Strap yourself in for another potential fight of the year.
This Saturday sees another standout match to end the year with Mexico’s Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez taking on England’s Callum Smith in San Antonio, Texas for the unified super-middleweight (12st/168lbs) world title. Not undisputed, as there are a couple of other ‘world’ champions out there holding the IBF and WBO versions, but in terms of prestige this is for the super-middleweight championship.
The WBC regular and WBA ‘super’ version will be up for grabs, but more significantly, The Ring magazine 168lb championship.
The Mexican Alavarez (53-1-2, 36 KO’s) is the biggest draw and name in the sport right now (heavyweights aside) and has fought at the highest level for the last decade. He’s rated by The Ring as the pound-for-pound number one in boxing regardless of any weight class.
Callum ‘Mundo’ Smith (27-0-0, 19 KO’s) brings his status as The Ring’s super-middleweight supremo to the table and will fancy his chances against the elite Mexican who will be coming down from light-heavyweight to challenge the man from Liverpool, England.
Both fighters have done all asked of them to get into this position. The 30 year old Alvarez’s record shows him undefeated since losing to Floyd Mayweather in 2013, with two draws – one very early in his career. Since that clear points defeat to Mayweather he’s won versions of the world title from light-middleweight (11st/154lbs) to light-heavy; a full twenty one pounds higher.
In September 2017 and 2018 he had a couple of very close fights at middleweight with champion Gennadiy Golovkin, who’d been divisional lead for most of the previous decade. The first fight draw was hotly disputed, many thinking Golovkin won.
Smith, by comparison won through in the World Boxing Super Series in September 2018 to capture the Muhammad Ali Trophy and the WBA title from fellow Brit George Groves in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Since then he’s made two defences, the second in November 2019 being a unanimous decision but very competitive fight against John Ryder in Liverpool. His performance was disappointing but motivation may have been a contributory factor as he seeked the bigger fights.
The COVID lockdown left Smith, and his opponent, kicking their heels waiting for the restrictions to be lifted and big fights to take place. Alvarez also had promotional issues. The Scouser (native of Liverpool) finally managed to secure the ‘golden ticket’ after Canelo was released from Golden Boy Promotions and a settlement on his DAZN contract.
The contest presents two contrasting physiques and styles. The taller Smith at 6′ 3″ with the strong European jab lead against the more aggressive and compact Alvarez. The Mexican is seven inches shorter so that could be a major factor in the outcome. Both fighters chins have been shown to be strong, Canelo’s being regularly tested at the higher level of competition.
The Brit is known to be ‘big’ at the weight and his arrival on the scales will be interesting. Canelo having moved between weights will also be challenged to come in bang on in the lighter weight category after defeating Sergey Kovalev in November 2019 at 175lbs.
For Smith, also 30, the contest presents a massive opportunity to burst through the glass ceiling and become a multi-millionaire in the process. Should he defeat Canelo it would arguably be the biggest win for a British boxer overseas against a widely accepted pound-for-pound king.
The Mexican, should he be victorious, would further add to his iconic status in the modern era. Already a ‘shoe in’ for the Boxing Hall of Fame by virtue of his ‘world’ titles in four weight categories and some of the names on his resume, Canelo has claimed to take the highest challenges to cement his legacy.
A challenge to the top super-middleweight in the world is his next step and there is a likelihood in the eyes of this publication that it might be a step too far. Smith whilst posing a big target, particularly to the body, has the youth, firepower and boxing ability to win the bout by a late round stoppage. He will also be driven by the desire to avenge the defeat of his brother Liam to Canelo back in 2016.
Should the contest go the distance it is reasonable to assume that Smith will unlikely get the decision unless convincingly dominating the fight with knockdowns. Alvarez is the ‘house fighter’ in the Alamodome and it will take some effort for Smith to convince all in attendance that the titles deserve to come to the UK. The Brit and his camp will know this, and look for them to make a big statement.
The fight will be televised live on the DAZN streaming service (from this weekend available in the UK) and also transmitted on BBC Radio 5 Live in the early hours of Sunday morning at 4:00 GMT. It is available elsewhere worldwide on DAZN.
The return of GGG
Tonight (Friday 18th) sees Alvarez’s nemesis Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin from Kazakhstan defend his IBF world middleweight title against mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta in Hollywood, Florida, USA.
Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KO’s) is, now at 38, reaching the twilight of his career and having not fought for nearly fourteen months is desperate to get the big fights in to cash in and secure his legacy. Another sure fire entry to the Boxing Hall of Fame on retirement, having made nearly twenty defences of his title before meeting Canelo, his power looks to be diminishing but he’s still a class act.
They say the last thing a fighter loses is his punch and the Kazak should register a further knockout against the game but light hitting Pole.
Szeremeta (21-0, 5 KO’s) whilst having an undefeated record has not really faced Golovkin’s level of opposition and unless GGG has regressed considerably in the layoff then should make a further successful defence. If the Kazak emerges with the victory, regardless of the outcome of the Alvarez-Smith fight, there will be a renewed clamor for the trilogy defining fight between Canelo and GGG.
In the eyes of many the score sits at one apiece, and not the first contest deemed a draw and Canelo victory in the rematch. If that third fight is to be made it will have to follow the events of this weekend for sure. Whether Callum Smith can derail that is though a distinct possibility.
The Golovkin-Szeremeta bout, promoted by Matchroom, can be streamed on DAZN in the USA and UK. Transmission will be in the early hours of Saturday morning UK time.
Yesterday’s weigh-in saw Golovkin tip the scales at 159.2lbs and Szeremeta at 159lbs.