Mexican boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez will next fight on May 2 — Cinco De Mayo weekend, one of the two weekends on which he usually fights each year — and headline a DAZN card at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs), the middleweight world champion, who also holds a secondary super middleweight title, will square off with super middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs), who got the fight over Callum Smith, Saunders’ British countryman, who also owns a 168-pound title. So what can we expect from the fight, which will be Alvarez’s second in the weight class?
ESPN’s Dan Rafael and Steve Kim break it down for you:
How does Canelo beat Saunders?
Rafael: In his last fight in November, Alvarez moved from middleweight up to light heavyweight and looked strong as a bull as he eventually — and brutally — knocked out the much bigger Sergey Kovalev to take his light heavyweight world title. Now Alvarez is coming back down to super middleweight, where he crushed Rocky Fielding, also a bigger man, for a secondary belt in December 2018. The way Alvarez can beat Saunders is with a similar game plan he used to defeat Kovalev and Fielding: Aggression, power shots (especially to the body) and smarts.
Alvarez is a capable counter puncher, a devastating puncher and has a great chin. Saunders is a slick boxer with little power. The key will be for Alvarez to cut the ring off and lay leather on him. He won’t have to worry about what’s coming in return, at least within reason. So Alvarez will want to back Saunders up, break him down and go for the KO when the opening presents itself. Saunders is not a big guy and has fought most of his career as a middleweight. Alvarez is much more powerful and has a much more diverse arsenal. Saunders is taking a big step up in the level of his opposition against Alvarez, who should be able to land his punches and finish Saunders off.
Kim: Canelo has one of the most complete skill sets in all of boxing. But against Saunders, he’s going to have to come out of his favored counter-punching style and really cut the ring off. He needs to crowd Saunders a bit. Canelo’s left hook to the body will be key in taking away Saunders’ legs, as will consistently moving to his own left to cut off Saunders movement. Generally, most left-handed boxers like to move over to the right behind their jab. That’s one of the reasons trainers speak so often about having your front foot on the outside of a lefty, to be able to curb their preferred route around the ring and be in proper alignment to throw the straight right hand. This aspect will be key, like in most orthodox vs. southpaw matchups.
The more physical this fight is, the better it is for the Mexican superstar. Not only is he the harder, sharper puncher of the two, Canelo has shown he can take punches as well. Forcing prolonged exchanges will favor Canelo.
How does Saunders beat Canelo?
Rafael: Saunders is not going to outfight or outpunch Alvarez. That is not his game. Saunders only has 14 knockouts in 29 fights. His game is boxing, movement. It’s about making his opponent miss and piling up points. It’s easier said than done against Alvarez, who is, to me, boxing’s No. 1 fighter pound for pound. If Saunders has any prayer he will have to box a perfect fight for 12 rounds. He has done that, such as against heavy hitter David Lemieux in a 2017 middleweight title defense but Lemieux is far more one-dimensional than Alvarez. Saunders will have to have the fight of his life against Alvarez and hope the judges appreciate his boxing skills.
Kim: Fighters with good movement have had trouble with Canelo. While he’s improved his craft over the years, to a point where many now consider him one of the premier boxers in the game, he still doesn’t have the quickest feet. Floyd Mayweather certainly riddled him with punches as a youngster, but the real comparisons on Canelo’s resume that could offer Saunders hope would be Canelo’s debatable decision victories against Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara, who both gave him fits.
Saunders, like Trout and Lara, is a southpaw with a high boxing IQ who knows his way around the squared circle. It’s imperative that he slows down the tempo and lulls Canelo into a match where not much is happening in terms of action. For BJS, less is more. You can make the argument that it will be very difficult for Saunders to win a decision this way, but this is the best chance he has. He simply can’t win a firefight against Alvarez.
Will we ever see Canelo-GGG III?
Rafael: Probably. Part of the deal to make the fight between Alvarez and Saunders was for Alvarez to commit to a third Gennadiy Golovkin fight in September. GGG is on board with that. It is unclear if Alvarez has agreed to that but you have to figure Alvarez will eventually agree to face GGG in what is still the biggest fight he can make. Naturally, Alvarez will expect a bump in pay from DAZN to do the fight since it was not stipulated in his long-term agreement, but in the end you have to figure the fight will happen.
Kim: Yes. We might even see it in September if DAZN gets its wish. The only question is what weight it will take place at — 160 or 168? While Canelo hasn’t been keen on doing the third chapter with his archrival, money has a way of assuaging hard feelings. Perhaps seeing Golovkin go life-and-death with Sergiy Derevyanchenko last October was a sign that perhaps it’s now time to close the book — in emphatic fashion — on this rivalry.
While Golovkin is a middleweight (where he holds the IBF belt), Alvarez, who holds titles at 160 and 168, probably feels that he will have an advantage at super middleweight. Canelo most recently fought as a light heavyweight, and he can still enforce his A-side status on GGG by making him come up in weight.
Enough time has now passed since their rematch that there is enough interest once again from the fans to see this again.