Saturday evenings in Dallas are sometimes reserved for NFL playoff nights for the Cowboys. This Saturday, a gunslinger from across the border rides into town as the AT&T Stadium plays host to the biggest draw in boxing. Three Super-Middleweight titles are on the line as the WBA/WBC titlist Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez faces the WBO holder Billy Joe Saunders from England in what will be a very intriguing clash of styles.
What can I say about Canelo (55-1-2, 37 KOs) that we don't know already? At age 30, he is at the peak of his powers, and he is probably at his optimum weight. The four-division champ is clearly the No. 1 fighter in the world based on his resume alone, and his list of big-name victims is longer than one’s arm, yet in some quarters he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
He has faced the best in the three divisions he has mainly participated in, and except for that points defeat to Floyd Mayweather eight years ago -- when all the terms (including weight) were against him -- he has remained unbeaten. No matter what he does from here on out, his legacy and place in boxing history is assured: Canelo is one of the greatest fighters ever from his native Mexico.
So, if Canelo is respected, but not likeable, he faces a similar enigma in his opponent on Saturday evening. Saunders has a 30-0 record (14 KOs), is a year older than Canelo and is also highly talented. But where Canelo is always looking to give his best, the Englishman often doesn't -- Saunders fights to the level of his opponent, often appearing unmotivated. When he is on his game, though, he pulls out signature wins like his technical dismantling of dangerman David Lemieux, making it look easy with a shutout points win nearly 3.5 years ago. Add in the victory over former long-time contender Andy Lee and you can see there are definite skills possessed by the one-time Olympian. He will need all of them, plus tons of determination in the fight he has been waiting for, the biggest fight of his career.
Stylistically, this appears to be more of an interesting -- rather than exciting -- matchup. Canelo is strong, big at the weight, and although he is not tall at 5-foot-8. His 70.5-inch reach is decent, thus only be giving away a half-inch in this measurement to Saunders, who at 5-11 will be looking to utilize his length advantage, as well as his faster feet. The power advantage certainly lies with Canelo, and he is very capable of winning this by stoppage, whereas Saunders will have to do this the hard way and try to win on points. Canelo will be endeavoring to come forward, cut off the ring and get Saunders cornered where he can make use of his heavy hands to head and body. In contrast, Saunders will be moving backwards, trying to keep Canelo at length, using his quick feet and snappy punches to keep Canelo off balance and reaching. It is a classic bull-against-matador contest, the pressure getting applied by Canelo, the frustration coming from Saunders.
Both fighters’ records reveal that they have each completed the 12-round distance 12 times. Saunders has never competed in a unification of world titles, yet Canelo has on six occasions, each of them going the distance. Canelo has faced unbeaten fighters in eight contests: Five of these have gone the distance (one of which is his only defeat, vs. Mayweather), the other three have gone nine rounds or longer.
The questions I have been hearing from fight fans across social media have been the following ones: Will this be one of the biggest shocks by a Brit fighting across the Atlantic? Will Canelo stop Saunders?
I say no to both questions. If Austin Trout, Callum Smith and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. can take Canelo the distance, so can Saunders, but I can't see Saunders doing enough to impress the judges in front of what will effectively be a hometown crowd for Canelo. The styles and stats of both fighters are indicating an outcome that appears to be a logical one, which is Canelo to win by decision.
Pick: Canelo Alvarez by points + 150