Can ‘Beefy’ Shock The World?

Demetrius Andrade. Erislandy Lara. The Charlo brothers. Julian Williams.

Saul Canelo Alvarez could have chosen to fight any of these men after giving up the WBC middleweight title and moving back down to the junior middleweight division. Instead he picked one Liam Smith, a virtual unknown in the Western Hemisphere who goes by the nickname of “Beefy.” Those who have been following Canelo with a wary eye lately have a right to be wary of his choice of opponent. For the Mexican star’s career trajectory has taken a rather strange turn since he was bravely seeking out challenges in the not-too-distant past.

Watch out, Canelo. That dreaded "cherry picker" label is gaining on you.
Watch out, Canelo. That dreaded “cherry picker” label is gaining on you.

First, Canelo has refused outright to face middleweight terror Gennady Golovkin. That’s not a cheap shot coming from an online fan boy, that’s simply the truth. When one gives up one’s title belt rather than face a mandatory foe, people have the right to call it like it is. Add this to the fact that Canelo has now chosen to fight a virtual unknown and people have a right to call it like it is again. Sure enough, Canelo, who remains the lineal middleweight champion, is, to put it politely, not challenging himself like he could these days. And the result is a middleweight mess.

But does that mean Liam Smith should simply be written off as cannon fodder before he meets Canelo this September? It’s pretty clear Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Canelo, believes Smith doesn’t pose much of a threat, for it’s obvious the House that Oscar Built is big on keeping its top star out of harm’s way (at least for the moment).  Still, it’s worth considering the fact that Smith is a WBO world titlist. He’s also undefeated, with 23 wins, no losses, and a single draw on his record, and he clearly takes his profession quite seriously.

Liam 888
Smith (right) defeating Mark Thompson in 2013.

Sure enough, the fighter is from a boxing family. Brothers Callum, Stephen and Paul are all pros. Only Liam, however, holds a title. And now that he’s about to do battle on a grand stage (the fight is ridiculously being presented in the states as a pay-per-view event), the Englishman aims to make the most of his golden opportunity. One look at the guy’s Instagram page indicates that he’s an athlete focused on the chance of a lifetime. How does the man actually fight, though? More importantly, does he stand a chance, any chance at all, of beating Canelo?

Right off the bat, let’s admit that any fighter can be bested at any given time and that there’s absolutely zero exceptions to that golden rule. Let’s also admit that Liam Smith is successful and good at what he does. He took his shot and won the WBO super welterweight title by stopping John Thompson last October and has gone on to mop the floor with the two opponents he’s faced since. And while Kilrain Kelly and Predrag Radosevic aren’t exactly household names, the body shot Radosevic was polished off with this past June had a definite Gennady Golovkin element about it.

Is there a similarity in styles to be found between Smith and GGG?
Is there a similarity in styles to be found between Smith and GGG?

Make no mistake about it, Smith is a come forward fighter who can hit, has an effective high guard and who showcases impressive patience. Watching him in action, one can indeed see shades of Golovkin, though, in all fairness, it’s Golovkin-lite, or perhaps even Golovkin-very-lite. Yet the man knows how to win and, more importantly perhaps, how to break an opponent down. This fight is not, despite what the naysayers may argue, a Garcia-Salka type mismatch. It isn’t a high quality matchup though, no matter how one may look at it. Studying Smith’s fights, one is left with the inescapable conclusion that he was chosen as an opponent for Canelo because, stylistically, the Liverpool native was built to fail.

Canelo and Smith: a fight no one was asking for.
Canelo vs Smith: a most unexpected match.

For starters, Smith is no slickster. Again, he’s a come forward type-guy. That’s right up Canelo’s alley. As has been pointed out, Alvarez is, in essence, a counter puncher. Picturing a guy like Smith coming forward is like picturing the early seconds of a highlight reel knockout. Canelo, after all, has power. Real power. Just ask Amir Khan or James Kirkland. No one can deny that Canelo’s a guy who knows how to turn out the lights in the blink of an eye.

Amir Khan can attest to just how hard Canelo hits.

And let’s not forget Canelo’s reputed ability to massively rehydrate between the weigh-in and fight time. Smith has power, but does he have the power to take out a rehydrated Canelo? The easy assumption is that all Canelo has to do is walk through Smith’s power to land his own shots in order to depart AT&T Stadium this September with another scalp added to his collection. Frankly, it’s a difficult assumption to argue against. Still, this is boxing and stranger things have happened in the ring.

Yes, Smith is a long-shot. But it’s worth keeping in mind that when a career becomes based on fear, it may well be the unexpected that derails it in the end.        — Sean Crose 

5 thoughts on “Can ‘Beefy’ Shock The World?

  • August 4, 2016 at 12:02 am
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    I’d love for Smith to win just because i hate Canelo. This man will be up in the 180s on fight night. Smith’s only chance is that Canelo is too drained from making 154. Canelo is nothing but a weight bully. Rumor is that after the Smith fight he will fight Billy Joe Saunders in December. I hope that fight doesn’t happen because if Canelo wins, he’ll just hold onto the WBO belt and never let Golovkin get the chance to unify. I think that’s the plan because if Golovkin is the undisputed middleweight champion, Canelo is screwed at middleweight.

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  • August 4, 2016 at 1:23 pm
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    Was once a Canelo fan – expected him to be very competitive vs. Mayweather & he laid an egg. His boxing has clearly improved (evidenced by his competitive, but clear win over Cotto). I do believe Saul was beaten by Erislandy Lara & won that decision on pure respect for his name.
    Phil, the BJS fight looks like the unfortunate reality – the two camps are close enough and have been talking for a while.
    One unintentional consequence of the GGG rise is that he built his name by mowing down overmatched opponents. If that formula worked for him, why wouldn’t Canelo ride that train for a while? Remember, @ 26 he has a chance produce big paydays for another 10+ years in this game. Oscar’s manta is “pace yourself” – he can cash in on bigger names and take a few losses @ 32-36 & leave the game richer in much better health than going to war from 26-31 & burning out.
    Demetrius Andrade is a scary fighter with a ton of power for his size. Would love to see Canelo have to play it careful in that one, but the name recognition isn’t there for him to risk it. Others at 154 pose problems athletically, but are not as gifted in boxing or power departments as Andrade based on what I’ve seen. As for Billy Joe, I think that one sets up for Canelo as David Lemieux did for Golovkin.
    One saying that will always hold true – even as I am equally frustrated by Canelo as the rest of the world – don’t hate the player, hate the game.

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    • August 4, 2016 at 9:13 pm
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      Gennady is knocking out top 10 middleweights and trying to get any big name he can. Canelo talked shit twice in the ring and just handed his belt to golovkin. This is why mma and ufc kills boxing. Boxing fans are too complacent to wait years for a big fight but the ufc just goes ahead and makes it. Waiting till Canelo is older is just gonna age GGG. Th game needs to change.

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      • August 5, 2016 at 2:22 pm
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        No doubt, Canelo’s legacy will forever be tarnished by the way the last 18 months have played out. He’s charted (or been put on) a different course than every other great champion in this sport & it is sad to witness. Money is the clear priority & he doesn’t need GGG to make hundreds of millions. He’s the one who has to sleep with it every night for the rest of his life. If he can, good for him. We endeavor in our professions to provide first and foremost for our families & loved ones & others in true need. Well before we consider our bosses, employer or customers(fans).
        If Golden Boy has a GGG matchup in-mind, figuring on a BJS clash early next year, they are probably thinking May 5, 2018 at earliest. To make it happen even then, it has to be a priority to Canelo, because the damage is already done.

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  • August 4, 2016 at 2:52 pm
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    The more I study Smith, the more this fight grows on me. Now is it growing enough to be PPV worthy, hell no. But Smith is no pushover, sure he has a style that sort of accomodates Canelos, but its an intriguing matchup regardless.
    His sparring sessions with his brother Callum Smith will definitely help absorb punches from the heavier Canelo. I disagree that Canelo has real power, he does have power but remember the reason why de notice it so much is because of the huge weight advantage he has over his opponents on fight night. If Smith handles it well, we could see an exciting fight in September. The only thing that kind of bums me out is that Canelo will most likely absorb Smiths power easily, especially if he comes in over 175 lbs.

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