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Another dramatic night for Canelo: Weekend Review

19
Sep

BIGGEST WINNER

Canelo Alvarez: Canelo’s victory over Liam Smith on Saturday night wasn’t particularly important from a boxing standpoint because of Smith, a solid all-around fighter whose limitations were exposed for all to see. The fight wasn’t a mismatch on paper but it also wasn’t a great challenge for a fighter of the Mexican’s ability.

It wasn’t just another triumph for Canelo, though. It earned him a junior middleweight title and it was a big success from an entertainment perspective, which we all know is an important part of the sport. The fans want drama and they received it on Saturday.

Start with the crowd. More than 50,000 people filled the stadium where the Cowboys play, which would’ve created an electric atmosphere if Canelo were fighting a flyweight. And they left happy, as Canelo broke down and then viciously knocked out his game opponent.

That’s what they came to see. And Canelo delivered, something too few fighters are able to do.

You can legitimately criticize the opponent, particularly if you were hoping Canelo would fight Gennady Golovkin on this day. We all share your pain in that regard, believe it or not. What happened at AT&T was compelling, though: A credible if less-than-inspiring opponent, a massive crowd in a magnificent venue and a brutal, body-snatcher knockout that saved an otherwise boring card.

That’s not a bad night’s work even though it wasn’t the best match up.

MOST UNCERTAIN

Canelo’s next opponent: Canelo wouldn’t say definitively but implied strongly that he’ll fight at 160 pounds going forward. And both he and his handlers reiterated after the Smith fight that Canelo will face Golovkin at some point even if an agreement isn’t on the horizon. (See below.)

Promoter Oscar De La Hoya again pointed to September of next year, which would allow Canelo to fight twice – in December (if his injured hand allows it) and May – before the middleweight showdown with Triple G.

Who might those opponents be? Two realistic possibilities are David Lemieux and Curtis Stevens, both aggressive middleweights who will make for entertaining fights but probably don’t have the tools to beat the middleweight newbie. In other words, they would allow Canelo to get accustomed to the new division with limited risk.

A more intriguing possibility is Danny Jacobs, a strong, talented middleweight who would pose a legitimate threat to Canelo. No one would criticize that matchup even with Golovkin waiting somewhere in the wings. Negotiations would be tricky — maybe impossible — because of the promotional affiliations (Canelo with Golden Boy, Jacobs with PBC) but I guarantee you that Jacobs would be interested and (in spite of what many seem to believe) Canelo embraces challenges.

And I think even the most cynical fans would embrace this scenario for Canelo: Lemieux in December, Jacobs in May and Golovkin in September. Smith would be long forgotten after that run.

MOST DIFFICULT

Canelo vs. Golovkin negotiations: De La Hoya said he extended an eight-figure offer to Golovkin – “by far the biggest in his career,” he said – but never heard back from Tom Loeffler, Triple-G’s promoter. Loeffler reportedly said the offer wasn’t “substantial enough for him to act on right now.” De La Hoya’s response to that: “At least respond. Let’s talk about it.”

That’s where Canelo vs. Golovkin stood a few hours after the Smith fight. The road to the showdown might not be easy but they rarely are when so much money is at stake; everyone fights for every dollar available before the actual fight.

Call me overly optimistic if you like but I think the fight WILL happen next September. I think Golovkin needs it desperately both in terms of his bank account and legacy. And I believe Canelo has no choice but to fight his greatest rival. He has said repeatedly that he won’t fight Golovkin until he’s ready – which is smart even if it pisses you off – but he knows he will never live it down if he avoids the gifted Kazakhstani much longer.

The die has been cast. It’s just a matter of when.

And what might happen when they actually meet? I thought the moment someone first mentioned the possibility of Canelo vs. Golovkin that Canelo would have only a small chance of winning and nothing has happened since to change my mind.

Canelo is much better than many believe but Triple-G seems to have the ability of an all-time great. That said, Golovkin showed vulnerabilities against Kell Brook that we’d never seen before, which leads me to believe that Canelo’s chances of success aren’t quite as small now.

Early prediction: Triple-G by late knockout or unanimous decision. Now let’s make the fight.

BIGGEST LOSER

Smith: I hesitate to attach the “L” word to Smith (23-1-1, 13 KOs); he isn’t that. The Liverpudlian was in over his head against one of this generation’s best fighters but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good at what he does.

He was everything he was billed to be, a solid boxer, tough and determined. He was competitive with Canelo in the early rounds, standing up to the winner’s punishing punches and delivering his own, before he was worn down.

Smith worked as hard as Canelo did, according to CompuBox stats: Canelo threw 422 punches, Smith 403. The problem for Smith was that Canelo landed more punches (157 to 115) and almost doubled the number power shots Smith landed (113 to 68). Those power punches – mostly to the body – are what led to Smith’s demise.

Where does this leave Smith? I believe he’ll remain an important regional fighter back home based on his resume and his performance on Saturday and, if he can win one or two important fights, he could return to the world stage again one day.

I think a natural opponent for him would be Brook, assuming Brook campaigns at 154 pounds going forward. They share recent losses to superstars, Smith to Canelo and Brook to Golovkin. A fight between them might serve as eliminator, with the winner going on to a big fight. The problem is that loser would be in a difficult position, perhaps relegated to second-tier status.

I know this: Smith believes in himself. He already has called out Brook.

BIGGEST WINNERS II

Three fighters: Shinsuke Yamanaka, Oleksandr Usyk and Hozumi Hasegawa all had a big weekend.

Predictions of Yamanaka’s slow decline were premature. The longtime bantamweight titleholder demonstrated that in a fight-of-the-year candidate against rival Anselmo Moreno on Friday in Osaka, Japan. Yamanaka went down in the fourth round but put Moreno (36-5-1, 12 KOs) down four times, including twice in the seventh.

The fight was stopped in that round, giving Yamanaka (26-0-2, 18 KOs) the RING bantamweight title and reaffirming his position as one of the best fighters in the world. Yamanaka and Moreno were rated Nos. 1 and 2 by the RING going into the fight.

We all knew Usyk was good. The Ukrainian won the 2012 Olympic heavyweight gold medal and his first nine fights as a pro, all by knockout. Then he stepped up to fight then-unbeaten WBO cruiserweight titleholder Krzysztof Glowacki (26-1, 16 KOs) on Saturday in Poland, by far Usyk’s biggest test. He passed. Usyk (10-0, 9 KOs) unleashed all his special talents to win a one-sided decision and the title. The guess here is that the 29-year-old will be around for quite a while.

And Hasegawa, 35, had been written off by some after he lost his junior featherweight title to Kiko Martinez in 2014. Not so fast. Hasegawa (36-5, 16 KOs) stopped hard-punching Hugo Ruiz (36-4, 32 KOs) in nine rounds to win another 122-pound title on the Yamanaka-Moreno card, proving that he has more to give.

The Japanese and the Ukrainians celebrated this weekend.

RABBIT PUNCHES

Having trouble sleeping at night? Or just masochistic? Watch the Willie Monroe Jr.Gabriel Rosado fight, which was on the Canelo-Smith undercard.

Monroe (21-2, 6 KOs) was most responsible for one of the most boring fights you’ll ever see but you really can’t blame him. He’s a hit-and-not-get hit technician; that’s his style, which works fairly well when he’s not fighting Golovkin. And Rosado (23-10, 13 KOs), who is normally an action fighter, simply didn’t have the skill set to get to Monroe. The result was painful to watch. Monroe won a unanimous decision but not many fans. …

The other televised fights, involving young Joseph Diaz Jr. and Diego De La Hoya, weren’t thrilling either but they were palatable compared to Monroe-Rosado.

Diaz (22-0, 13 KOs) stopped Andrew Cancio (17-4-2, 13 KOs) in the ninth round of a scheduled 10-round featherweight bout, another step toward a world title shot for the 2012 Olympian. Diaz seems to have all the tools to succeed on a high level. De La Hoya (16-0, 9 KOs) outboxed capable Luis Orlando Del Valle (22-3, 16 KOs) to win a unanimous decision in a 10-round junior featherweight bout. De La Hoya, a cousin of Oscar, is a very good, disciplined boxer. …

Sadam Ali looked good in his first fight after he was stopped by Jessie Vargas in March. Ali (23-1, 13 KOs) won a one-sided decision a 10-round welterweight fight against Saul Corral, which was no surprise. He also traded punches toe-to-toe with Corral on several occasions, demonstrating that he isn’t gun shy after his knockout loss. Corral went down during one of those exchanges in Round 4. … Corral (21-8, 12 KOs) is one of those Mexicans with a mediocre record but solid skills and an abundance of courage. He came to fight. … The biggest punch on the undercard was thrown by Vergil Ortiz Jr. (2-0, 2 KOs) of Dallas. A right to the jaw put Ernesto Hernandez (1-4, 1 KO) through the ropes and ended the scheduled four-round junior welterweight fight only 40 seconds after the opening bell. The hometown crowd was pleased.

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