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Liam Smith: I’m going to stop Canelo

Canelo Alvarez

By Dan Ambrose: WBO junior middleweight champion Liam “Beefy” Smith (23-0-1, 13 KOs) doesn’t want to leave anything to chance against the highly popular Mexican fighter Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs) on September 17 in their fight on HBO pay-per-view at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Smith takes issue with him being viewed as a “paper champion” in the minds of many boxing fans, and he wants to show them that he’s not a paper belt holder by him beating the 26-year-old Canelo. However, even if Smith does defeat Canelo, it won’t stop fans from seeing him as a paper champion, because there are arguably better champions at 154 than Canelo in the Charlo brothers and Erislandy Lara.

Canelo has already been exposed by both Lara and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Lara was beaten by Canelo by a highly controversial decision two years ago in a fight in which Lara appeared to win. That brings up the issue about Smith possibly NEEDING a knockout to get the victory. Smith is facing the house fighter in Canelo Alvarez on September 17 in a fight put together by Canelo’s promoters at Golden Boy Promotions in a stadium that will likely be filled to the brim with supporters of Canelo.

This means that almost everything Canelo does in this fight will be cheered by the boxing fans inside the stadium. If Canelo even gives Smith a stern look, you can bet that his faithful will be screaming cheers of support for him. When a visiting fighter enters a hornet’s nest like that with a crowd of Canelo fans, you’ve got to figure that he starts the fight six rounds down and is immediately playing catch-up.

We saw how Amir Khan appeared to dominate the first four rounds in his fight against Canelo last May. After the welterweight Khan was knocked out in the sixth round, it was learned that Canelo was ahead on two of the scorecards by the scores of 49-46 and 48-47. That was crazy, because Khan had gotten the better of Canelo in the first four rounds, but these judges didn’t give him credit for doing so. Like what we’re going to see on September 17, Canelo had the crowd firmly on his side in that fight.

“They’ll know in September that they shouldn’t be calling me a paper champion,” said Smith to espn.com. “I haven’t fought out there (in the United States) just yet, but they’ll know why (it’s wrong to call me a paper champion) when I do. I’m going in there to stop Canelo. If I don’t stop him, it won’t be for the lack of trying.”

It would be a huge surprise if Smith were to KO Canelo on September 17. Some fans would rejoice at seeing Canelo get knocked out for the first time, because they don’t like the opposition he tends to face, and they’re also not happy that he chose to vacate his WBC middleweight title recently rather than defend it against his mandatory challenger. Smith will need to attack Canelo hard with body shots if he wants to get a knockout in this fight because Canelo is hard to hurt with head shots. He can take head shots really well, and he always answers back with his own big power shots.

It’s hard to give the U.S fans any grief for them calling Smith a paper champion, because he didn’t beat anyone good to win his WBO 154lb title. He defeated John Thompson, a fighter known for what he accomplished in ESPN’s Boxcino tournament in 2015. Thompson is not really talented fighter, as we saw in him losing to Liam Smith and Willie Monroe Jr. in back to back fights.

Liam Smith, 27, won the WBO title the easy way rather than being forced to fight someone talented like Jermall Charlo, Julian Williams, Demetrius Andrade, Jermell Charlo, Erislandy Lara or Austin Trout. In his two title defenses since winning the WBO belt. Smith has taken easy defenses against Jimmy Kelly and Predrag Radosevic.

It’s not Smith’s fault for taking the easy path to winning and defending his WBO title in his last three fights, but nonetheless, that’s what he’s done. There’s been a complete lack of quality in Smith’s last three fights, and you can say the same thing about his previous fights as a pro. Smith has never been put in with anyone talented until now. For that reason, the boxing public sees Smith largely as a paper champion.

Only Smith’s promoter knows why they chose to match him against weaker fighters rather than testing him against the Charlo brothers, Lara, Trout, Julian Williams, Erickson Lubin, Vanes Martirosyan, Charles Hatley, Michael Soro, Tony Harrison, or Gabriel Rosado. They should have matched him so that the world could find out if he’s any good or not.

This will be Smith’s first fight in the United States, and he’s going to be fighting on the Mexican Independence Day holiday weekend. This likely means that a lot of Mexican fans of Canelo will be turning up to see the fight live at the AT&T Stadium, and many more will be purchasing the fight on HBO pay-per-view. It’s not really a PPV worthy fight, but it looks like Canelo and his promoters at Golden Boy are going to be sticking most of his fights on PPV for as long as the boxing buying public is willing to pay to see him fight guys like Amir Khan, Liam Smith and Alfredo Angulo.

“This is a fight I’ve been asking for [for] 12 months. I jumped at the chance,” Smith said. “It’s a chance for me to make a name for myself. I want to do it against the biggest name in boxing at the moment. Alvarez is the biggest name in boxing. I’m looking forward to pitting my wits against one of the best in the sport.”

Smith isn’t in the right division to be getting the bigger money fights. The only reason he got the fight against Canelo is because you can argue that the only reason Mexican star decided to come down in weight to try and win a title against a vulnerable champion. Canelo didn’t target the other champions at 154 in the Charlo brothers, and he wanted no part of fighting Erislandy Lara a second time despite their fight in 2014 having a controversial outcome.


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