The WBC mandatory challenger was grossly inadequate– Despite two months of preparation the ‘Turkish Wolf’ turned out to be more a ‘lamb in wolf’s clothing’. No one should doubt the bravery of a fighter stepping into the ring but Avni Yildirim’s challenge was sub-standard. It was not that he came to survive but offered nothing more than an advancing human punch bag to the Mexican champion. It was effectively a glorified sparring session for the three completed rounds. With the exception of one strong right hand landing, the Turk’s performance was woeful. Also, how a fighter with two years of inactivity coming off a loss can maintain a number one ranking with a world sanctioning body is beyond reason. It further sums up the current state of boxing with the proliferation of titles and multiple sanctioning bodies. However, this was not Canelo Alvarez’ fault, he was essentially satisfying a mandatory obligation to defend and keep his title.
One more step to greatness – The debate (particularly on DAZN) whether Canelo is now the greatest Mexican fighter of all time is still open to conjecture. What is indisputable is that he’s on the right path. The DAZN anchor team are largely convinced that Canelo has a resume that now surpasses other Mexican legends but, as Sergio Mora insists, ‘El Gran Campion’ Julio Cesar Chavez will never be replaced in the “hearts and minds of the Mexican people”. Canelo’s accomplishments take in ‘world’ titles from 11st (154lbs) up to 12st 7lbs (175lbs) and at only 30 he still potentially has more to achieve, but Chavez “used to stop a nation” every time he fought and his first setback came in his 88th fight in a draw with Pernell Whitaker. Canelo has a loss and two draws in a 58 fight career and his loss to Floyd Mayweather will always be a wrap against him in the pantheons of the sport. He is very unlikely now to get the opportunity to avenge it.
Billy Joe Saunders ‘may’ be a test – Canelo’s next fight has been confirmed for Cinco de Mayo weekend in Las Vegas on 8th May. Current WBO ‘world’ super-middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders will be the opponent. The Englishman is an Olympian, two weight ‘world’ champion and remains undefeated. For that he demands respect. Added, he’s a southpaw, has a high skill-set and exudes self confidence. Finally, throw in his traveller heritage and you get a legitimate challenge to Canelo’s kingdom. We add the word ‘may’ be a test. With Saunders there is the ‘x’ factor, can he put in the fight camp and maintain the motivation and focus, and execute the plan to pose a real threat to Canelo further unifying the titles at 168lbs ? Watch this space.
Canelo should be lorded for his activity – In these COVID times and, you would expect money not being the primary motivating factor, the Mexican could be forgiven for resting on his laurels. However, on the contrary, Canelo has mapped out a year in which he hopes to fight four times. Great for the business and the fight fan – one down, three to go. You may question the quality of the opposition but a busy fighter is always going to get the benefit of the doubt in the eyes of the fans.
The trilogy fight looms in the background – Despite the Mexican’s relentless pursuit of unifying the 168lb division, whatever he achieves will not be appreciated unless and until he settles the score with Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin. In the eyes of many fight fans and media the score is 1-1, some even go as far to say the Kazakh is one up. Canelo despite believing he convincingly beat GGG in the September 2018 rematch, and having no desire to go there again, knows that his legacy will not be complete unless he answers the question for good. This is the fight in the mid-divisions that all of boxing wants and eventually this year (given Golovkin’s advancing years) Canelo will have to accept it. This will be where he will be judged ultimately in the eyes of boxing fans and his domestic comparison to ‘El Gran Campeon’ Chavez. For now he’s doing well but Canelo has more work to do.