Confidence Man: Canelo vs Saunders preview, DAZN Saturday
SAN DIEGO, Calif., May 7, 2021 – Fights are won in the mind first. No one proves this is true like Canelo Alvarez, and no one wins at mind games with the Mexican superstar.
British WBO super middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) is a world-class trash talker. He gave it his best shot in the fight week lead-up in Dallas, Texas, as he gets ready to face Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) Saturday in a title unification fight. He argued about the size of the ring and the softness of the canvas, ripped the Texas commission for failing to assign a British judge to the fight, and refused to participate in much of the promotion leading up to Saturday’s fight. His pal Tyson Fury has made more media appearances this week in Texas than Saunders.
So Saunders has his handy excuses for his first loss all lined up in a row.
Canelo’s attitude was summed up with a shrug.
His team granted Saunders the bigger ring, and his attitude was that he’d “beat his ass” whatever the size of the ring.
“Hopefully tomorrow, we can give you a good fight,” said Alvarez at the weigh-in. “I’ve been in big fights before; I have the experience to deal with it. He has a difficult style, he’s also a southpaw. At this level, you have to adjust to anyone and anything. I’m ready.”
Alvarez will clock in for work at AT&T Stadium in front of an expected record indoor boxing crowd of 70,000 people on DAZN, starting with undercard bouts at 11 pm ET/8 pm PT. Both fighters easily made the 168-pound weight limit.
Canelo: Undisputed Cinco de Mayo king
It’s boxing’s biggest weekend, Cinco de Mayo, and Canelo holds first dibs on the date. This will be Alvarez’s third fight in seven months, far busier than anyone else in the pound for pound top ten. Assuming a win against Britain’s Saunders, he plans to fight again in September and possibly December. Alvarez is an acknowledged gym rat and prides himself on his work ethic. In today’s boxing universe, this is ambition fans see far too little and can appreciate, even if the level of opponents continues to come up short.
Saunders’ last win was against a past his prime Martin Murray in December and went the distance. One year prior, he fought in Los Angeles against Argentinean Marcelo Coceres. In that time, Canelo knocked out Sergey Kovalev and Callum Smith, and yes, Avni Yildirim, which was an acknowledged layup.
Saunders’ best performance came in 2017 against David Lemieux,
Saunders also cited a split decision over Chris Eubank Jr. seven years ago in 2014. Saunders is an agile southpaw who can move with a busy jab. He’s a smart fighter, with just enough power to have the potential of hurting an opponent.
“I have the belief, I have the spirit, I have the winning mentality,” said Saunders. “I don’t come here to lay down. I come down to win. I don’t think Alvarez has faced a man with the art and the same determination as me.
“I haven’t lost since 2008. 30 and 0, unbeaten. He has to do something different to beat me, not the other way around. The key to this sort of fight is to be on your A-game, bring your best to the table. As long as I bring my fighting spirit, I’ve got it.”
None of it will matter.
In a sport where confidence is a fighter’s most powerful ally, Canelo Alvarez has unshakeable confidence in himself. Armed with his skills, experience, and brilliant game plans by Reynoso (see Valdez, Oscar), Alvarez believes no one can beat him. Few would argue. While he is lower key about it compared to Mohammed Ali or Roy Jones Jr., confidence pheromones ooze out of Canelo’s pores.
All the belts for Canelo Alvarez
Alvarez is currently focused on unifying the super middleweight division, something no fighter and no Mexican has ever accomplished. He holds the WBC and WBA belts. The road goes through Saunders for the WBO title and leaves only Cable Plant’s IBF title to make it happen.
Can Saunders win on Saturday? Yes, he can. Is it likely? No, it’s not. Lemieux and Eubank Jr. are not Canelo. They are one-dimensional. They do not adjust in the ring to the elements. Saunders’ best opportunity is to get busy with the jab from the opening bell, move and take advantage of Alvarez’s tendency to be a slow starter. Saunders needs to make himself hard to find, hard to hit, and offer few opportunities to counterpunch.
It’s the recipe for less than tasty fight, a boring tactical contest not all that worthy of the Cinco de Mayo spotlight.
This is the way Floyd Mayweather defeated Canelo eight years ago, and the way Erislandy Lara gave himself a chance. Gennadiy Golovkin tried to win the hard way in a Mexican-style fight, and it didn’t work for him (according to the judges, anyway). Saunders doesn’t have the power or chin of Golovkin. A firefight doesn’t suit him.
Expect Saunders to get a few early rounds on the cards and fire up his British fans on Boxing Twitter. But as he always does, Alvarez will patiently size up Saunders, move in, pin him down and punish him. We call for a late-round stoppage – let’s say round diez (as in ten). Alvarez can bag his third belt and head toward a unification fight with Caleb Plant, assuming Premier Boxing and Mr. Haymon don’t play too many games.
Anyone with remaining doubts about Alvarez’s status as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world has some explaining to do. He won’t be tested unless he faces a top light heavyweight, either a powerhouse like Artur Beterbiev or a nimble technician like Dmitry Bivol.
Undercard action features title tilt between Soto and Takayama
In the co-main event, expect an entertaining, action-packed scrap between Elwin Soto of Mexicali (18-1, 12 KOs) defending his WBO World Light-Flyweight title against Katsunari Takayama of Japan (32-8, 12 KOs). Soto’s only loss was a minor blip at age 20, and the now 24-year-old takes on former minimumweight champion Takayama, a 37-year-old veteran moving up in weight. Props to Takayama for bringing his own mascot to the weigh-in stage.
Kieron Conway of England (16-1-1, 3 KOs) defends his WBA Intercontinental Super-Welterweight title against Souleymane Cissokho of France via Senegal (12-0, 8 KOs).
Cuban heavyweight and Canelo stablemate Frank Sanchez (17-0, 13 KOs) meets veteran journeyman Nagy Aguilera of New York via the Dominican Republic (21-10, 14 KOs).
Promising Mexican-American featherweight prospect Marc Castro of Fresno (2-0, 2 KOs) gets his third fight on a Canelo undercard against Irving Castillo of Mexico (9-1, 6 KOs).
Another exciting young prospect, lightweight Keyshawn Davis of Norfolk, Virginia (2-0, 2 KOs) faces Jose Antonio Meza of Mexico (6-4, 1 KO) in his second six-round pro bout. His older brother Kelvin Davis (1-0, 1 KO) fights for the second time against opponent Jan Marsalek of the Czech Republic (8-2, 7 KOs).
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