On Saturday night Canelo Alvarez makes his long-awaited return to the ring. Alvarez faces off against super middleweight Callum Smith. Canelo-Smith will be held at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Ordinarily a fight of this nature, while an event because of Canelo’s involvement, would not garner that much attention. However, after a tumultuous 2020 outside of the ring and the seemingly rushed nature in which the bout has come together, it has the attention of the sports world and beyond. There are quite a few things that make this fight unique. Here’s what you should know about Canelo’s return.
Part of what made 2020 tumultuous for Canelo were the legal entanglements he endured outside the ring. First there was the lawsuit against his promoter Golden Boy Promotions and streaming platform DAZN. Matters were eventually settled out of court. The results were a parting of ways between Canelo and Golden Boy Promotions and the promotional agreement with DAZN – at the time of signing declared the richest in sports history – now worth no more than the paper it was written on.
Since the split Canelo announced he is going the free agent route. His services now going to the most lucrative offer. It’s a system pioneered by Sugar Ray Leonard, perfected by Floyd Mayweather and since employed by such all-stars like Mikey Garcia. The first winner of the Canelo sweepstakes is Matchroom Boxing, who will carry the fight on DAZN. Ironic – absolutely, but this is boxing, and like politics, it can make strange bedfellows.
Canelo has not fought since defeating Sergey Kovalev in December of 2019. Perhaps the longest stretch of inactivity in his career. Yet, this can’t be solely attributable to Canelo. He was slated to fight on his traditional Cinco De Mayo slot, however, the pandemic and lack of agreed upon opponent shelved that. Then there was his traditional Mexican Independence Day slot, but once again promoter and platform squabbles about a worthy opponent killed that opportunity too. Kudos to Canelo for wanting to fight by year end. But the question remains – how will the inactivity effect his performance? Surely there will be some ring rust. And in this case Canelo’s opponent is no slouch.
Speaking of opponent. Callum Smith, while no Gennady Golovkin or Miguel Cotto, is no Rocky Fielding either. A few things to know about Callum “Mundo” Smith. First, at 27-0 he’s undefeated. Second, he’s the current WBA champ and won the World Boxing Super Series 168-pound tournament in 2019. He also tops Canelo in a pretty ironic category – knockout ratio. Per ESPN, Smith has a better knockout ratio than Canelo (70% to 64%) and physical advantages. Combined, this could make for challenging assignment for Alvarez. Now, that being said, Canelo has a chin of steel, so the odds of Smith improving that ratio on the 19th are slim at best.
For some reason, the sport of boxing is obsessed with making sure that there be title at stake when a fighter of championship caliber steps into the ring. Perhaps it’s in an effort to better promote the bout, perhaps it’s the sanctioning bodies making a cash grab. Rationale aside, Canelo-Smith will in fact be for Smith’s WBA strap. Add to that the WBC recently announced its vacant Super Middleweight title will now also be on the line. Like we said in above boxing, like politics, makes strange bedfellows.
The Rubber Match
On the eve of Canelo-Smith, Gennady Golovkin will make the 21st defense of his title. Golovkin is also fighting under Matchroom. Eddie Hearn has been clear about his desire for a third fight between Canelo and GGG. As has GGG. Canelo? Not so much. But if both are successful in their respective bouts, it just may happen. Cinco De Mayo 2021 is being targeted as a date!
Until then, let’s all sit back and enjoy one the greats get back to work. Canelo-Smith goes down the 19th in Texas.