Look to play Alvarez early in title fight

February 25, 2021 09:40 PM

Saturday nights in Miami used to be reserved for Gloria Estefan, but this weekend sees another Latino superstar roll into town as the world's pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter, Mexico's Saul "Canelo" Alvarez defends his WBA/WBC Super-Middleweight titles against Turkish contender Avni Yildirim at the home of the Dolphins, the Hard Rock Stadium. 

This fight, and I say the word "fight" in the loosest sense, really is a case of marking time for Canelo (54-1-2, 36 KO's). Saturday's opponent Yildirim (21-2, 12 KO's) has been winning at two levels below, and when he has stepped up closer to the top, has been found out each time. In October 2017, Yildirim found himself clean knocked out in three by Chris Eubank Jr., a fighter not known for power. His other defeat came in his last fight two years ago against Anthony Dirrell, who is a decent gym fighter but has never really delivered on the world stage when it has mattered.  All his wins have come against fighters who have all been outside the top 25 in the rankings and his last victory came by majority decision against a 46-year-old Lolenga Mock. This is not the credentials for a fighter facing the very best the world has to offer, and approaching the age of 30, I can't see where the massive improvement required is coming from.

Canelo, on the other hand, has been feasting at the top table for what seems like forever. He has reached 30 years of age but seems to be entering his peak and keeps getting better and better.  His last fight was only 10 weeks ago when he soundly thrashed the defending WBA title holder, Callum Smith, winning by lopsided decision. A year earlier, Canelo took a version of the Light-Heavyweight title when he knocked out Sergey Kovalev in 11. When he has fought fighters clearly below his level, he tends to deal with them quickly (Rocky Fielding in three, James Kirkland in three, Amir Khan in six) so it looks fairly clear how this one is going. Surely he will be aiming to better Chris Eubank Jr.'s achievement and he has recent rounds in the bank against an inactive fighter way below his ability.

Verdict: Canelo in rounds 1-6 looks like the safest -240 wager in a long time, and 100 for rounds 1-4 also looks pretty good, 180 is likely to be best for rounds 1-3, and I wouldn't discourage a small play on rounds 1-2 at around 310


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