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Saul Canelo Alvarez faces Liam Smith for WBO 154lb title on 9/17

Canelo Alvarez

By Dan Ambrose: It’s now official: Saul “Canel” Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs) will be challenging unbeaten WBO junior middleweight champion Liam Smith (23-0-1, 13 KOs) on September 17 on HBO PPV from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was expected that Canelo would take on Liam Smith rather than the dangerous/difficult 154lb champions in Jermall and Jermell Charlo, as well Erislandy Lara.

By choosing Liam Smith, Canelo appears to be looking for the path of least resistance. It doesn’t exactly make Canelo look good that he chose not to fight IBF/IBO/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, and then turning around and facing Liam Smith rather than one of the Charlo brothers or Lara.

It’s one thing ducking Golovkin, but then another thing to duck the Charlo brothers and Lara too. It doesn’t make Canelo look good in the eyes of a lot of boxing fans in selecting Smith rather than one of those guys.

It’s a big ask to have boxing fans pay to see Canelo fight Liam Smith, who isn’t a big star or well-known in the U.S. Canelo-Smith is not a PPV worthy fight in my view, even with Canelo fighting on the Mexican Independence Day holiday. However, it looks like Canelo is going to go the Floyd Mayweather Jr. route from this point on in his career by fighting on PPV every time out rather than fighting on regular HBO when he’s fighting a guy who is unrecognizable to the casual boxing fans in the U.S. It’s very likely the Canelo vs. Smith fight will bring in very few PPV buys on HBO, because this isn’t a PPV worthy fight. For that matter, it’s not even an HBO worthy fight in my opinion. It’s a terrible mismatch between Canelo and a paper champion. If the boxing public was calling for a Canelo-Smith fight, then it would be understandable, but they’re clearly not interested in this fight.

After Canelo beats Smith to win his WBO 154lb title, he can keep the title and use that as proof that he’s really a junior middleweight fighter and not a middleweight, meaning he shouldn’t have to fight Triple G.

Smith may be a champion in name, but he’s not someone that the fans have heard of outside of the hardcore fans. Smith defeated American John Thompson last year to win the WBO title, and since then has twice defeated the belt against lower level opposition in Jimmy Kelly and Predrag Radosevic instead of one of the difficult contenders like Austin Trout.

Now the only question is whether Canelo can make the weight, because he hasn’t fought at 154 for three years since his fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2013. Since that fight, Canelo has been draining down from the 170s to fight at a 155lb catch-weight. In this case, Canelo will need to drop another pound to get down to 154.

I’m not sure that Canelo will lose a lot of sleep if he misses the weight for the fight, because I doubt that he really wants to campaign as a junior middleweight for long. It’s going to be hard on the 25-year-old Canelo to keep making this fight because he’ll need to dehydrate dramatically stay at this weight.
The Canelo vs. Smith fight starts at 9 pm ET.6 pm PT on September 17 on HBO pay-per-view. The undercard is still being worked on as of now.

“I am very pleased to announce my next fight against Liam Smith, a tremendous fighter with real knockout power, and the WBO junior middleweight world title owner,” said Canelo Alvarez. “I have no doubt that this fight will be give and take, which will fill the expectations of the fans, and I will work with all the enthusiasm as I always do to get the upper hand on 17 September.”

Canelo is coming off a 6th round knockout win over welterweight Amir Khan in his last fight on May 7 of this year on HBO PPV in Las Vegas. That fight was supposed to have been an interim one for Canelo to take before facing Golovkin for a title defense of Canelo’s WBC middleweight title. However, rather than defending his WBC title against Golovkin, Canelo vacated the belt.

According to Golden Boy, they didn’t want to negotiate under the pressure from the World Boxing Council, who had set a date for when the negotiating had to be completed before the fight would go to a purse bid. Once Canelo no longer had the WBC belt, he and Golden Boy decided not to fight Golovkin at all. Golden Boy wants the fight to take place next year in the fall.

It’s unknown whether the fight will happen at that time though, because thus far Golden Boy hasn’t seemed eager to make the fight. Golovkin and his promoter Tom Loeffler haven’t said whether they’re on board with waiting until next year for the Canelo fight. It’s Golden Boy that’s saying that the fight with Golovkin will take place, not Golovkin and his team.

“This fight will be a slugfest between two heavy hitters, and I have little doubt that it will end with a 10-count,” said Oscar De La Hoya, CEO and Chairman of Golden Boy Promotions. “Canelo is the biggest star in our sport today, and with a victory on September 17, at the age of just 26 he can add yet another chapter to his already-incredible career.”

Some boxing fans were hoping that Canelo would face Miguel Cotto in a rematch rather than take an easy fight against Liam Smith. Last November’s fight between Canelo and Cotto brought in 900,000 PPV buys on HBO, which was a success despite the fight not bringing in the 2 million buys predicted by De La Hoya. At least if Canelo fought Cotto, it would make for an interesting bout for the boxing fans because their fight last year was a competitive one. It’s likely that Canelo will face Cotto in early 2017 on Cinco de Mayo.

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