By James Blears
For Briton Billy Joe Saunders (30-0, 14KOs), the key to a shock victory is accomplishing a boxing master class by commanding the centre of the ring to avoid getting backed up and trapped against the ropes, while Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (55-1-2, 37KOs) will be trying to artfully and ruthlessly cut off all escape routes to break him down.
Currently, Saunders is a 4-1 underdog going into this contest, with Value Betting.
Both Canelo and Saunders are rigorously prepared in mind, body and soul, each looking in exceptional shape for this fabulous fight on May 8th at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
From this extraordinary encounter in the Lone Star State, just one supreme supernova will emerge holding aloft the magnificent Mestizo Belt, especially created for this Mexican Boxing Festivity. Also at stake is Canelo's WBC and WBA super-middleweight belts and Billy Joe's WBO version.
All boxing matches boil down to broiling, conflicting and contrasting styles, with the dominance of one trumping the other. Canelo's preserve is as a pressure fighter, cutting off lanes, leading opponents down blind alleys, closing in, closing down and unleashing telling power punches.
In his traditional style, the 30-year-old Mexican likes to work on and make mincemeat of the body, which doesn't sway and move as much as a bobbing head. But then and ultimately move upstairs with big leveling left hooks, shuddering straight rights and the scything uppercut, which is indeed a high-risk punch, but which also reaps significant plus impactful dividends.
Standing your ground and trading with Canelo nowadays is pointlessly brave, rash and just about as foolish as being in the vicinity of a telephone booth next to Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas, just after he'd received the news of the hit on Tommy De Vito. It's not the action of a wise guy… or a wise man!
We all saw and winced at the terrific sustained punishment that tall, bigger man Callum Smith absorbed when he was trapped, roped in, manhandled and panhandled, with everything including the kitchen sink. Far too often for his own good, he stood his ground against Canelo, and he suffered for it.
Canelo's toughest task is to catch up with the fleet-footed travelling man, anchor him, root him to the spot and land his heavy artillery. While Billy Joe's 'Golden and Green' opportunity lies in his utilising his diverse and brilliant boxing skills to their fullest, spearheading his oncoming opponent with his trademark accurate jabs and counters, while cunningly milling on the retreat. In attack, he must use his proven, lightning southpaw right jab to plaster Canelo with a very high volume of quality punches. Get in and out without being caught.
The key to success for Billy Joe is to be effective in this way and to remain as elusive as The Scarlet Pimpernel. It will take exceptional unwavering and sustained focus, in a fight which will make or break him.
A momentary or even split second lapse in concentration, just like Amir Khan before him, will cost him dear, because Canelo certainly possesses the power to knock him out at any time. Stopping iron-jawed Canelo is an altogether different and more difficult prospect, unless it was to be on cuts. Yet, in boxing, anything and everything is possible. Even at the highest level, one telling punch can upset the tally.
Canelo has won against all southpaws he's faced, but he doesn't perform as well against them. He was exactingly and exceptionally tested against Erislandy Lara, who one judge saw as winning, while the other two demurred. Lara used a ramrod right jab, trying to keep Canelo at bay, backed up by fast, hard combinations from all angles, while trying to move away from the ropes, where he and all others who fight Canelo are nakedly vulnerable.
He effectively used lateral movement and every inch of the ring to avoid getting into a toe to toe slugfest confrontation. In doing so, he seemed to be covering the distance equivalent to a marathon and the fans lustily booed him for not trading macho fashion, but it proved a smart, if not quite a winning formula. He came close with that strategy. However it has to be remembered and appreciated that this was way back in 2014, seven long years ago. That was then and this is now.
A year earlier, another southpaw Austin Trout was decked, legs akimbo, by a juddering single straight right in the seventh round. But he too posed a nagging variety of problems for Canelo, with his silky mobility, also mostly lateral, yet hardly lethal.
More recently, Daniel Jacobs lost his IBF middleweight belt to WBC and WBA Champion Canelo in 2019 by UD, but the bout was highly competitive throughout. 'Miracle Man' Jacobs, who fights from a conventional stance, had his moments, but not so many effective movements when he switched to southpaw, which isn't his natural forte at this rarefied level.
Billy Joe, who has fought 30 times with stoppages, says that Canelo has racked up more heavy miles on the clock than him after 58 bouts and 47 rounds. But it could also be argued that Canelo has gained more experience along the way. He learned a lot in his two fights with Gennady Golovkin and his boxing education has been acquired in a higher grade class.
Canelo likes to stand close and lean in, but his subtle, supple waist and head movement, quick reflexes as well as deft anticipation, make him a hard target to pin and hit squarely. He slips and deflects many punches which would tag and sting another less intelligent, duller-witted fighter. Both he and Billy Joe like to feint punches to lure opponents into second guessing, in order to set up their goodnight punches.
Billy Joe's toughest fight to date was against bitter rival Chris Eubank Jr back in 2014. Billy Joe bamboozled and out boxed Junior, who looked lethargic and flat footed for the first five rounds, but as the fight wore on, Eubank's stamina, power and determination came through and Billy Joe noticeably faded towards the end, even though he won it on points. Again, this was a long time ago and lessons were certainly learned.
Here and now, it very much depends on how much damage Billy Joe picks up and sustains from harder inflicting Canelo, as to how he'll then fare as the rounds wear. He is a travelling man and has been fighting his entire life. No one has appeared to hurt Billy Joe yet in his 30 fights.
His most accomplished performance was a resounding UD victory against big hitter David Lemieux in 2017. An absolutely dazzling display from Billy Joe, who boxed his head off, while running rings around him, all night long and even showboating at times when he was in full cruise control.
Billy Joe will never be hit as hard as he's going to get hit on May 8th. Seeing is believing, yet feeling is so much more tangibly telling. Canelo is an intelligently patient fighter. He doesn't go in hopping, swinging and hoping. He'll sometimes refrain from snapping out a punch, in order to wait for a more juicy opportune opening. When his punches land, it's with a thud, because he's homing in heavy handed. Against light-heavyweight kinh Kovalev, Canelo was so patient and focused, giving away a lot of rounds just confidently knowing that his game plan was going to come into full effect later on, which was via an 11th round KO in the end.
Billy Joe's sheer hand speed, boxing skills, versatility and adaptability is something that Canelo has only confoundingly encountered once before, against the legendary Floyd Mayweather Jr. To win Canelo must cut to the chase, rather than ineffectively give chase. To win, Billy Joe must judge distance with the adroit, calculating skill of Pythagoras.
Location and fame favors Canelo. This stadium is now like a second home to him. A lot more Mexicans and Mexican/Americans will be at hand to roar for him. It has also become clear that being awarded a decision against the P4P No.1 in the States is nigh on impossible, just ask the disgruntled Kazakh.
Both men are used to big occasions, but when it comes down to it, up in the ring there are just the two of them there, plus the third man, hemmed in by a welling wall of sound, rising to an acoustic crescendo! It will be an awesome and unforgettable atmosphere, to be savored at the time and long remembered, during the more mellow years to follow.
Billy Joe, who's never been defeated as a professional, emits the exuberance of bravado. It's quintessentially part of who he is, and what makes him tick. However, it might well be a better idea to stick to the task ahead and at hand, without showboating and irking Canelo with brashness, or goading impertinence. Better to save his breath, and not provocatively lower his guard nor stick out an unprotected chin. Pride often tends to come before a fall.
Mutual respect doesn't detract one iota from iron clad willpower. So, let's also hope they don't step on each others' toes and there's no clash of heads, which sometimes occurs, with differing and contrasting stances, as well as diametrically opposing granite mindsets.
Saunders stands at 5ft 11" tall, while Canelo is slghtly is shorter at 5ft 8". Billy Joe's reach extends to 71", while`s Canelo's is just a smidgeon half an inch less.
If each fights to his full capacity, capability and game plan, this will be a truly great fight. Billy Joe's untamed gypsy heritage is the essence of his wandering, wondering, wonderful independent pride and his gauche willpower, which will be tested as never before. He's convinced he can and will win. His fellow Traveller, WBC Heavyweight Champion and friend, Tyson Fury, will be his biggest supporter at ringside to cheer him on. Another heavyweight from the UK, Dillian Whyte, has also backed the Brit to win.
As for Canelo, during the tranquil still, unrippled calm, inevitably giving way to the gathering and impending storm, he knows full well the significance of Cinco de Mayo. It is the most important, most deeply ingrained and hallowed date circled on a Mexican Calendar. Mexico expects nothing less from him than total victory.
And, so the saying goes: “I'm Mexican. We always fight to the end.”
This will be the WBC's 2104th championship title fight in their 58-year history
80 World title bouts have been held and this will be the 28th super-middleweight world title fight in the USA
Nigel Benn has the record of the most title defences with 10
WBC super-middleweight champions:
1. RAY LEONARD (US) 1988-1990
2. MAURO GALVANO (ITALY) 1990-1992
3. NIGEL BENN (GB) 1992-1996
4. THULANE MALINGA (S. AFR) 1996
5. VINCENZO NARDIELLO (ITA) 1996
6. ROBIN REID (GB) 1996-1997
7. THULANE MALINGA (S. AFR)* 1997-1998
8. RICHIE WOODHALL (GB) 1998-1999
9. MARKUS BEYER (GERMANY) 1999-2000
10. GLENN CATLEY (GB) 2000
11. DINGAAN THOBELA (S. AFR) 2000
12. DAVE HILTON (CAN) 2000
13. ERIC LUCAS (CAN) 2001-2003
14. MARKUS BEYER (GERMANY)* 2003-2004
15. DANNY GREEN (AUSTRALIA) INTERIM 2003-2005
16. CRISTIAN SANAVIA (ITALY) 2004
17. MARKUS BEYER (GERMANY)* 2004-2006
18. MIKKEL KESSLER (DENMARK) 2006-2007
19. JOE CALZAGHE (GB) 2007
20. CARL FROCH (GB) 2008-2010
21. MIKKEL KESSLER (DENMARK)* (EMERITUS) 2010
22. CARL FROCH (GB)* 2010-2011
23. ANDRE WARD (US) 2011-2012
24. SAKIO BIKA (CAMEROON) 2013-2014
25. ANTHONY DIRRELL (US) 2014-2015
26. BADOU JACK (GAMBIA/SWEDEN) 2015-2017
27. DAVID BENAVIDEZ (US) IN RECESS 2017-2018
28. ANTHONY DIRRELL (US)* 2019
29. DAVID BENAVIDEZ (US)* 2019-2020
30. SAUL ALVAREZ (MEXICO) 2020-Present
WBC's super-middleweight top 10 champions
1. RAY LEONARD (US)
2. JOE CALZAGHE (GB)
3. NIGEL BENN (GB)
4. ANDRE WARD (US)
5. MARKUS BEYER (GERMANY)
6. CARL FROCH (GB)
7. MIKKEL KESSLER (DENMARK)
8. ROBIN REID (GB)
9. DANNY GREEN (AUSTRALIA)
10. ERIC LUCAS (CANADA)
World super-middleweight title fights by country:
1x SOUTH ARABIA
1x SOUTH AFRICA
TOTAL FIGHTS: 80
WBC TITLE FIGHTS BETWEEN MEXICO-UK
There's been 42 WBC title fights between Mexico and UK
Mexico has won 30 and UK has won 11, with one No Contest
VICENTE SALDIVAR – HOWARD WINSTONE (Dec 15)
RUBEN OLIVARES – ALAN RUDKIN (TKO 2)
JOHN STRACEY – JOSE NAPOLES (TKO 6)
CARLOS PALOMINO – JOHN H. STRACEY (TKO 12)
LUPE PINTOR – JOHNNY OWEN (TKO 12)
SALVADOR SANCHEZ – PAT COWDELL (DEC 15)
JORGE VACA – LLOYD HONEYGHAN (TD 8)
LLOYD HONEYGHAN – JORGE VACA (KO 3)
GOYO VARGAS – PAUL HODKINSON (TKO 7)
JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ – ANDY HOLLIGAN (TKO 6)
WAYNE MCCULLOUGH – JOSE LUIS BUENO (DEC 12)
DANIEL ZARAGOZA – WAYNE MCCULLOUGH (DEC 12)
NASEEM HAMED – CESAR SOTO (DEC 12)
ERIK MORALES – WAYNE MCCULLOUGH (DEC 12)
SAUL ALVAREZ – AMIR KHAN (KO 6)
LEO SANTA CRUZ – CARL FRAMPTON (DIAMOND BEL) (MD 12)
REY VARGAS – GAVIN MCDONNELL (VACANT) (MD 12)
SAUL ALVAREZ – ROCKY FIELDING (SPECIAL EVENT) (TKO 3)
JULIO CESAR MARTINEZ – JAY HARRIS (VOL) (UD 12)