Golden Boy Promotions’ flagship fighter Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs) could taste defeat at the hands of unbeaten WBO junior middleweight champion Liam “Beefy” Smith (23-0-1, 13 KOs) on September 17, according to trainer Freddie Roach. He’s had the 27-year-old Smith over to his Wildcard Gym in Los Angeles, California, and he was very impressed with what he saw of the British fighter.
Roach is now a fan of Smith, and he believes he could beat the 26-year-old Canelo, and he wouldn’t call it an upset if that happens. Roach sees the fight as a very even one in his opinion. That shows you how highly Roach values Smith’s skills, power and toughness. He thinks he’s got the goods to potentially give Canelo his second loss of his pro career.
“Liam Smith is a solid guy,” said Roach to Fighthub.com. “He can win that fight [against Canelo]. Liam Smith is a tough, tough guy. Don’t underestimate him. He’s solid. He’s a tough guy.”
What Roach didn’t touch on was the crowd being fully behind Canelo at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The boxing fans are going to be cheering everything that Canelo does, and this could very well influence the judges’ scores for the fight.
We’ve seen how the judges have come up with odd scores in favor of Canelo in his past fights against Floyd Mayweather Jr, Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara. One judge had the Mayweather-Canelo fight a draw. The judges that gave Canelo a win over Lara appeared to be seeing a different fight than the one that many boxing fans saw on the night, because they had Lara winning the contest.
In the Canelo-Trout fight, two of the judges gave the fight to Canelo by wide scores despite the fight appearing to be a draw. What this suggests is that it’s very hard to beat a popular fighter like Canelo. You have to do more than beat him. You have to dominate him so badly that there’s no chance of weird scoring by the judges. The judges likely listen to the cheering from the fans at ringside and unconsciously score rounds for Canelo even in rounds where he’s struggling.
When asked what Smith needs to do for him to beat Canelo on September 17, Roach said, “Go to war and be able to take a punch. So far, he’s always done that. He’s very tough and good chin. It’s a great fight. I like that fight. I’ll pay for that one,” said Roach.
If Smith can take Canelo’s big punches and answer back with his own very hard shots, Canelo could be in for the toughest fight in a long time. Canelo will likely have a considerable weight advantage against Smith, especially if he rehydrates into the 180s like some boxing fans think he does. We don’t know exactly how much Canelo weighs nowadays because he hasn’t been weighed lately by HBO on the night of his fights. But if Canelo dehydrating from the 180s to get down to 154 for the fight against Smith, then he might get tired if Smith is able to put enough pressure on him to make him feel the effects of having shifted that much weight in 24 hours. Losing a ton of water weight to make weight is really hard on anybody.
Canelo gets away with it because he’s young and he fights at a slow pace. No one puts enough pressure on him to get him tired. James Kirkland had Canelo looking winded in the 2nd round of their fight. Had Kirkland been able to take Canelo’s power shots in round three, he might have had a chance of wearing him down to get a knockout. But it was a mismatch anyway, because Kirkland hadn’t fought since 2013 for two years, and had lost a lot of weight to take the fight. It was perfect match-making by Golden Boy to select inactive fighter that had gained a lot of weight while out of the ring.
I think Smith recognizes that he’s got to go to war with Canelo, throw a lot of punches, and not let him rest for even a second. Smith knows that he’s got to pressure Canelo in every round of the fight for him to have a chance to win. When Canelo doesn’t get his rest breaks in each round, he tires out and struggles. We saw how Mayweather was able to pressure Canelo for the first eight rounds of their fight in 2013 to build up a huge lead.
Mayweather then backed off in the last four rounds and coasted to a victory. Perhaps if it wasn’t a fighter as popular as Mayweather, he might have lost the fight if they tried the same tactic as him.
if Smith can take Canelo to war and take his best shots, he’ll have a chance of pulling off an upset. Even when you look bad at Canelo’s fights against over-matched smaller guys like Shane Mosley, he seemed bothered when he had to take shots and fight hard. He didn’t like the experience. Against Austin Trout, Canelo simply couldn’t handle the fast pace of the fight and he retreated to the ropes and stayed there the entire second half of the fight.
My guess is we’ll see the same thing from Canelo when he fights Smith if the fight goes into the second half and Canelo is uncomfortable with the fast pace. He needs the pace to be slow for him to do well, and if Smith isn’t abiding with that style of fighting, then Canelo will likely do what he did in the past by retreating to the ropes.
Smith will need to follow after him and pressure him against the ropes for the entire fight to make sure he wins. It would be best for Smith to aim shots at Canelo’s bread basket to make sure he hits him in an area where he can cause him the most problems. Canelo can take head shots all night long, but he seems bothered when he gets hit to the body.