In the first moment, Canelo Alvarez came face to face with his next opponent at the press conference earlier this week to hype Saturday’s return against WBA super middleweight champion Callum Smith, it was hard to overlook how high a challenge this was for the Mexican superstar.
The pun in this case was intentional for Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KO), the reigning pound-for-pound king who gave up no shortage of seven inches in height to 6-foot-3 Smith (27 -0 , 19 KOs) as the two stared deep into each other’s eyes as the flashes from nearby cameras clicked on and off around them.
The 30-year-old Smith, a native of England and the youngest of four pro boxers as brothers, is nothing to be taken lightly as an opponent. He has power, size and hunger. He also fits nicely into Alvarez’s CV given how routinely difficult he matches himself despite keeping as much leverage as the sport’s biggest star.
So when the pictures of the height difference between the two flooded the internet just days from Saturday’s match (20.00 ET at DAZN, sign up now) inside the Alamodome in San Antonio, it was only natural to wonder if Alvarez had bitten more than he could chew.
Not only is Alvarez, 30, looking to unite the 168-pound WBA title after previously holding the governing body’s secondary belt, the two fighters will also compete for the WBC title, which was released after David Benavidez missed of emphasis for a title defense earlier this year. Still, he was far from worried when asked how he would overcome the height difference.
“We knew about the height and we also knew about his qualities, but I have the boxing experience that is needed and we have prepared for that,” Alvarez told “Morning Kombat” on Wednesday.
Smith’s advantage will of course only be one if he uses it by keeping Alvarez on the outside of his jab and preventing the same kind of vicious body attack that Alvarez once used to end Smith’s older brother Liam during their 2016 154-pound fight.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Smith told CBS Sports last week. “Obviously I have to try to use all my benefits as much as possible. There’s no point in having a seven-inch height advantage if I did not use it.
“At the highest level, a lot of that can change as the match goes on. Some of it will be close and some of it will be at a distance. I just have to be prepared for what Canelo Alvarez shows up. I have to have a good game plan and pull it off at night. I think on December 20 I will still wake up as a champion. ”
Asked whether he would target Smith’s other two brothers or any extended family members if he were to pass Callum over the weekend, Alvarez let out a rare laugh.
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“Who is there and who is the best, we are going after him,” Alvarez said.
The reality is that Alvarez does not lack great opportunities waiting for him after recently freeing himself from exclusive offers with both DAZN and the former promoter Golden Boy. But none of that matters if he does not first get through Smith by finding a way to get into his opponent.
“Hopefully yes, hopefully yes,” Alvarez said of whether he targets the body. “That’s what we’re going to try to see, and it could be the best story.”
It’s not the deepest map we’ve seen, but there’s still plenty of intrigue surrounding the main event. Let’s take a closer look at the complete match card and the final odds in the main events before making an expert selection and prediction of Canelo vs. Smith.
Match cards, odds
- Canelo Alvarez -650 vs. Callum Smith (c) +475, WBC and WBA super middleweight titles
- Marc Castro vs. Luis Javier Valdes, bantamweight
- Frank Sanchez vs. Julian Fernandez, heavyweight
- Austin Williams Vs. Isiah Jones, middleweight
- Christian Alan Gomez Duran Vs. Angel Hernandez, welterweight
It is an honor for Alvarez’s greatness that he can so effortlessly jump between a trio of weight classes from 160 to 175 pounds and still carry both his power and instincts as a finisher. But despite being the smaller man in the recent title, battling the much larger Rocky Fielding in super middleweight and Sergey Kovalev in light heavyweight, Alvarez played the role of stalking power puncher looking for the finish.
Alvarez can, of course, fight his way to victory if he should, of course, need it, which he did in 2019 against a much bigger Daniel Jacobs in their middleweight title club. There’s still reason to believe he’s going to go down and overwhelm Smith in this fight and look to do it slowly.
While it’s easy to say that Smith’s jab will be the main blow in this fight, so he can control range and prevent Alvarez from getting close enough to target his body, none of that means if he does not give Alvarez a reason to hesitate.
This is where the effectiveness of Smith’s right hand becomes critical, especially early in the match. Making a decision against Alvarez has long proved to be a difficult thing given how much the referees have preferred his sheer opposition in close combat. So the first half of the match has to tell if Smith can actually play the role of the bigger man and get Alvarez to pay to cross the imaginary line in front of him.
Should Smith prove unable to do so, a delayed stop (especially via heavy hooks to the rib cage to slow him down) seems almost inevitable.
Smith is big, tough and hungry, but it’s pretty much up to him how much risk he’s willing to take to actually try to win as opposed to hanging around and hoping for the best.
Select: Alvarez via TKO11