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Did Canelo Alvarez duck Artur Beterbiev?

Artur Beterbiev, Callum Smith, Canelo Alvarez boxing photo

By Sean Jones: Canelo Alvarez showed last Saturday night that he made the right decision to flee from the light heavyweight division without fighting the top dog IBF/WBC champion Artur Beterbiev.

Boxing fans still wonder why Canelo chose not to fight Beterbiev, as it was a logical fight for him to have made in 2020. Canelo vs. Beterbiev would be a far bigger fight than last Saturday’s match between Canelo and WBA super-middleweight champion Callum Smith.

Andre Ward wasn’t surprised that Canelo chose not to fight Beterbiev, as he said he was an “opportunist” in picking Kovalev, who hasn’t been looking good.

Is Canelo a calculated opportunist?

“That’s not a calculated risk, that’s a stupid risk,” said Ward to Fighthype on the subject of Canelo facing Beterbiev. “You didn’t hear about them [Canelo] fighting Kovalev when he was defeated.

Artur Beterbiev, Callum Smith, Canelo Alvarez boxing photo

“You didn’t hear about them fighting Kovalev when he had one loss, two losses. It happened when he had three losses and he looked the way he looked against [Anthony] Yarde. So it’s calculated.”

The lack of punching power that Canelo (54-1-2, 36 KOs) showed in beating Smith (27-1, 19 KOs) by a 12 round unanimous decision made it clear that the Mexican star would have been destroyed if he’d dared to take on Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KOs) last year.

Boxing fans were hoping that Canelo would stay at 175 after he beat the shot WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev by an 11th round knockout last year in November, but Alvarez vacated the belt with light speed.

Canelo treated the WBO 175-lb title that he captured like a hot potato. It was as if he couldn’t get rid of the WBO belt fast enough with the dangerous Beterbiev looming in the background.

What was interesting was the nervous look on Canelo’s trainer Eddy Reynoso’s face when he was asked why they selected Kovalev rather than the unbeaten two-belt Beterbiev to go after a title at 175.

Reynoso shockingly said Kovalev was picked for Canelo because he felt that he was the #1 fighter at light heavyweight. He viewed Kovalev as better than Beterbiev and Dimitry Bivol.

Callum Smith was hyped as #1 168-pounder

It was hard to take Reynoso seriously with that comment, as Kovalev had almost been knocked out in his previous fight by the badly flawed Anthony Yarde in August 2019.

Artur Beterbiev, Callum Smith, Canelo Alvarez boxing photo

Although Kovalev eventually won the fight with Yarde, he came close to being knocked out by the Brit in the 8th. In contrast, the two-time Russian Olympian Beterbiev was coming off of a huge tenth round knockout victory over previously unbeaten WBC 175-lb champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk in October 2019.

It’s the same narrative that we’ve heard for why Team Canelo picked Callum Smith as his opponent to win a world title at 168. Canelo viewed him as the #1 fighter at 168 despite the fact that Callum was coming off a controversial decision win over John Ryder in a fight that he should have lost.

When you look at how Callum performed against Ryder, you can’t put him up there with the top 168-pounders in the division.

In other words, Callum was the equivalent of fool’s gold, and the casuals that viewed him as #1 in the 168-lb division didn’t know boxing. If they did know the sport, they would have realized that Callum is not in the same as the top guys like Edgar Berlanga, David Benavidez, Caleb Plant, and Bektemir Melikuziev.

Artur Beterbiev, Callum Smith, Canelo Alvarez boxing photo

Canelo has unfinished business against Beterbiev

Rather than Canelo wasting time trying to unify the 168-lb division against flawed world champions Caleb Plant and Billy Joe Saunders, Canelo should return to the 175-lb division and face Beterbiev.

Canelo would receive a lot more respect from boxing fans if he takes on Beterbiev and shows that he’s not afraid of him.

There’s no way of looking at Beterbiev’s performance against Gvozdyk and not come to the conclusion that he’s a vast superior fighter than the over-the-hill Sergey Kovalev now and at any time during the Krusher’s career.

Artur Beterbiev, Callum Smith, Canelo Alvarez boxing photo

Beterbiev is on another level than Kovalev. That’s why it was so amusing to hear Reynoso giving his rationale for why Kovalev was selected as the champion that Canelo targeted to win the 175-lb title rather than the incredibly dangerous unbeaten Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KOs) with his perfect record.

Beterbiev is defending his IBF/WBC light heavyweight titles next month against #5 IBF Adam Deines (19-1, 10 KOs) on January 30th at the VTB Arena, in Moscow, Russia. The Beterbiev vs. Deines fight will be televised on ESPN.


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