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Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders: PREVIEW for May 2

Image: Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders: PREVIEW for May 2

By Barry Holdbrook: Canelo Alvarez will be battling WBO super middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders in less than three months from now on the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend on May 2. Canelo’s promoters at Golden Boy Promotions will make the Saunders fight official on Friday.

They’re saving the big news announcement until tomorrow, but unfortunately for them, the cat is already out of the bag.

Saunders possesses the ring IQ to beat Canelo

Saunder is a smart fighter, who knows how to beat counter punches. Canelo will need to do more than just counter punch for him to win this fight because Saunders isn’t going to give him many opportunities.

In Canelo’s last couple of fights against Danny Jacobs and Sergey Kovalev, he landed a lot of shots due to those fighters being sloppy. Saunders is a lot more scientific with his fighting style, as he comes from an excellent amateur background having fought in the 2008 Olympics. If Saunders uses his footwork in this fight, Canelo is going to be miserable on May 2.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. used just a little bit of movement, and he had Canelo helpless. Mayweather used quick jabs, and that took away Canelo’s counter-punching entirely.

Gennady Golovkin did the same thing in his first fight with Canelo in 2017, but the judges scored it a controversial draw. It appeared that Golovkin won 8 rounds to 4. It could have been a one-sided fight if GGG had thrown just jabs and used movement like Mayweather did.

Alvarez will try and pressure Saunders

Canelo will be trying to cut off the ring on Billy Joe like he did against GGG, and look to land his hard body shots. Since Canelo’s close win over Golovkin in 2018, he’s focused a lot of attention on throwing body shots in his last 3 fights against Sergey Kovalev, Danny Jacobs, and Rocky Fielding.

None of those fighters possessed the defensive skills that Saunders. Canelo might be a little over his head here as far ring IQ goes. Saunders isn’t someone that Canelo will be able to walk down so easily like he did his last three opponents. Moreover, if Canelo does have success in one round, you can count on Saunders adapting quickly to prevent him from doing well with his added pressure.

Saunders will be motivated for this fight

The big scheme of things, Canelo will show that he’s at least capable of beating the fifth-best champion at 168 if he beats Saunders. The other champions at super middleweight that are rated by fans as being superior fighters to Saunders are as follows:

  • Callum Smith
  • David Benavidez
  • Caleb Plant

Saunders is a good fighter, but he’s struggled recently and looked lackluster since moving up to super middleweight. Billy Joe was losing his last fight against fringe contender Marcelo Esteban Coceres when he pulled off an 11th round knockout last November/

This is big news for boxing, considering that it’s going to put Canelo (53-1-2, 36 KOs) in against a fighter with a style that has traditionally given him a lot of problems in the past. Further, Canelo will be coming down in weight from 175, and we don’t know how he’ll react to taking off muscle weight to get down to the 168lb limit.

Canelo getting his first true test at 168

Canelo currently holds the WBA secondary super-middleweight title, but he hasn’t faced a quality fighter in the weight class yet. His only fight at 168 was against Rocky Fielding, who people saw as a weak paper champion.

Some boxing fans have been critical of Canelo choosing to fight Fielding in 2018 for the WBA ‘regular’ 168-lb title. They thought Canelo should have fought Callum Smith for his WBA title, but he decided to go after softer target in Fielding. That was a move that Canelo probably wishes he hadn’t made because he looked like an opportunist in the eyes of the fans for hand-picking Fielding to win an easy belt at 168.

This isn’t as interesting a fight as Canelo’s last match against former WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev, who he stopped in the 11th round on November 2. What made that fight appealing to fans is Kovalev’s size, punching power, and his experience. Canelo had to move up one division to face the bigger Kovalev, and there were doubts about whether the Mexican star would win.

Saunders will use movement to foil Canelo’s pressure

Earlier this week, Saunders posted on social media a video clip of him moving around the ring, and he looked great. He already looks in shape, and his mobility is something that Canelo has never dealt with before during his career. Erislandy Lara and Mayweather, although good movers, were nowhere as mobile as Saunders. Mayweather was already 36 when he fought Canelo, and his ring movement was nowhere near the level it was earlier in his career.

Likewise, Lara looked stiff on his feet and wasn’t able to move a lot against Canelo. Still, Lara was able to keep Canelo trapped on the outside 90% of their fight in 2014. The judges gave it to Canelo based on him landing a small handful of body shots on the rare occasions that he trapped Lara against the ropes. It’s going to be a lot harder for Canelo to trap Saunders against the ropes because his legs aren’t stiff like Lara’s and he’s 36 like Mayweather was.

Alvarez, 29, feels like he’s capable he can adapt and handle the crafty style of fighting that undefeated Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs) has.  It would be a good move for Canelo to go after Saunders the way that he did against Gennadiy Golovkin in their rematch in 2018.  Canelo is a lot better fighter when he’s on the front foot, going after his opponents.

Canelo must take the fight to Saunders

If Canelo beats Saunders, he’ll be facing IBF middleweight champion Gennadiy Golovkin in a trilogy match in September on DAZN. That’s a fight that a lot of boxing fans are looking forward to. From there, Canelo could be facing WBA ‘regular’ middleweight champion Ryota Murata in the first half of 2021. It’s not a great fight, as Murata is viewed in the same way that Saunders is at 168, but it could help DAZN open up a new market in Japan.

That’s where Canelo and Murata are expected to fight. Of course, that fight might not happen in the first half of 2021 if GGG has anything to do with it. If he defeats Canelo next September, then a fourth match between them is academic for May 2021.

Canelo wouldn’t be able to walk away from a loss to GGG, especially if it’s a knockout defeat. You have to believe with what Golovkin has gone through against Canelo in terms of the judging in their two fights in Las Vegas, he’s going to be looking KO the Mexican star.

It’s not a sure thing though, as Saunders is said to have priced himself out of the Canelo fight. Callum was one of the two leading options for Canelo’s May 2 fight, but he reportedly asked for $10 million. Saunders is getting well below that at $8 million.

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Conditioning will be the key for Canelo

It would be smart for Canelo to come in as light as he can for the Saunders fight since he’s going to be dealing with movement, and his superb boxing skills. If Canelo comes into the match looking like the stocky bull that defeated Kovalev last November, he’s going to be in for a rude awakening. Saunders will turn Canelo into another David Lemieux and embarrass him in front of the entire world.

There’s a reason why Golden Boy Promotions hasn’t let Canelo fight Saunders all these years. The way that Saunders made power puncher Lemieux look silly in beating him by a one-sided 12 round decision in 2017, Golden Boy wasn’t going to let him do that to Canelo.

You can argue the only that Canelo is fighting Billy Joe is out necessity. The other choices Canelo has right now are so bad in terms of the risk that he’s willing to take on Saunders, and potentially be made to look bad.

Canelo should be facing these guys:

  • Callum Smith
  • David Benavidez
  • Sergiy Derevyanchenko
  • Dmitry Bivol
  • Artur Beterbiev
  • Oleksandr Gvozdyk
  • Gilberto Ramirez
  • Jermall Charlo
  • Demetrius Andrade

Those are fighters that Canelo SHOULD be facing, but he’s opting to take on what he clearly feels is a safer opponent in Saunders. Again, Canelo has no choice but to fight Saunders because his other options are far worse. There’s isn’t a shot light heavyweight champion for Canelo to go after right now.

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