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So, this is what we’re left with.

A week after a reigning middleweight champion fought a reigning welterweight champ as part of HBO’s regular broadcast lineup, the network’s pay-per-view arm is hanging a $64.95 price tag on a fight that involves a man who surrendered his 160-pound crown to avoid a fight with said middleweight champ. He instead dropped down to 154 to face the 17th-best fighter in that weight class.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Canelo Alvarez and Liam Smith.

The two will tangle amid the Mexican independence weekend revelry at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, headlining a fight card that’s expected to challenge Alvarez’s previously posted Lone Star State attendance numbers of 39,243 (for a 2013 defeat of Austin Trout in San Antonio) and 31,588 (for a 2015 knockout of James Kirkland in Houston).

Alvarez, then 22, fought on the same holiday weekend in 2012 and defeated Josesito Lopez in Las Vegas, then returned two years later for a lucrative battle with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in which he lost a decision at the same MGM Grand Garden Arena venue.

Now 26, he’ll be showcasing himself against Smith, who’s fighting outside his native United Kingdom for the first time while defending his WBO junior middleweight championship for the third time.

Alvarez was the WBC’s middleweight champion after a defeat of Miguel Cotto last November and defended that title with a sixth-round erasure of Amir Khan on May 7.

He’d seemed eager for a match with mandatory challenger Gennady Golovkin in the aftermath of the Khan fight, saying, “In Mexico, we don’t [expletive] around. We don’t come to play in this sport. I fear no one in this sport. We can fight right now, we’ll put on the gloves again.”

Days later, though, he vacated the crown soon after receiving an order from the organization that he open negotiations for a get-together with Golovkin.

Golovkin was subsequently elevated to WBC champion and defended in the aforementioned duel with 147-pound champ Kell Brook last week in London.

Alvarez, though, remains insistent that he and Golovkin will ultimately clash.

Canelo Alvarez still thinks his bout with GGG will happen. USATSI

“Any day, any time. When the negotiations are done and the fight is done, I will be ready. They need to worry about it, not me,” he said. “I’m not worried at all about going to 160 pounds.

“I’m a strong fighter, I’m a fighter who can adapt to my surroundings. I can’t tell you now what I will be like at 160 as I don’t know yet. We will see in a couple more fights in how I feel and look. We will see what comes. I will say this one more time. They need to worry. They need to make something happen.”

The Smith-Alvarez fight will highlight a two-bout HBO card airing Saturday at 9 p.m.

The 154-pound title match precedes a 12-rounder between a pair of fighters stopped by Golovkin in failed middleweight championship bids — Gabriel Rosado (TKO 7) and Willie Monroe Jr. (TKO 6).

They’ll duel for the dubious WBO intercontinental title while trying to establish themselves as viable challengers to the organization’s full-fledged champ at 160, Billy Joe Saunders. Rosado is listed as Saunders’ No. 10 contender in the WBO’s August rankings, while Monroe is four slots behind at No. 14.

Rosado is 2-3 with a no-contest in six fights since losing to Golovkin in January 2013, while Monroe won his lone appearance since being drubbed by Golovkin in May 2015.

Both men are hoping a win will yield a date with Alvarez later this year, and they’ve played the rivalry card during their share of the run-up to Saturday’s show.

“I don’t even know who Monroe thinks he is,” Rosado said. “He thinks he’s this big puncher and people are scared to fight him. Nobody knows who he is. Willie’s acting like he’s being ducked. He’s really not special.”

Rosado then suggested Monroe has “fought a bunch of ESPN-level fighters,” to which Monroe quickly responded, “I’m about to fight another one.”

Alvarez is a prohibitive favorite, according to the numbers guys at sports.Bovada.lv. It’ll take a $1,200 wager to return $100 on him, while a $100 outlay on Smith would return $700 for an upset.

Smith is labeled No. 17 in the world at 154 pounds by the Independent World Boxing Rankings, which list all fighters in a weight class regardless of what title belts they hold. Alvarez is No. 1 in the same rankings, while the two fighters against whom Smith defended his WBO title — Kilrain Kelly and Predrag Radosevic — were Nos. 79 and 50, respectively.

“We are very calm about entering this fight,” Smith said. “Canelo is an elite fighter and this is my chance to go up in the ladder. I look forward to Saturday and the show we are going to put on for all the fans.”

Tale of the Tape
CategoryCanelo AlvarezLiam Smith
Record47-1-1, 33 KOs23-0-1, 13 KOs
Height5-foot-95-foot-10
Weight154154
HometownGuadalajara, MexicoLiverpool, United Kingdom
Rounds332126

How does Smith win? Several fighters have been able to frustrate Alvarez by being nimble and quick-handed. The problem for Smith: he’s not typically portrayed himself as either. Instead, the Englishman has been most at home in fights where his opponent is there to be hit, as Alvarez is likely to be. So, for the upset to occur, Smith is going to have to whether a physical storm in a way many of Alvarez’s opponents haven’t, and be able to similarly impose his will in a way others haven’t either. He’s a long shot for a reason, after all.

How does Alvarez win? Say what you will about his competitive intentions or his business sense, but Alvarez can make a strong case as the best 154-pound fighter on the planet. He’s handled opponents who appear far superior to Smith by using a methodical, grinding style in which he works the body judiciously and positions his foes for damaging shots up to the head as well. He’s technically sound and takes a good shot, so, unless Smith is able to frustrate him with his feet or rattle him with his fists, Alvarez wins by simply being himself.

Prediction: Alvarez by TKO. It’s rarely a good sign when a fighter states his case by suggesting something along the lines of “Hey, Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson, so I can win, too.” But that’s largely what Smith has gone with. Problem is, he’s not fundamentally superior to Alvarez as Douglas was to Tyson, and he’s likely not catching Alvarez — on a Mexican holiday weekend in a gigantic venue — in a situation where he’s likely not to be properly focused and motivated, a la February 1990 in Tokyo.

Put it all together and feels like a rough go for Smith, and one that’ll end in grinding fashion somewhere in the middle rounds — probably by the eighth.


Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Canelo Alvarez vs. Liam Smith: Predictions, odds, date, fight card, start time