The Friday Faceup

The ‘unusual’ suspects line up for a 10st elimination tournament in Liverpool.
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER

Great action is scheduled both sides of the Atlantic this weekend with the world super-middleweight unification fight between Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and American Caleb Plant in Las Vegas, preceded earlier Saturday night with the next and new edition of the BOXXER series in the UK.

The Canelo v Plant contest will take most of the headlines but first up is a new elimination format live on Sky Sports from Space M&S Bank Arena on the historic Liverpool waterfront, NW England.

Similar to the successful ‘Prizefighter’ series eight super-lightweights (10st/140lbs) have been convened to box for a massive £100,000 on the night – winner takes all purse. The contestants and quarter final draw is:

Sean Dodd (17-5-1, 3 KO’s) vs. Cori Gibbs (13-0, 3 KO’s)

Kane Gardner (11-1, 6 KO’s) vs. Nathan Bennett (9-2, 2 KO’s)

Tom Farrell (18-4, 5 KO’s) vs. Ben Fields (10-10, 2 KO’s)

Lee Appleyard (17-6-1, 5 KO’s) vs. Levi Kisiona (8-1, 1 KO).

All are UK fighters and with a number of local rivalries it promises to be a ‘bombs away’ evening, one to interest the fan who likes a good ‘tear up’ with a bit of healthy competition. The prize money is incentive enough and with several having fought each other already it will be spiced up by revenge and putting the record straight.

Sean ‘Masher’ Dodd from nearby Birkenhead goes into the tournament as the favourite. Although age 36 and having not fought for two years he has a 2-0 record against fellow competitors. Dodd faces undefeated 28 year old Cori Gibbs in his first contest. Masher stated “He’s young, he’s up and coming, but this is going to be a toe-to-toe straightener out there under the lights”. Gibbs responded “I respect Masher a lot, he’s a very good boxer…I’ve watched him plenty of times and I believe I beat him in every department”. Tough talk indeed that will make for an exciting evening for those in attendance and watching at home on Sky Sports (8pm UK time).

The BOXXER series to date has been a very welcome addition to Saturday night televised boxing and CEO Ben Shalom will look to make this a regular must-see event with other weights to feature over the winter. The plan is to mix these elimination tournaments with one-off events featuring some of the biggest stars in the sport.

Early Sunday morning (UK time) we switch to the Las Vegas strip and the MGM Grand Garden Arena with an elite super-middleweight world title unification. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KO’s) will defend his WBA, WBC and WBO titles against American Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KO’s), the current IBF title holder. The contest is televised on BT Box Office in the UK and Showtime PPV stateside.

The victor in this contest at 12st/168lbs will unify a male division for only the sixth time since the four now accepted sanctioning bodies have existed. Other luminaries include Bernard Hopkins, Terence Crawford and Oleksandr Usyk.

Putting the belts aside this is a really mouth watering contest which has been elevated by the fracas at an early press conference when both fighters came to blows. Plant comes into the contest an undefeated champion but not having fought at the same level of competition as his opponent.

Future hall-of-famer ‘Canelo’ has won versions of ‘world’ titles in four weight divisions from 11st (154lbs) to 12st,7lbs (175lbs) and in three of those won The Ring magazine belt, usually awarded to the universally accepted champion. His sole defeat was to Floyd Mayweather Jr in Sept 2013 with only his first encounter with Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin four years later being controversial in his favour. Many feeling Golvokin won the drawn contest.

Since then, the 31 year old Canelo has been almost flawless and will come into Saturday’s fight as a big favourite. He is further fueled by the press conference dust up and says this is “personal” and is promising to be better than ever.

Plant on the other hand, at 29 is in his boxing prime. He’s a slickster and although not explosive, has respectable power. Out of his orthodox stance he has excellent boxing ability but will need to concentrate and fight smart throughout the 36 minutes to win. Canelo is the bigger puncher of the two with a 68% KO record and is as strong and brave as an Ox. He can though be outboxed for long periods of a fight as Mayweather and Golovkin, and to a certain degree Erislandy Lara and Sergey Kovalev showed.

There is a strong case for Plant outboxing Canelo and holding on to hear the final bell, this pattern being what makes the fight intriguing. However, Alvarez though closer to the end than beginning of his career, will land the heavier, more eye catching shots and although it might be controversial again The Undisputed expects him to win a close but unanimous decision.

Enjoy your fight weekend.

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