On Saturday, May 8th the Boxing world will focus on AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX for one of the most anticipated fights of 2021. The Super-Middleweight unification clash between WBA/WBC Super-Middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and undefeated two-division world champion Billy Joe Saunders, the current WBO Super-Middleweight world champion. A unification bout, which will be broadcast globally by digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN, that frankly represents a dangerous style match up for Alvarez, the fighter regarded as the top star in the entire sport in the eyes of many.
For the fighter known to fans simply as “Canelo”, this fight will be his third bout in six months after defeating previously undefeated WBA world champion Callum Smith last December in a bout where the vacant WBC world championship in the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division. Although it is rare to see a fighter of Alvarez’ level compete as often as this recent stretch in the present day of the sport of Boxing, from an old-school standpoint, the more active a fighter is regardless of their standing in the sport, theoretically the better they are conditioned and prepared for marquee fights such as this.
In his last bout in what was his first title defense of his unified portion of the Super-Middleweight world championship, Alvarez scored a third round stoppage of WBC number one mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim in Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, FL. A bout where frankly Alvarez did not face much resistance and one where he knocked Yildirim down before Yildirim quit on his stool at the conclusion of the third round. Although many Boxing fans criticized Alvarez for taking the bout against Yildirim based on an obvious skill difference between the two, fights such as that one served the purpose as both one that allows a star of the sport to stay busy in between marquee bouts as well as fulfill mandatory defense obligations of the sanctioning organizations, whose world championships Alvarez holds, which have to be fulfilled on an annual basis.
While Alvarez’ victory over Yildirim did not amount to much more than the aforementioned criteria, it also served as an unofficial “Tune-up” for the next marquee fight to come in the form of undefeated two-division world champion Billy Joe Saunders. Saunders, who will enter the fight unbeaten with a record of 30-0, with 14 Knockouts compared to Alvarez’ record of 55-1-2, with 37 Knockouts, has won world championships in the 160lb. Middleweight division as well as the WBO Super-Middleweight crown he currently holds.
A southpaw with an awkward and elusive style that has an emphasis on both lateral movement and hand speed, several of the marquee fighters in both the Middleweight and Super-Middleweight divisions have opted against fighting against Saunders. The reason for this has seemed to be that from a business perspective, Saunders has been a high risk/low reward option based on his having a style that is not always crowd-pleasing, but more specifically having a style that has presented a puzzle that opponents have yet to solve.
Although Saunders has victories over notable opponents including Willie Monroe Jr, his last bout against longtime contender Martin Murray in December of last year, and former two-time IBO Super-Middleweight world champion Chris Eubank Jr., perhaps the most notable of his thirty career wins came against former WBO Middleweight world champion David Lemieux in December 2017. A bout that took place in Lemieux’ home country of Canada. Despite being at a disadvantage in terms of crowd support and in a scenario where one might have assumed that he might not have gotten a fair shake in terms of scoring, Saunders dominated a fighter in Lemieux, who is a “Knockout Artist” that was also a potential opponent for Saul Alvarez for a time, in earning a wide twelve round unanimous decision over him.
In some ways, the scenario the British-born and based Saunders found himself in for that bout against Lemieux may turn out to be the ideal preparation as he now prepares for the biggest fight of his career against the Mexican-born Alvarez, who will have sizable crowd support in AT&T Stadium from his rabid fanbase. The style match up between the two also provides some intrigue.
One could argue that stylistically this bout could be the most difficult bout for Alvarez since his September 2013 bout against Floyd Mayweather, a bout that to date remains the lone career defeat in Alvarez’ career. This is based on both Mayweather and Saunders being fighters with elusive styles that mixes defense with deceptive hand speed and power that many opponents have not been able to have consistent success in landing offense. While one could also argue that Alvarez has used that loss to Mayweather as not only motivation, but also as a way to improve on what Mayweather was able to take advantage of as well as his overall skillset, Saunders though having a different type of elusive style than Mayweather, appears to be the type of fighter that could give Alvarez similar problems.
The key to this fight in this observer’s eyes is whether Saunders can keep Alvarez from being able to get into a consistent rhythm. Even though both Alvarez and Saunders are boxer/punchers, Alvarez could have an advantage in terms of punching power. An asset that Saunders has here at least going into this fight has been his ability to hit and not be hit. Another aspect of Saunders’ style that has been frustrating for opponents is he can also switch between his base southpaw stance and an orthodox stance, which can make it even more challenging for an opponent to find their rhythm.
Saunders must be elusive from the outset and tactical. In simple terms, he needs to set the tempo of the combat, look to set traps, and take advantage of what openings Alvarez might leave him. While this is an approach that Saunders has shown that he can execute well throughout his career, a danger that might be present in this fight is the potential for Saunders to become complacent. In that if he is able to have success in this fight and find himself in a position where he is ahead by a reasonable margin or though it might seem on the scorecards, it will be interesting to see what might happen if after seeing success, if Saunders will choose to stand and trade punches with Alvarez. A decision some previous opponents have made that have proven to be a big mistake.
While Saunders, who stands 5’11 and has a seventy-one inch reach will have a three inch height advantage and a one inch reach advantage over Alvarez, Alvarez has shown particularly in his bouts against Rocky Fielding and Callum Smith the ability to neutralize an opponent’s height and reach. Although it is a task that can be easier said than done, Alvarez must find a way to neutralize Saunders’ ability to use lateral movement, must cut the ring off, and get on the inside of Saunders. When Alvarez has been able to get on the inside of his opponents, he has shown that he can execute a consistent body attack that has at times been devastating.
In terms of what the odds for this fight are, it is also interesting. According to the latest odds analysis from SportsBettingDime.com, Alvarez is favored by a wide margin. That said, there is some variation in the betting market. Canelo is as short as -800 and as long as -675. Saunders ranges from +425 to +550. His most optimistic odds (i.e. +425) give him a 19% chance to win, while his longest odds only allow the Briton a 15.4% chance.
The odds are both an indication of Alvarez’ overall popularity as well as standing in the sport. Whether or not the odds will match up with the style matchup between the two and indeed favors Alvarez remains to be seen.
Cinco De Mayo weekend in the sport of Boxing has traditionally produced some of the sport’s most memorable battles. If the intriguing battle Alvarez-Saunders appears to be on paper manifests into a great fight inside the ring, it will be the latest among memorable Boxing events to take place on Cinco De Mayo weekend. We will see who emerges victorious on Saturday night.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Alvarez vs. Saunders takes place on Saturday, May 8th at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. The entire card can be seen globally (Excluding Mexico) on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN beginning at 8PM ET/5PM PT (U.S. Time). For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs, availability around the world, and to subscribe please visit: www.DAZN.com.
In Mexico, the bout can be seen on TV Azteca. Please visit www.TVAzteca.com for channel and start time in your area,
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