It’s always a big week in boxing in the build up to a Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez fight and with him planning on fighting four times across the next 12 months, a surprisingly high frequency for a pound-for-pound star, we could be in for a blockbuster 2021 for the Mexican superstar.
First up is mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim who he defends his WBA, WBC and Ring super middleweight titles against at Miami’s Hard Rock on Saturday night. Few are expecting Turkey’s Yildirim, best known to UK fight fans for being knocked out by Chris Eubank Jr in 2017, to offer up much of a challenge to the 30-year-old (he’s 12/1 to win with Betfred) but with a huge unification clash with Billy Joe Saunders penned in for May, Canelo can’t afford any slip ups.
“Yildirim’s going to come in the shape of his life and he’s going to bring something better than he ever has to make it competitive but it’s hard to look past the Eubank Jr fight and think that Yildirim has a good chance here,” said Anthony Crolla on the Betfred Boxing Show
“I’d be very, very surprised if this goes into the second-half of 12 rounds.”
Joining the Boxing Show as a guest, Matthew Hatton, who was beaten by Canelo in 2011 via unanimous decision, was similarly sceptical of Yildirim’s chances in Florida this weekend, especially after seeing how good he was against Callum Smith in his last fight in December.
“He was pretty dominant [against Smith] and when you weigh up he was in there with such a good fighter in Callum Smith, who’s achieved a lot in the sport, a very good world champion, it just shows that he’s getting better and better and I do think around those weights he’s kind of untouchable.
“I never like to say anybody’s unbeatable but he’s getting to that level now; you very rarely see him in trouble in fights, you don’t see him hurt, you don’t see him picking up cuts - looks a very difficult man to beat at the minute.
“For me, the person that could possibly give Canelo some trouble, and I’ve thought it for some time, is Billy Joe Saunders. Whether he’d beat him or not, I’m not too sure. Is that man to beat Canelo, Yildirim? I certainly don’t think so - I really can’t see it.”
The former European welterweight champion and younger brother of Ricky added, “Canelo’s been fighting at such a good level, fought all the top men out there, ducks nobody, takes on all comers. Everyone’s due an easier fight, he fought not long ago, he’s staying active which I do think a lot of modern fighters are not active enough.”
Saunders has been considered by many as the biggest threat to Canelo’s supremacy for some time now and Hatton believes that the man from Hertfordshire gives anyone at super-middleweight problems.
“I think Billy Joe Saunders is a nightmare for anyone. He’s got really good movement, great footwork, good upper body movement, boxes, moves, and I think that kind of style Billy Joe possesses could cause him some problems.”
Saunders is expected to be ringside in Miami on Saturday night and should Canelo win, expect an announcement in the ring swiftly afterwards. Should Canelo somehow lose, it would undoubtedly be one of the biggest boxing upsets ever.