Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs) will be making the next step in his career this Saturday night when he faces unbeaten World Boxing Organization junior middleweight champion Liam “Beefy” Smith (23-0-1, 13 KOs) on HBO pay-per-view from the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. This is a fight that Golden Boy and Canelo both wanted.
Canelo did an odd thing in giving up his WBC middleweight title to steer around a fight against Gennady Golovkin and then move back down to 154 to fight Liam Smith. On the fact of it, Canelo appears to be ducking the Golovkin fight to take an easier target in 27-year-old Smith. Will it be an easier fight for Canelo?
We’re going to find out on Saturday night. The way that Canelo struggled against welterweight Amir Khan through five rounds last May, it’s possible he could come undone against Liam Smith, because he’s a tougher opponent than Khan and much stronger. Canelo is coming down in weight from his perch at 155, his special catch-weight division. Even though it’s just one pound, it could still be difficult for Canelo, because he’s looked very big in his workout videos during the run up to this fight.
“As soon as I beat Canelo, the whole world will know who I am,” said Smith. “I took the fight because I firmly believe I can win. Canelo is going to have to be a tough man to stand there and beat me. He’s going to have to hurt me; otherwise I think he’s in for a long night.”
It would be a very big deal if Smith beats Canelo because few boxing fans re expecting that to happen. The casual fans have never heard of Smith, and the hardcore fans doubt that he can do it. The doubt is there not because Smith doesn’t have excellent power and skills.
The people doubt Smith because he doesn’t have the experience of having been put in with notable opponents. His promoter hasn’t matched him against the well-known junior middleweights like the Charlo brothers, Erislandy Lara, Demetrius Andrade, Julian Williams, Austin Trout and Vanes Martirosyan. With Smith not having faced the real quality 154lb fighters, it creates doubt in the minds of the fans that he’ll be able to hang with the heavily hyped Canelo.
“He has a similar style to the Mexicans. He stands there, he fights,” said Canelo about Smith. “That’s what makes exciting fights. I want an exciting fight for the fans.”
Smith does have the Mexican style of fighting with the way that he likes to stand on the inside and throw body shots. He’s a very good body puncher, and he’s got fast hands, and he’s able to go from body to head with devastating power in close. If Canelo stands near Smith, he’s going to need to be ready to take shots, because there’s going to be return fire from him.
“People forget that Canelo is only 26, and he’s experienced a lot,” said Canelo’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya. “I can’t wait for the next 10 years to see where it leads him to.”
De La Hoya is getting ahead of himself by assuming that Canelo is going to be relevant for the next 10 years. For all we know, he could get beaten by Smith on Saturday and his career could start tanking immediately. Instead of De La Hoya thinking about 10 more years for Canelo, he should be hoping he can stay relevant for another year, because Golovkin is waiting for him and that appears to be a knockout loss waiting to happen for Canelo.
As big as Canelo is, he’s not going to be able to keep melting down to 154 to fight lighter guys than him. Canelo will need to move up to the 160lb division on a permanent basis sooner or later. Once Canelo moves up to the middleweight division, he’s going to be expected to fight the likes of Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs. If he fails to fight either of those guys, then he’ll luck like he’s afraid, and that will hurt his career with the hardcore boxing fans.
Canelo needs to prove that he can face the best rather than fighting smaller guys like welterweight Amir Khan. Canelo will have to start facing the best fighters again because he’s been taking it easy for a while since his loss to Floyd Mayweather and his questionable decision win over Erislandy Lara in 2014. Miguel Cotto is more of a name from the past, and he’s not a major player at 154 or 160 due to him no longer fighting the best any more and not fighting on a regular basis. Canelo’s win over Cotto didn’t prove anything other than he can fight an old small guy who no longer fights the best. Cotto beat an old gimpy kneed Sergio Martinez in 2014 to win the WBC middleweight title.