Cunning Canelo Too Much For Beefy?

Alvarez vs Smith: This weekend we have a match-up which, when you sit back and give it a long, hard look, is nothing short of confounding. In fact, for those who dismiss the sport of boxing as being a shadow of its former self, of having devolved into a mockery of what was once called “The Sport of Kings,” Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs Liam “Beefy” Smith could very well serve as Exhibit A in terms of evidence to bolster their case.

Alvarez is the lineal middleweight champion of the world, but, according to him, he is not in fact a full-fledged middleweight. Claiming that at the age of 26 his body is still developing and that he remains a natural super-welterweight, Alvarez has thus far refused to get into the ring with an actual 160 lb boxer. Instead he won the lineal title from Miguel Cotto, a former welterweight, and then defended it against Amir Khan, a former lightweight. Still, no one can deny he is the proverbial “man who beat the man” at 160, so naturally fight fans were looking forward to a showdown between him and the other big man at middleweight, Gennady Golovkin.

Canelo and Smith: a fight no one was asking for.
Canelo and Smith: a fight no one was asking for.

But wait a second, protested Alvarez, I’m not really a middleweight. And in a bizarre display of selective memory, the man who hasn’t made 154 pounds, the super welterweight limit, since 2013, claimed he needed more time to adjust to the higher weight. Thus, instead of Alvarez vs Golovkin, a huge money match-up between the world’s two best middleweights which would no doubt attract keen interest from sports fans around the world, we are getting Alvarez vs Smith for “Beefy’s” WBO light-middleweight title.

Of course if one has not been a close observer of Alvarez’s career, it might be possible to take his statements at face value and decide his position is a reasonable one. After all, Golovkin is indeed a big, strong middleweight and such a specimen Canelo has yet to face. Except one would have to check one’s brains at the door in order to actually buy the stuff young Saul is selling.

Will he or won't he?
Sorry, Saul, but we’re not buying it.

Because the simple fact is Canelo Alvarez is himself a middleweight, if not a super middleweight, if not a light heavyweight. In truth, the Mexican is himself Exhibit A for why the day-before weigh in, which became customary roughly 20 years ago, is a bad thing for the sport of boxing. Alvarez has exploited it like few other current champions, regularly gaining anywhere between 15 to 25 pounds of weight between the official trip to the scales and the opening bell and we know this to be true because HBO has regularly compelled him to step on a set of unofficial scales in his dressing room prior to fights. Interestingly, Alvarez refused to do so before he faced Amir Khan last May and after falling victim to a one-punch KO, Khan himself speculated that his conqueror weighed around 180 pounds.

But the stocky frame and physical strength of Canelo Alvarez is not the main reason virtually no one is giving Liam Smith a serious chance of winning on Saturday night. Fact is, Alvarez remains one of the most talented boxers in the world, a virtuoso one might say, at putting together combinations of damaging power punches and countershots against any fighter foolhardy enough to stand in front of him and try to trade. Style-wise, Smith is no Erislandy Lara, and it appears he may well be made-to-order for Canelo. At least that’s what our own Lee Wylie suspects is the case:

And while Smith himself is saying all the right things and claiming he’s about to stage one of the biggest upsets in boxing history by knocking out Alvarez, the truth is, while anything is possible, those who see Smith as having something more than a puncher’s chance are forgetting just how good Canelo really is. So allow Mr. Wylie to refresh your memory. Herewith his meticulous breakdown of what makes Alvarez such a dangerous fighter and how Canelo employs his truly formidable arsenal of power punches with both cunning and precision.

Depending on your opinion of Canelo vs Smith, this is either essential viewing for “Beefy,” or something to be kept far away from his innocent eyes. Either way, if Alvarez is at his ruthless best on Saturday night, it’s impossible to like Liam’s chances.       — Robert Portis 

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