A big crowd is expected at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas this Saturday night, as Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders meet in a Super Middleweight unification showdown.
WBC and WBA (Super) champion, Alvarez (55-1-2, KO37) needs little introduction, and will enjoy the support of a passionate pro Mexican crowd in Texas as he attempts to extend an unbeaten record stretching back well over seven years.
A professional from the age of just 15, Alvarez has established himself as the current pound-for-pound king of the sport.
Now 30, he moved into world title class way back in 2011, taking the vacant WBC Super Welterweight title by outscoring the brave Matthew Hatton in Anaheim. He would make five defences before unifying against Austin Trout to add the WBA crown, but was then defeated for the first and only time in September 2013, given a boxing lesson by the great Floyd Mayweather.
He would move up to Middleweight to take the WBC belt from Miguel Cotto, and iced Amir Khan in his sole defence before dropping back down to Super Welter to knock out Liam Smith to gain the WBO title.
Canelo jumped back up to 160 pounds in an attempt to unify the division against Gennady Golovkin, but their original September 2017 meeting ended in a controversial draw, with the Kazakh unfortunate to not get the nod. A rematch had to happen, but Canelo would be involved in a failed drug test, and when they met in September 2018, Alvarez took a tight majority verdict.
Since that duo of contests, Alvarez has cemented his legacy further, winning the WBA Super Middleweight title from Rocky Fielding, and then defending his Middleweight gold against Daniel Jacobs.
November 2019 saw Saul become a four-weight world champion, knocking out Sergey Kovalev in 11 absorbing rounds to become WBO king.
Back he went down to Super Middle, adding the WBC belt to the collection with a dominant points win over Callum Smith, and last time out, in February 2021, he fulfilled his mandatory obligations, forcing the overmatched Turk, Avni Yildirim, to retire after three woefully one sided rounds.
The next challenger to attempt to derail the Alvarez express is Britain’s very own Billy Joe Saunders (30-0, KO14), and the 31-year-old from Hatfield brings the WBO title to the table in what will be a triple title clash.
Even though he is a two-weight world champion, Saunders has largely flattered to deceive in a stop-start career that began after the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
After spells as British, Commonwealth and European champion at Middleweight, with some quality wins over Gary O’Sullivan, John Ryder and Chris Eubank Jr, Saunders moved up to world level in December 2015, and dropped Andy Lee twice on the way to a majority verdict win that won him the WBO world title.
He made two laboured points win defences before arguably his career best performance, a dazzling wide win on the cards out in Canada against David Lemieux, but he couldn’t build on it, and then saw a proposed defence in Boston against Demetrius Andrade go up in smoke as a result of a failed drug test, allegedly for a nasal spray.
Saunders was forced to vacate in October 2018, and he returned in May 2019 to take the vacant WBO belt at Super Middleweight in a lopsided points win against Shefat Isufi in Stevenage.
He had all sorts of trouble six months later before knocking out Marcelo Coceres in eleven rounds, and he was last out in December 2020, handling Martin Murray as he eased to a wide win on the scorecards.
Prediction: This one could go a number of ways, but my concern is Saunders’ ability at the heavier weight, as he is a natural Middleweight.
Alvarez, as we know, is massive at any weight he campaigns at, and is likely to bulk up after the weigh in to utilise his strength against Billy Joe.
Saunders will attempt to bring Canelo out of his comfort zone early on, but once the Mexican stamps his authority, he can pull away for a clear points win, and may even be able to push for a late stoppage.
The undercard is pretty scarce of big names, but there is a second world title match on offer. WBO Light Flyweight champion, Elwin Soto (18-1, KO12), defends his gold for a third time, and the Mexican takes on Japan’s Katsunari Takayama (32-8, KO12).
Soto won the belt in June 2019 with a final round stoppage of Angel Acosta, and was last seen in October 2020, outpointing Carlos Buitrago.
Takayama is a former IBF and WBO champion at Strawweight, but the 37-year-old has had eight defeats in a long and hard career. He has only been stopped once before though, way back in 2003, so Soto will likely need the judges to register another defence.
Britain’s Kieron Conway (16-1-1, KO3) never shirks a challenge, and the Northampton native defends his WBA Intercontinental Super Welterweight title in what looks like a tough ten round assignment against Senegal born Frenchman, Souleymane Cissokho (12-0, KO8).
Conway is on a run of four straight wins since a June 2019 draw with Ted Cheeseman for the British title, and won his belt with a dominant points win against Nav Mansouri in August 2020.
His last appearance was a landslide unanimous verdict against Macaulay McGowan in December of the same year.
Cissokho has looked good so far, and was out as recently as March, stopping Daniel Echeverria in six rounds. The pick is for Cissokho to be tested, but to take a clear points win.
In ten round action, promising Cuban Heavyweight, Frank Sanchez (17-0, KO13), should be able to take out the experienced Nagy Aguilera (21-10, KO14) inside the distance.
The sole eight rounder comes at Welterweight, where Mexican banger, Christian Alan Gomez Duran (19-2-1, KO17), may need all eight sessions to overcome Xavier Wilson (11-2-1, KO1).
Hot Featherweight prospect, Marc Castro (2-0, KO2) can extend his 100 percent knockout ratio in his six rounder with Irving Macias Castillo (9-1, KO6).
The Davis twins are also in action, with Lightweight Keyshawn Davis (2-0, KO2) in a six rounder with Jose Antonio Meza (6-4, KO1) where he may need the scorecards. Kelvin Davis (1-0, KO1) should be able to notch an inside schedule win in his four rounder with Czech Republic’s Jan Marsalek (8-2, KO7).