Head coach at the Everton Red Triangle gym in Liverpool, Paul Stevenson, has been training boxers for over 20 years and currently manages seven top prospects.
There’s not much this trainer doesn’t know about the sweet science, so BBN asked for his expert opinion on this weekend’s super-middleweight unification in Texas between pound-for-pound superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (55-1-2, 37KOs) and unbeaten WBO World champion Billy Joe Saunders (30-0, 14KOs).
The way Billy Joe Saunders needs to approach this fight is quite clear – he needs to box him, try to catch him coming in, move and do it again; punch hard but don’t overstay your welcome.
Controlling the pace is important because he’s got to box and control the pace, but against Alvarez this this takes legs. So he’s got to control the pace but he’s also got to do enough to win the rounds.
The scoring is going to be controversial, I think, because they’re both good defensively and neither get caught much, so if there’s few clean punches landed, then the rounds are going to be decided on the other three factors of pro scoring and those are very subjective.
Rounds are scored by clean punching, effective aggression, ring generalship, and defence. So if few clean punches are landing, do you like the movement or the aggression?
Is a quick jab equivalent to a left hook to the body? Usually the better punches are given greater value on the cards.
Alvarez is known for his powerful counter-punching but Saunders is a good counter-puncher too. But the thing about counter punchers is that they often don’t expect it back and this may catch Saunders out.
Saunders has got an underrated left hand, it’s quick and he throws it well. It’s versatile with good variety – uppercuts and overhands and straights.
Ideally, he’d love to walk Alvarez onto that left hand all night and keep him at distance.
We might even see Alvarez hurt during the fight. Granted, Golovkin couldn’t hurt him, but southpaws throw from slightly off angles, and Billy Joe can punch.
At this point in their careers, it’s Alvarez’s strong point. Saunders has got great instincts in that area, he knows when to rest and when to work, but I’d give Canelo the edge in ring generalship, he knows how to cut the ring down and knows how to use the ropes. He can fight ring centre or in the phone booth. He’s versatile and can hit you anywhere.
Alvarez has always been strong in that area, the type of fight he’s got in front of him won’t be as exhausting as the fight Saunders has to fight – to box and move is going to take legs.
I think Alvarez should start fast and not allow Saunders to take any early rounds as they may come back to haunt him.
Alvarez should have enough respect for his opponent not to allow him take the early rounds and get into his stride.
He will need good effective pressure from the start so that even if Billy Joe is effective, he is paying the price for it.
You don’t tend to tire as much when you’re winning the fight; what’s tiring is missing and getting beaten to the punch. So in this fight, controlling the pace is crucial.
Working out who has the better defence is a tough one because they both have different approaches.
Both boxers have got a great radar and are very difficult to surprise. Alvarez has many varied defences that he’s picked it up along the way. He’s learnt and taken bits from every single fight he has had.
Saunders definitely has good upper body movement, but will probably try to keep his distance in this fight his defence will be his range.
It’s hard to compare defences with these two, almost like trying to compare Ray Robinson or Roberto Duran, they’re both excellent but very different.
Alvarez has got a great offence and it’s very varied.
He’s fast and powerful. He’s explosive and will always be very dangerous in lengthy exchanges, because he puts punches together well – all bombs and missiles from all angles.
I would have to edge towards Alvarez for the advantage in offence.
Probably the pro fights Alvarez has provides better experience than the many amateur fights which Saunders has had. Great Mexicans like Salvador Sanchez and Julio Cesar Chavez had very few amateur fights because they knew pro bixing was different so go in early and learn to do that.
Saunders however has adapted his amateur style into an effective pro style, but I believe the edge in experience lies with Alvarez.
Again, both very different, both have got great technique in different ways.
I think Alvarez is more polished, the way that he turns into his punches and moves his head. I think he does more things well.
Saunders has got a more of an amateur style, but developed to the pros.
He’s been boxing a certain way through a certain system and it shapes you.
Alvarez hasn’t ever done that. He’s learnt on the job. He’s more rounded in the finer arts of boxing.
I’ve never seen Saunders hurt. They have both got a great chin, both very durable, so anything could happen. I could see Billy Joe walking Canelo onto a wobble though. I’ve said already I think Canelo could be hurt by Billy Joe during this fight.
He’s unlikely to be stopped though, if Golovkin couldn’t do it with his hardest shots then it’s unlikely he’s going anywhere.
Mark Tibbs is a great trainer and they’ll have their tactics right. No ones is going to send Billy Joe out to stand toe to toe with this fella! I think Saunders sticks to the game plan well and you just make fine adjustments when the bell goes. It looks like he’ll listen and take advice.
Eddy Reynoso and Canelo seem to have great relationship, they’re always coming up with new stuff, so they seem like a good, solid team.
Does he even understand English, Canelo? I’d be surprised if all the mind games affect Alvarez, he’s been in the spotlight many times with the world watching, so he’s tough mentally. He’s a professional, and Mexicans are tough, so it’s not going to bother him in the slightest.
I’ve never seen Saunders bothered by anything. He likes the madness, so I don’t think either of them will be affected mentally.
I love an upset so I’d like to see Saunders do it, but my honest opinion is that Alvarez is at the very top of his game, he’s the more active of the two, he’s the home fighter, and he generates a fortune, so it would be hard to bet against him.
I would imagine it to be a close fight; Saunders to give him some trouble, especially early on, but Alvarez I think would catch him down the stretch. It probably goes to points with lots of arguments about who deserved to win, but with Alvarez getting the decision on points.
Paul Stevenson is the head coach at Everton Red Triangle and guides the careers of Andrew Cain (7-0, 6KOs); Nick Ball (13-0, 6KOs); Brad Strand (4-0, 1KO) – all signed to Frank Warren – as well as super-middleweight prospect Harry Woods (4-1); unbeaten super-lightweight Jonathan Walsh (4-0, 1KO), and hard-hitting welterweight Jack McKinlay (2-0).
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