On September 17, 2016, Great Britain’s WBO middleweight champion Liam “Beefy” Smith (23-0, 13 KOs) will put his belt on the line in a Golden Boy Promotions promoted HBO Pay-Per-View bout in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium against Mexican star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (41-1, 33 KOs).
The fight is a golden opportunity for Liam Smith, as he is coming in as a major underdog and this could be his ticket to stardom if he pulls off the upset. If he were able to win he would open up numerous new opportunities to have much higher paydays against much more popular opponents.
Canelo, on the other hand, has nearly nothing to gain from this bout. Although he would win the WBO belt with a victory, it would be a belt against a little known champion and he would gain no prestige from defeating Smith.
Canelo has been under extreme scrutiny from boxing fans, analytics, as well as other fighters due to what appears to be him trying to use his youth to avoid stepping in the ring with Gennady “GGG” Golovkin until it becomes clear that the older GGG is fading due to age.
Due to the way this looks to the public, nobody has wanted to see Canelo face anyone in the ring outside of Golovkin, especially given that his last bout was against welterweight Amir “King” Khan.
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Although people have slowly begun to be disgusted at Canelo’s avoiding of GGG, Alvarez could have possibly saved himself in the public eye by attempting to fight someone at 156 pounds or higher, such as champion Daniel Jacobs.
It would have sent across the message that perhaps Canelo is building himself up to see what he can do against fighters at higher weights, eventually leading to Golovkin.
By going down to Junior Middleweight to fight Liam Smith however, the bout has been classified as a sort of easy way to retain a belt without having to face Golovkin.
In the public eye, there are no redeemable traits to fighting a smaller, outmatched fighter such as Smith, especially when there are stronger opponents to match up with.
Boxing, more than many other sports, is heavily affected by public opinion. If a champion does not fight who the people want to see, then his popularity will decrease.
Take Manny Pacquiao for example. In his “final match,” many were excited to see who he would fight.
Boxing fans and pundits expected Pacquiao to face a champion, possibly Danny Garcia, Adrien Broner, Keith Thurman or Kell Brook. However, it seemed that Pacquiao took the easy money fight and went for a third bout against Timothy Bradley.
This was a bout that very few people were interested in and it showed when fight night came. The fight had 400,000 pay-per-view buys, far lower than Pacquiao’s first match with Bradley at 890,000 buys.
The fact of the matter is, every opponent that Canelo faces until he agrees to fight Golovkin will be the wrong opponent for him.
No matter how impressive Canelo looks in the ring, people will begin to take him less and less seriously and his popularity will progressively decrease until he makes the match that the public wants.