available exclusively on DAZN, who’s subscription service is available to UK customers for just £1.99 a month.
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