By Dan Ambrose: WBO junior middleweight champion Liam Smith (23-0-1, 13 KOs) doesn’t see Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs) as a full junior middleweight at this point in his career. Despite Canelo insisting that he’s a 154lb fighter, he clearly isn’t. He’s a full blown middleweight that boils down to 155 for catch-weight fights.
It’s got to be hard enough for Canelo to get down to 155, and now he’s going to be trying to go down to 154 to challenge the 28-year-old Smith for his World Boxing Organization title. Smith thinks that the only reason Canelo is choosing to fight him for his WBO 154lb title is to get cover for vacating his WBC middleweight title in order to steer around a fight against Gennady Golovkin.
“Canelo isn’t a full light middleweight like I am, and that’s to my advantage,” said Smith. “I’ll gain some more fans once I beat Canelo. With this opportunity, I’m hoping for bigger and better fights to come my way.”
It’s going to be really interesting to see if Canelo struggles with the weight. He has to boil down to 154, which is going to be hard enough. But then when Canelo rehydrates, he might feel sluggish on fight night with all the weight he puts back on in a hurry.
Like a lot of fighters that rehydrate, they’re usually able to do well for five or six rounds with their superior size. But in the second half of their fights, all that weight catches up to them, and they then fade badly and get outworked. I think we might see that on Saturday night. It’s going to be important for Smith to set a fast enough pace to force Canelo to work hard the entire fight. Putting all that weight back on could catch up to Canelo in the last half of the contest if Smith is forcing him to fight hard without rest breaks.
Smith might even score a knockout if he attacks Canelo hard enough. Canelo is likely going to be as big as a house inside the ring on Saturday night. Smith needs to forget about throwing head shots, because big fighters like Canelo are able to take head shots without any problems. Where Canelo will have problems is to the body.
Smith needs to throw body shots to increase the pace of Canelo gassing out. If he gets hit to the body enough times, it could get really interesting with Canelo needing to retreat to the ropes and fight from that area of the ring for the remainder of the fight. Canelo did this in his fight against Austin Trout three years ago after getting hurt with a body shot.
Smith and Canelo will be fighting each other this Saturday night on HBO pay-per-view from the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Canelo’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya expects as many as 60,000 fans to be showing up for the fight. Just how many of those fans would actually be ticket buyers and how many being fans that are given complimentary tickets is unclear.
It wouldn’t be surprising to me if half the people in attendance on Saturday are fans that are given complimentary tickets if they don’t choose to buy tickets. It might be a good idea for Golden Boy to slash the ticket prices if they want to pack the giant Stadium.
It’ll make big news if Smith can beat Canelo, because he obviously was picked out for him to get beaten by Canelo. Golden Boy has to have evaluated the threat level with Smith and determined him as someone that can’t beat Canelo.
If Smith does beat Canelo, it would be a huge blow to Golden Boy and to Canelo, because it might cause a lot of boxing fans to jump ship and look for other fighters to back. At the same time, it would mean that Golden Boy would need to widen their net of fighters in the 154lb division to avoid putting Canelo in with in the future.
We’re already seeing Canelo not being matched against the top guys at 154 in Julian Williams, Jermell Charlo, Jermall Charlo and Demetrius Andrade. Those are fighters that Canelo should have fought a long time ago instead of guys like Amir Khan, Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland. Canelo has been fighting non-relevant fighters with the exception of the much smaller Miguel Cotto, who is up there in age at 35.