Canelo Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs) will make his move to 154 pounds on Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, when he challenges for the WBO super welterweight title against Liam Smith (23-0-1, 13 KOs) on HBO PPV.
Alvarez has dropped his WBC middleweight belt and moved back to 154 pounds where he once held the WBC and WBA super welterweight belts. Alvarez’s move back to 154 pounds wouldn’t be so controversial if it weren’t so clearly an attempt to avoid Gennady Golovkin. Alvarez isn’t a true middleweight. He fought both of his middleweight title fights at a catchweight below the 160-pound limit, but his insistence on stating that he’ll fight Golovkin eventually makes his decision to bail on the mandatory that much more frustrating.
The former champ is looking to collect a 154-pound belt in the interim, but rather than challenge one of the very top super middleweights, he will take the calculated risk against the least threatening champion. We don’t know how good Liam Smith truly is as he’s never once taken on a top-10 super middleweight, and Smith himself is ranked No. 7 by FightNews and No. 8 by ESPN in the division.
We know how good the Charlo brothers are and how good Erislandy Lara is — he once took Alvarez the distance in a split decision — but as has been the case in recent history Alvarez chose to make the safe business decision with Smith.
As boxing fans, maybe we should be used to this. It’s what Mayweather did for years and plenty of other champions have done. But Alvarez does himself a disservice by insisting that Golovkin is going to be his opponent in the near future. Canelo and his camp continue to push back that target date — as of now that is Fall 2017 — and make other fights that produce less intrigue happen.
Until now, Alvarez has at least made calculated business decisions to face names known to even the casual boxing fan. He took the middleweight title from Miguel Cotto, who was even less of a middleweight than Alvarez, but that fight was still entertaining and Cotto is a star in the sport. Then, Alvarez brought Amir Khan up to challenge for the title. Khan, also a well-known name, was not big enough or strong enough to handle Alvarez, but had the speed to appear to be providing a challenge in the early rounds before taking a KO loss.
Now, Alvarez attempts to sell pay-per-views for a fight against a champion that is not known to a casual boxing fan. It’s not much of a risk in the ring (he’s a -1200 favorite), but a bit of a heat-check from the business perspective. Even the risk of a relative flop in pay-per-view buys is being mitigated by fighting in AT&T Stadium. Jerry World will give him a chance to sell a huge amount of tickets and bring in a massive live gate, which he’s proven to be able to do. The Mexican-born boxer packed Minute Maid Stadium in Houston for his destruction of James Kirkland, which can negate a low pay-per-view buy total.
Alvarez is the face of Mexican boxing and those loyal fans will show up to watch him do his thing in the ring. Make no mistake, what Alvarez does in the ring is impressive.
Alvarez could, and should, be a super welterweight champion. He’s among the very best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport and has incredible technical skill to go along with his tremendous power. At 154 pounds, he could have plenty of competition from the Charlo brothers, Lara and Demetrius Andrade — not to mention Kell Brook’s impending move to super welterweight. If Canelo never moved to 160 pounds, he probably wouldn’t have faced the public backlash he’s now receiving.
Instead of staying at super welterweight, Alvarez went after the 160-pound belt because it would make him a multiple division champion, but he did so when there was another titleholder that was universally received as the best fighter in the division.
Once he became a middleweight champion, he could no longer use the “smaller fighter” excuse — which is a reasonable one — for not taking on Golovkin. Not wanting to move from 154 to 160 pounds would have been understandable, but the moment he took the WBC middleweight belt, the only fight that could satiate the public’s appetite would be a matchup with Golovkin.
Until we get that fight, Alvarez will be accused of running scared in a sport where personal pride is crucially important. Those accusations only grow stronger when Alvarez bolts the middleweight division and takes on a fighter like Smith that doesn’t move the needle in any way.
Golovkin looked as vulnerable as he ever has last week in a fifth-round TKO victory over Kell Brook, and you can be assured that after his fight on Saturday night, Alvarez will be asked again about taking on GGG. Whatever he says in the ring after the fight about Golovkin is meaningless until a contract is signed with Golovkin.
The questions will persist and Canelo will have no one to blame but himself and his camp.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Canelo Alvarez set to fight Liam Smith, but can’t avoid the GGG questions