Pound-for-pound stalwart Canelo Alvarez continues his quest for Super Middleweight unification tonight (Sat., May 8, 2021), putting his WBC and WBA “Super” belts on the line against unbeaten WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders inside a packed AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Alvarez claimed his latest set of titles in Dec. 2020 with a dominant decision over Callum Smith (watch highlights), and after demolishing WBC mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim two months back (watch highlights).
The card will also see WBO Light Flyweight Champion Elwin Soto defend his title against multiple-time titlist Katsunari Takayama, Kieron Conway meet Olympic bronze medalist Souleymane Cissokho in a clash of rising Super Welterweights, and Heavyweight prospect Frank Sanchez take on journeyman Nagy Aguilera.
We all know who the star of the show is, though, so let’s see what he’s in for ...
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez
Record: 55-1-2 (37 KO)
Last Five Fights: Avni Yildirim (RTD-3), Callum Smith (UD) Sergey Kovalev (KO-11), Daniel Jacobs (UD), Rocky Fielding (TKO-3), Gennadiy Golovkin (MD)
Significant Victories (other than those mentioned above): Gennadiy Golovkin, Austin Trout, Erislandy Lara, Amir Khan, Liam Smith
Billy Joe Saunders
Record: 30-0 (14 KO)
Last Five Fights: Martin Murray (UD), Marcelo Coceres (KO-11), Shefat Isufi (UD), Charles Adamu (RTD-4), David Lemieux (UD)
Significant Victories (other than those mentioned above): Willie Monroe Jr., Artur Akavov, Andy Lee, Chris Eubank Jr., John Ryder
When Saunders is firing on all cylinders, he can make extremely capable fighters look downright stupid. His clowning of David Lemieux — who boasts some of the heaviest hands below 175 pounds — had the air of someone putting their precocious younger sibling back in their place. That version of Saunders, the impeccable spoiler, has the ghost of a chance to defang Canelo’s legendary offense.
Thing is, seemingly every great performance of Saunders’ career is offset by a narrow escape elsewhere. Those wins over Akavov, Lee, and Eubank all came by close decision, and unheralded Marcelo Coceres was up on one scorecard in their 2019 meeting when Saunders finally managed to put him down in the 11th round. We know Canelo will enter the ring in peak form, as he always has, but Saunders supporters have to satisfy themselves with an assumption.
Even if Saunders does put forth the fight of his life, it’s not sufficient to carry him to victory. He lacks the footwork that Floyd Mayweather and, to a lesser extent, Erislandy Lara used to frustrate the Mexican star, instead relying on good range management and head movement. Canelo’s pressure and body attack will get him to the ropes and corners more often than he’d like, and Saunders lacks the thump to offset the damage Canelo can inflict during his windows of opportunity.
Saunders doesn’t figure to have any more luck on the front foot, either; Coceres had a lot of success timing Saunders’ attacks with counter rights, and Canelo’s more than sharp enough on the retreat to recreate those efforts. Bullying Canelo might still be one of the best means to beat him, but Saunders is no Gennadiy Golovkin.
To Saunders’ credit, he’s never offered a reason to question his durability, so I don’t expect Canelo to significantly expand his highlight reel at the Brit’s expense. Still, expect a stalking Canelo to punish Saunders’ midsection en route to a wide decision
Prediction: Alvarez def. Saunders via unanimous decision
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE coverage of tonight’s main event right here. The DAZN-streamed broadcast kicks off at 8 p.m. ET, with Alvarez and Saunders likely to make the walk closer to 11 p.m. ET.