This Saturday, Canelo Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs) squares off with Great Britain’s Callum Smith (27-0, 19 KOs) at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. At stake are Smith’s WBA super world title and Ring Magazine title, as well as the vacant WBC title at 168 pounds.
The two are coming off of vastly different ring outings, both in November, 2019. Smith got by John Ryder (28-5, 16 KOs), though many thought the unheralded challenger should have won the decision. Canelo, by contrast, jumped up two weight classes to knock out Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KOs).
That win over still-fearsome, but faded Kovalev gave Canelo a world title in his third weight class. Yes, we are all aware of his win over Rocky Fielding (28-2, 16 KOs) for the “regular” WBA 168-pound title in 2018. No, it is not a recognized world title. Maybe the winner of this bout should go after the WBA “Gold” champion (Fedor Chudinov) to remove any doubt.
WBA-related malarkey aside, this fight is one of the most anticipated of the back half of 2020. Other than Billy Joe Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) or a focused David Benavidez (23-0, 20 KOs,) Smith is the best available opponent. He is the largest 168-pounder by far–a towering 6’3″ or 6’4″ depending on your source–and possesses real skill to go with the size.
Canelo, already a smallish Middleweight, at least by height–5’8″–will have to use all of his skill to overcome Smith’s physical advantages. Seen here, Smith absolutely towers over Canelo, and looks to have a far larger frame as well.
It must be noted that this was a fight week picture, taken while both are in the process of dehydrating to make weight. Smith will be far larger on fight night. That could be a very real issue for Canelo, with the lack of a rehydration clause for Smith.
Stylistically, this could turn into a classic. Canelo possesses ungodly mental strength and will. He always brings his ‘A’ game. Yes, even against Floyd Mayweather. The difference in that fight was simply that Mayweather was better. Callum Smith will bring his ‘A’ game to this one as well. Canelo is no John Ryder. The Brit will not take anything for granted, as he did in his last outing.
Alvarez is an elite counterpuncher, with fast hands, above average power (even at 168), and the best IQ for putting together combinations in the game.
His top-tier head movement allows him to stand in the pocket without taking damage before delivering his shots, which makes for greater leverage on everything he throws, as well as the ability to immediately finish an opponent when hurt. Canelo also has the ability to be the aggressor in the face of cagier opposition.
Smith is an extremely entertaining, come-forward fighter, with durability. If he had nothing else going for him, this would already make a fight with Canelo entertaining for as long as it lasted. Smith has far more going for him, however.
He possesses good hand speed and knows how to use his long frame to generate leverage on his shots, including uppercuts and hooks when in close. Smith is also a solid counterpuncher himself. After all, it was a short counter hook in close that stunned George Groves and allowed Smith to beat him into retirement. In short, he is dangerous at every distance, just as Canelo is.
The seemingly obvious play for Canelo would be to use his head movement to get inside of Smith’s long straight punches and land to the body. Smith won’t do as Kovalev did and fight at the smaller man’s height. This means his head won’t be there to hit without Canelo gradually breaking him down.
Smith, unsurprisingly, must do the opposite. He would do well to use his range and stay on the outside. Even if he isn’t landing much, ring generalship and simply nullifying your opponent’s offense can be enough to sway ringside judges.
Skill and physical attributes aside, both men come into this one extremely motivated. Smith would net a career-best victory with an upset on Saturday. His previous best win being over George Groves in the World Boxing Super Series final in 2018.Embed from Getty Images
Canelo, should he win, would become just the second Mexican fighter–after Erik Morales–to win titles in four weight classes. Juan Manuel Marquez and Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. came close multiple times, but couldn’t quite get it done. Even if he won’t admit it, this has been on Canelo’s mind of late.
He also looks to secure his third Ring/ lineal title in as many weight classes. He already did so at 154 and 160 pounds, the latter of which, he still holds. A lineal title in a third weight class would place him in rarified air. Bob Fitzsimmons, Henry Armstrong, Floyd Mayweather, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Manny Pacquiao. These are the names Canelo would seek to join with a victory.
This is going to be an interesting–and potentially great–fight. The obvious pick is for Canelo to win a decision, but it really isn’t as clear-cut as some oddsmakers would have you believe. Canelo is in his prime, so we may see the best version of him that we ever have this weekend.
He may need it to win. Smith is skilled and large enough to put Canelo through some serious adversity before the smaller man figures something out. It looks to be extremely competitive early, with Canelo finding the right strategy to take the play away from Smith down the stretch.
In short, Canelo should win a close decision, but he may need to dig down and show more of his championship level grit and will than any opponent, save Gennadiy Golovkin, was able to drag out of him.
HOW TO WATCH CANELO VS. SMITH
Date: Saturday, Dec. 19 | Start Time: 8:00 pm ET
Location:Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas
TV: | Stream: DAZN (Including Prelims)
Live Online Coverage: RoundByRoundBoxing.com
Mobile App Updates: RBRBoxing App