Canelo Alvarez vs Callum Smith preview, prediction: Expect Mexican to methodically break down the British challenger
Canelo's experience, plus the difference in skill level, means it’s only a matter of time before the Mexican slips into high gear and leaves Smith behind.
On Sunday, Mexico’s Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez will return to bright lights of the boxing ring after a 13-month gap.
Like many of us, it’s been a long year for Canelo, 30, arguably the Sweet Science’s pound-for-pound king and undoubtedly premiere draw.
After falling out with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and streamer DAZN, Canelo, now the hottest free agent in the business, will look to capture three super-middleweight titles against Britain’s Callum Smith (27-0).
Canelo (53-1-2), has already garnered acclaim for his willingness to think out of the box.
Weigh in complete. ✔️
Tomorrow, two of the best meet in the ring. #CaneloSmith pic.twitter.com/9DwV2HSQJF
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) December 18, 2020
In 2013, at the tender age of 23, to the chagrin of many boxing observers, Canelo decided to take on the ultimate challenge and boxing’s biggest star: Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Mayweather, putting on a boxing clinic, bedazzled and befuddled the youngster. Canelo learned a hard lesson: There are levels to this game. And he simply wasn’t on Mayweather’s level.
Many feared the loss at Mayweather’s hands would leave a lasting scar in Canelo’s psyche, much like a loss at Bernard Hopkins’ hands derailed the career of crowd-pleaser Kelly Pavlik.
Instead, something else entirely happened: Canelo’s defeat helped him develop into a far more complete fighter.
Since then, Canelo has shown an impressive willingness, by modern-day standards at least, to take on some tough assignments: Cuban-American southpaw spoiler Erislandy Lara, boxing boogeyman Gennady Golovkin (who, I will maintain till my dying day, beat Canelo in both their fights) and Daniel Jacobs (a top, if not elite-level fighter).
That Canelo’s most recent fight came against a shop-worn Sergey Kovalev at light heavyweight – two divisions above his normal weight class – is a matter of no concern to his legion of followers and the more casual fans of the sport.
What should concern them is how sluggish Canelo looked at that fight. Admittedly way out of his comfort zone, Canelo seemed to be daunted by the Russian’s sheer size and bothered by his once-vaunted but still eye-catching jab.
Indeed, until he landed the thundering knockout in Round 11, Canelo was, in the estimation of many ringside experts (if not the judges), actually on his way to losing the fight.
In coming back down to super middleweight, Canelo seems to have learned another hard lesson. That in boxing, size really does matter (ask fellow pound-for-pounder Vasiliy Lomachenko).
Canelo also seems to have picked up another lesson from Mayweather, albeit one that boxing fans dislike: That matchmaking is in itself an art (of which Mayweather is a virtuoso).
Which brings us to his opponent: Callum Smith.
Smith is best described as an old European-type fighter. He stands tall, is technically proficient and has decent pop in his fists.
He is not a spectacular fighter. His skills aren’t head-turning. He does almost everything really well (barring making his head a moving target).
The best weapon in his arsenal? A terrific left hook.
While all the attention will undoubtedly be focused on the Mexican, Smith is a live underdog.
One that Canelo would be wise not to underestimate, given the size, height and reach advantages that Smith holds.
At 6’3, the British national towers over his 5’8 Mexican opponent.
Worse for Canelo, given what we saw in the Kovalev bout, is the eight-inch reach advantage that Smith possesses.
So, how does the fight play out?
Prediction: Canelo stops Smith late
Sadly, for Smith, lesson one, much like The Dude, abides. There are levels to this game.
Smith is a really good fighter. Canelo is elite.
Expect Smith’s sizeable advantages over Canelo to pay off in the early going.
Smith will likely try and impose himself on the smaller man. Try to manoeuvre him into that left hook.
Canelo, looking to settle into his counter-punching role in the first few rounds, will have trouble navigating that massive reach deficit.
Canelo might get caught a couple of times, but he’ll sail through thanks to that iron chin.
While both are the same age, Canelo has vastly more professional experience in the bank to draw on than Smith.
That, plus the difference in skill level, means it’s only a matter of time before Canelo slips into high gear and leaves Smith behind.
Expect the Mexican to take over midway through the fight.
Soon, Canelo will be battering him with a sustained body attack and even walking the bigger man down.
Canelo stops Smith late: Between rounds 9 and 12.
Then announces the bout everyone really wants to see: Canelo-Golovkin III in May 2021.
Hey, a boxing fan can dream.
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