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Canelo Alvarez vacates WBA 168 lb title

Canelo Alvarez Daniel Jacobs David Lemieux

By Sean Jones: Saul Canelo Alvarez has reportedly vacated his WBA ‘regular’ super middleweight title that he won on December 15th in stopping secondary WBA 168 lb champion Rocky Fielding in the third round at Madison Square Garden in New York. Canelo recently moved up to super middleweight last December with the sole idea of winning a third division world title against Fielding. It was a history-making fight for Canelo, although not a particularly compelling match-up for a fighter looking to add to his legacy.

With Dmitry Bivol talking about wanting to move down to 168 to challenge Canelo for his WBA secondary super middleweight belt, it was a good idea for Alvarez to give up that belt straightaway rather than stick around in the weight class and potentially take a bad loss to the talented Russian fighter. The WBA 168 lb title would be like a hot potato for Canelo, something he would need to get rid of in speedy fashion with Bivol bearing down on him. That’s a bad for Canelo to fight a guy like Bivol, who can do a little of everything inside the ring.

This move by Canelo (51-1-2, 35 KOs) was a predictable one, as he would have had mounting pressure exerted on him to defend the belt against the top contenders in the super middleweight division had he chosen to kept the belt. Canelo’s WBA 168 lb title was the secondary belt with the World Boxing Association, who for some reason have two champions with their organization. That’s like if the NFL having 2 Super Bowls each year. It would be senseless and confusing to the fans. The WBA has the WBA ‘regular’ and WBA ‘Super’ champions at 168. The champion that the boxing world sees as the real champion with the WBA at super middleweight is Callum Smith.

Unless Canelo wanted to fight Smith to earn the status of the upper champion with the WBA, he would forever be seen as having the lower level belt by the hardcore boxing fans. The casual fans obviously don’t follow the sport closely enough to differentiate between the WBA’s numerous champions. What’s important for Canelo though is for him to fight quality guys so that he can bring in subscribers to DAZN. If Canelo had kept his WBA super middleweight title and milked it against little known fighters like John Ryder and Rocky Fielding, it wouldn’t bring in the subscribers to DAZN. Canelo needs to guys that the U.S boxing fans have heard of before like Jacobs and Gennady Golovkin.

It’s believed now that Canelo, 28, is giving up the WBA ‘regular’ super middleweight title, fellow Golden Boy Promotions fighter David Lemieux (40-4, 34 KOs) will step in and fight for the vacant WBA 168 lb title against #1 WBA contender John Ryder (27-4, 15 KOs). It would be a good fight to be made for DAZN, and it would put Lemieux, 29, in a situation where he won’t need to struggle to make weight like he’d been doing at 160. Lemieux vs. Ryder could take place on the undercard of Canelo vs. Daniel Jacobs on May 4 on DAZN at a still to be determined venue.

Having the WBA World super middleweight title on the line for the Lemieux-Ryder fight will help give it some meaning for the casual boxing fans in the U.S, who have never heard of or seen the 30-year-old Ryder fight before. One negative thing to note about Ryder is he was beaten by Rocky Fielding by a 12 round split decision two years ago in April 2017, so obviously we’re not dealing with a major world class talent here for Lemieux. Ryder has additional losses to Nick Blackwell, Billy Joe Saunders and Jack Arnfield. Ryder has won his last three fights since his loss to Fielding in beating Andrey Sirotkin, Jamie Cox and Patrick Nielsen.

Lemieux recently was hospitalized for dehydration last December while trying to make weight for a fight against Tureano Johnson. Those two were supposed to have fought on the undercard of Canelo vs. Fielding on December 15. Had Lemieux won the fight, he was expected to be matched against Canelo on May 4. Instead, Canelo will be facing new International Boxing Federation middleweight champion Danny Jacobs, who won the vacant IBF belt in beating Sergiy Derevyanchenko by a 12 round split decision last October.

It’s quite possible that the winner of the Lemieux vs. Ryder fight will defend the WBA ‘regular’ super middleweight title against Fielding. It’s a horrifying scenario, but all too predictable. It’ll work for Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn if Ryder beats Lemieux on May 4 on the Canelo-Jacobs card, and then in turn he defends the belt against Fielding. Ryder vs. Fielding would bring in good ratings in the UK, but not in the U.S. Hearn has to please not only boxing fans in the U.S that subscribe to DAZN, but also his British fans in the UK that watch his cards on Sky Sports and Box Office.

WBA/WBC middleweight champion Canelo is moving back down to 160 to face IBF middleweight champion Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs) in a unification fight on May 4 on DAZN. If Canelo wins that fight, it’s believed that he’ll defend his IBF, WBA and WBC 160 lb titles against Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs) in a trilogy fight in September 2019. However, that’s still far from academic. Golovkin will need to sign with DAZN first, and the Canelo will need to be negotiated before the two of them can face each other for a third time. If those things don’t happen, then Golden Boy Promotions will likely match Canelo against the winner of the Demetrius Andrade vs. Billy Joe Saunders fight later this year in September. Andrade holds the WBO middleweight title, and that would be the last remaining belt not in Canelo’s possession. If Andrade loses the title to Saunders, then he woud be the one that Canelo will likely go after for the WBO title. Andrade and Saunders are not guys that Canelo would likely ever bother to fight if he wasn’t interested in winning the World Boxing Organization 160 lb title.

Now that Canelo is now signed to a long five-year contract with DAZN, it puts him in a situation where he needs to fight good opponents as much possible to bring in the subscribers, but also it makes it necessary for him to fight other DAZN fighters. The tall 6’1″ southpaw Andrade might have a non-pleasing style of fighting in the eyes of some boxing fans, but there’s not much Canelo can do about it. He’ll still likely need to fight him because he’s with DAZN, he’s unbeaten and he has the WBO 160 lb title. It was believed that Canelo might opt to vacate his two middleweight titles in order to move up to super middleweight where there are arguably less risky fights for him in that weight class. Canelo wouldh’t have to worry about another grueling fight against Golovkin, or deal with a slick southpaw like Demetrius Andrade or a huge guy like Jacobs or Jermall Charlo. Canelo’s biggest worries at super middleweight would be Callum Smith, David Benavidez, Jesse Hart and Caleb Plant. However, the 168 lb division is so empty of talent and of big name fighters, it might not be a good deal for DAZN to have Canelo fighting in that weight class rather than at middleweight against lions like GGG, Jermall Charlo, Andrade, Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Jarrett Hurd [eventually], Jermell Charlo [eventually], Rob Brant, Jaime Munguia and Kell Brook. There are many more options for Canelo at middleweight than there are at super middleweight.

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