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What tools will Canelo bring to the party against Billy Joe Saunders?

Image: What tools will Canelo bring to the party against Billy Joe Saunders?

By Rob Maclean: In front of 70,000 adoring Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez spectators, Boxing’s number one draw will be heading into his 59th professional contest a confident man.

Alvarez’s (55-1-2, 37 KO’s) last contest, a complete whitewash of a distinctly sub-par mandatory challenger Anvi Yildirim, highlighted his destructive power but will we be seeing a different Canelo against a very different opponent?

Billy Joe Saunders (30-0, 14 KO’s) is an unbeaten, relatively untested boxer-mover who brings a skillset that many believe is the key to solving the Alvarez problem.

Is movement the key to success against Alvarez? If so, what does the Mexican do to negate this clear advantage in foot speed?

Here we highlight three keys to victory for Alvarez…

1 – Drawing a lead…
Billy Joe Saunders will be extremely cagey early, picking his punches when safe and doing everything possible to tally up an early lead.

Image: What tools will Canelo bring to the party against Billy Joe Saunders?

But it’s not just this; Saunders is going to need to box the entire twelve rounds; he’s not going to get there throwing punches in bunches and emptying the tank early.

This means opportunities for Alvarez to land early will be in short supply, but also, I think he’ll know this, and the early pressure will be merely to exhaust BJS both mentally and physically.

Canelo likes to put on ‘front-foot pressure’, most predominantly in recent memory; his fight against Sergey Kovalev featured a lot of this.

Kovalev actually did really well and gained respect from Canelo because he threw his ramrod jab and kept his distance. Still, all of that mental pressure, the “Alvarez is just one step away from you” pressure, it’s exhausting for a fighter.

What Canelo is actually doing here is “faking the distance”. He does this by putting all his weight on his front foot, the moment his opponent throws he’ll pull back onto his back leg, now you are within range for counters.

So in actuality, Canelo is actually further away than what he appears to be. He’s drawing a punch.

It’s clever because no opponent is going to allow Canelo to get within punching distance, or at least, he ‘appears’ to be within distance, so they are almost forced to throw punches.

I think this will feature massively early on in the contest, and toward the mid rounds, Canelo will begin the process of countering any lazy jabs with right hands over the top.

2 – Feinting…
One of Canelo’s biggest improvements since his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2013 is his creative punching. He’s not the reckless youngster who loaded up on Mayweather, nor the temperamental kid who Erislandy Lara managed to frustrate in 2014. Canelo is very subtle these days in what he does.

Image: What tools will Canelo bring to the party against Billy Joe Saunders?

The feinting of punches serves two purposes. Firstly, and this will be a feature early in the contest, he’s going to want to move Billy Joe Saunders onto the ropes.

Billy Joe’s best chance of winning will be from the centre of the ring, like a matador, leading Canelo into dead ends, all whilst leaving himself room to escape left or right.

Canelo is going to need to predict where Billy Joe wants to move and by throwing feints, this will make his opponent decide where he goes next.

The matador is now being moved around by the bull and, I say it again, especially early, whilst Saunders has a full tank of gas, Canelo is going to need to be mentally two steps ahead in order to land.

Secondly, later in the fight, Canelo will try to use faints to land hard shots. Against Yildlirim, Canelo threw plenty of ‘throwaway’ right hands merely to deceive his opponent. Yildirim naturally would drop his chin into a tight high guard, then Canelo would rip a hard left hook to the body.

Another excellent shot that Canelo throws is his low left hook to the head. Most fans will remember this shot against Gennady Golovkin during their first fight in 2017, it landed flush and Golovkin (incredibly) absorbed it without reacting.

What makes it so effective is the trajectory appears to be landing to the body, but he brings it upstairs very rapidly.

He tends to throw it after landing a left hook to the body, meaning his opponent is anticipating another shot to the body.

This was also the shot that badly rocked Sergey Kovalev before the stoppage in that fight.

3 – Body Punching…
Canelo Alvarez is probably the best body puncher in professional boxing today. He is extremely clever in creating opportunities to land body shots and consistently looks to land them from the
opening bell.

Billy Joe Saunders is in excellent condition for this contest, however he is truly a Middleweight boxer, fighting at Super-Middleweight. His weight has also fluctuated a lot in recent years, coming in at nearly 180 pounds against Charles Adumu in 2018.

Canelo will almost certainly be landing body punches early, to slow the footwork of Saunders and make him a more hittable target in the later rounds.

Image: What tools will Canelo bring to the party against Billy Joe Saunders?

Toward the mid to late rounds I expect these punches to come in much harder. The Mexican tends to split the guard with a right uppercut and then shuffles his weight onto his front foot, before turning in a hard left hook to the body. My personal opinion is the fight will end on a body shot from Alvarez, at the very least, it will be a big part of his success in this fight.

Personally I’m looking forward to this bull vs matador contest. I’m expecting Billy Joe to be up early, but Canelo to bring it home down the stretch. May the best man win.

This author is a guest panelist on ‘The Perfect Record – A Boxing Podcast’ available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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