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Canelo vs. Saunders possible for May 2017


By Dan Ambrose: It’s looking like WBO junior middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez could be fighting WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs) by May of 2017 on Cinco de Mayo weekend. Canelo (48-1-1, 34 KOs) isn’t ranked in the top 15 at 160, but it doesn’t matter, because he recently captured the World Boxing Organization154lb title with a 9th round knockout over Liam Smith last September.

By capturing the WBO junior middleweight title, it enables Canelo to become the mandatory challenger to Saunders despite the fact that he’s not ranked at all in the WBO’s top 15 ranking at middleweight.

All Canelo has to do is ask the WBO to get ranked at No.1 at 160, and it’s likely to happen. Saunders has to fight his mandatory challenger in his next fight, because he’s had two fights cancelled or postponed since winning the WBO title last December against Andy Lee. Saunders will be facing #11 WBO Artur Akavov (16-1, 7 KOs) later this month in a voluntary defense on November 26 at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales.

That’s considered a very winnable fight for the 27-year-old Saunders. There’s no telling what the WBO will do if Saunders gets injured yet again and can’t take the fight with Akavov. Saunders has already been injured twice since winning the WBO title. If he gets injured a third time, you would have to think the WBO might strip him of his title.

In that case, Canelo could move up and fight the next highest ranked contender in #1 Avtandil Khurtsidze for the vacant WBO title. However, it’s doubtful Saunders will pull out of yet another fight, because it would mess up his chances for a big money payday fight against Canelo if the WBO strips him of his title. No matter what, I think Saunders will make it to the ring this time to defend his belt against the little known fringe contender Akavov.

There’s a potential that Canelo vs. Saunders will take place at a catch-weight of anywhere between 156 and 158. Canelo has the cache to get a catch-weight if he wants it. If he asks for it, Saunders would be crazy to say no, because the fight will pay really well.

The main negative about Canelo fighting Saunders on HBO pay-per-view is that it’s not a fight that will attract a lot of pay-per-view buys. Canelo vs. Liam Smith brought in 300,000 buys, which is considered low for Canelo. If he elects to fight Saunders on HBO pay-per-view, he might not get a lot of buys. Perhaps Canelo’s promoters at Golden Boy will be hoping that he can get passive buys by his fans celebrating Cinco de Mayo holiday and wanting to see boxing, even if it’s uninteresting fight like Canelo vs. Saunders. There’s a chance that Canelo could get away with fighting a little known fighter like Saunders on pay-per-view next May and still bring in a fair amount of buys. Who would have thought that Canelo’s fight against welterweight Amir Khan would have brought in 600,000 buys. Khan hasn’t been a major player at 147 since his loss to Lamont Peterson five years ago in 2011. Canelo wasn’t even fighting the best welterweight in the division, and yet he was still able to bring in 600,000 buys with the fight taking place on Cinco de Mayo earlier this year.

IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin would like to get a shot at fighting for the WBO middleweight title. However, Golovkin doesn’t have the pay-per-view apparatus behind him the way that Canelo does. Golovkin also doesn’t have the ability to get ranked at No.1 by the WBO, because he doesn’t hold the WBO 154lb belt.

Canelo put himself in great position to force a fight against Saunders by beating the vulnerable WBO 154lb champion Liam Smith last September. If his had been a solid junior middleweight holding the WBO 154lb title like Demetrius Andrade, Erislandy Lara or the Charlo brothers, then Canelo might not have gone after the title. Even if he does, it would be very hard for Canelo to beat those kinds of fighters.

Canelo’s win over Lara from 2014 was a controversial one. Lara appeared to have done enough to win the title, but two of the judges gave it to Canelo. Many boxing fans were unhappy with the results of that fight, as they felt that Lara was robbed. Canelo landed only 31 head shots in the entire fight, and there were no knockdowns, The fight showed how hard it is to beat Canelo by a decision.

Never the less, Canelo is in position to get the fight against Saunders for the WBO belt, while Golovkin can only stand on the sidelines and watch. If Golovkin wants the WBO middleweight title, he’s probably going to need to wait until Canelo gets tired of it and gives it up. I don’t think the WBO title is all that important to Canelo for a term thing. I think he wants it right now, and will move on to something else.

Canelo appears to be more in fights against particular fighters rather than holding paper titles. If Canelo does give up the WBO title, Saunders will be waiting there again to snatch it up. Golovkin will be in the same situation he’s in now watching Saunders milk his title – or attempt to – against guys like Akavov and Max Bursak. It would be easier for Golovkin if he didn’t care about winning the belts, because then he wouldn’t have to waste his time trying to get fights against guys like Saunders. Golovkin could focus on fighting the best fighters, and not a guy that many fans see as paper champion.

Canelo is going to be fighting in February of 2017, as long as his fractured right hand is healed by then. The opponent Canelo could be fighting in February is the likes of David Lemieux, Tim Bradley, Gabriel Rosado or Kell Brook. I’d say there’s a decent chance that Canelo could wind up fighting another welterweight. Brook has been vocal about wanting to fight Canelo. As we just saw in Brook’s move up to middleweight to fight Golovkin, he’s willing to fight outside of the 147lb division.

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