Fight Picks: Canelo Alvarez vs. Callum Smith
On Saturday, boxing’s biggest star Canelo Alvarez will look to become a four-weight world champion when he challenges Callum Smith for The Ring, WBA and vacant WBC super middleweight titles at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
This intriguing looking matchup will be broadcast on DAZN, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.
Canelo boasts wins over Shane Mosley (UD 12), Austin Trout (UD 12), Erislandy Lara (SD 12), Miguel Cotto (UD 12), Gennadiy Golovkin (MD 12), Daniel Jacobs (UD 12) and Sergey Kovalev (KO 11). At 30 years old, the Mexican warrior is entering his athletic peak, and he’s already a modern day great, having held world titles at junior middleweight, middleweight and light heavyweight. A win over Smith will see boxing’s biggest star become a Ring Magazine champion in a third weight class.
Smith won the British and European titles in impressive fashion and got his big break in the World Boxing Super Series. He defeated Erik Skoglund (UD 12) and late-substitute Nieky Holzken (UD 12) to earn safe passage to the final, where he stopped countryman George Groves (KO 7) to become The Ring Magazine champion and WBA titleholder. But the 30-year-old boxer-puncher has since struggled to capitalize on that momentum, easily defeating the undersized Hassan N’Dam (TKO 3) and laboring against big underdog John Ryder (UD 12) in title defenses.
How will Canelo (53-1-2, 36 knockouts) deal with the size and strength of the much bigger man? Can Smith (27-0, 19 KOs) use his physical gifts to keep the Mexican superstar on the outside? Both are excellent body punchers and it will be interesting to see how each man goes about creating the openings for those shots. Canelo has mixed at a far higher level than Smith. Will that experience be decisive?
Online gambling group William Hill lists Canelo as a 1-5 (-500) favorite, while Smith is priced at 7-2 (+350); the draw is 22-1 (+2000).
Here’s how the experts see it:
THE RING MAGAZINE/RINGTV.COM
TOM GRAY: CANELO DECISION
“I think Smith is beyond live in this matchup, and it’s unwise to write him off. His poor showing against John Ryder, which was a mixture of Smith being below par and Ryder being red-hot, seems to have brainwashed some fans into thinking he’s overrated. He isn’t. If Smith is on form, he’s the best fighter above 160 pounds that Canelo has ever faced. He blasted out Rocky Fielding in a single round, he’s vastly superior to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and he’s both younger and fresher than Sergey Kovalev. Canelo will have to work to get inside Smith’s rangy jab and take the risk of being hit by something massive from both sides. If he’s pedestrian with his pace, as he was against Kovalev, then he could fall behind and be forced to play catchup. The issue I have is that this fight was confirmed very late. Smith will have been training for it physically, but could he really be 100-percent locked in for the biggest fight of his life before it was officially signed and sealed? A Smith knockout is a possibility, but Canelo has looked bulletproof under fire, so I see this one going the distance. Can Smith do enough to get a decision in Texas? I think Canelo gets the nod, but he’ll know he’s been in a fight and so will his fans. One thing Smith must look out for is Canelo whipping in the counter shots to body and head, so he can’t get lazy or readable with the jab. I’ll stick with Canelo, but I’m leaving the door wide open for Smith. If he pulls this off, I won’t be the slightest bit surprised.
ANSON WAINWRIGHT: SMITH UD
“I was surprised Canelo decided to go with Smith, who will hold all the physical advantages in this fight. Smith is a huge super middleweight and will hold a seven-and-a-half-inch height and eight-inch reach advantage over Canelo. That range deficit, combined with Smith’s skill, will be difficult for Canelo. Smith is also a very good puncher, so Canelo will have to be wary. However, the Mexican superstar hasn’t accomplished what he has without being able to off-set what his rivals bring to the table. I know the smaller John Ryder, who has similar physicality to Canelo, gave Smith all he could handle, so Canelo has a blueprint to follow. I just don’t believe Smith was mentally in-tune for that fight. I think Smith will keep calm-headed and use his height and reach to keep Canelo behind the jab and frustrate him for large parts of the fight. He will shock the pro-Canelo crowd to win a unanimous decision that may look a little closer on the cards but Smith won’t be denied.”
LEE GROVES: CANELO UD
“Smith should be considered a very live dog because he will sport massive advantages in height and reach and his busy jab proves he knows how to maximize those advantages. If he can keep Alvarez at bay with those jabs, Smith is very capable of winning this fight. However, Alvarez has an excellent record against taller and rangier fighters because he is patient and he is very accurate with his power punches. That marksmanship will be key in this match because Smith does get hit with a higher percentage of his opponents’ power punches than I believe a man of his frame should be. I think aspects of the Alvarez-Kovalev fight offers a preview of what will happen in this fight: Smith winning the early rounds with his jab-heavy fight plan, Canelo closing the gap logistically and mathematically in the middle rounds and pulling away late.”
MICHAEL WOODS: CANELO UD
“Expect Callum Smith to be a tick-and-a half better than he was in his last outing. Doesn’t matter. Canelo is now at that place where I see him like I saw Floyd Mayweather. He’s taking fights that he knows he will win. That’s not to say he’s a cherry picker, I’m just saying that he’s so rigorous and methodical in his approach to scouting potential foes, he knows what to do to get the win. He won’t stop Smith, Callum’s pride will not allow it, but Canelo won’t get upset on this night. Canelo unanimous decision, scores 9-3 or so.”
MICHAEL MONTERO: CANELO TKO 10
“Callum Smith is taking a massive step up in opposition on December 19. Canelo Alvarez will provide fight fans with answers to their questions about the Liverpool native. I expect Alvarez, one of the best body punchers in the game, to target Smith’s long, lean frame early and often. Although Smith has a significant height and reach advantage, I believe Canelo’s head movement will aid him in getting under Smith’s punches. After some close early rounds, the Mexican will begin to chop down the tree and push the larger man back.”
NORM FRAUENHEIM: CANELO UD
“A mark of Canelo’s emergence has been patient, measured improvement. He’s a cautious, yet sure-footed student. He’s always learning, which doesn’t figure to change against Callum Smith despite more than a year on the sidelines. Smith has some measurable advantages. He’s seven inches taller. His reach is seven-and-a-half inches longer. That adds up to a big challenge for Canelo. But head and upper-body movement should allow Canelo to step inside against a bigger man who also happens to be a very big target for the Mexican’s wicked body blows. Look for Canelo to duck Smith’s jab early and to attack his body later for a punishing victory on the scorecards.”
DUKE MCKENZIE (FORMER THREE-DIVISION TITLEHOLDER/TV ANALYST): CANELO UD
“For Smith to win he will need to do something that only Floyd Mayweather Jr. has done and totally out-think Canelo. It’s difficult to see how Smith can win against arguably the pound-for-pound boss. Canelo has boxed tall, rangy fighters before. I can’t see Smith winning a points decision. He struggled against John Ryder last time out. The pound-for-pound boss is another level up from that and technically better equipped than Smith. Canelo wins a unanimous decision.”
MARC RAMSAY (TRAINER): CANELO TKO
“I like Callum Smith. He’s very well-trained by a very good coach, Joe Gallagher, and he has all the tools to give Canelo problems: he’s tall, he has long reach, good technique, fast and decent power etc. The only problem is that he’s not the first one to have those qualities. For example, a guy like [Daniel] Jacobs, and Canelo always found a solution. Alvarez by late stoppage.”
KATHY DUVA (PROMOTER, MAIN EVENTS): CANELO TKO
“I will never pick against Canelo again – learned my lesson! I expect that he will stop Smith in the second half of the fight. Smith has never faced anything like Canelo, and I doubt that he has the power to trouble him. In the end, Canelo should wear him down.”
JOLENE MIZZONE (MATCHMAKER, MAIN EVENTS): CANELO TKO 8
“I like any fight with Canelo even if it’s the mailman. I never like to trash a fight with one of the pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, but I think it is the right fight for Canelo right now. My pick of course is Canelo Alvarez, I pick him by stoppage. I will even call a round, the eighth round.”
STEVE FARHOOD (TV ANALYST): CANELO PTS
“If the Kovalev fight proved anything, it’s that a long, steady jab can at least trouble Canelo. Thus, Smith’s game plan should be fairly obvious. But Canelo’s pressure and ability to adapt will ultimately win out. I see him rallying late and upping the pressure enough to take firm control. Canelo by close decision.”
KALLE SAUERLAND (PROMOTER, SAUERLAND EVENT): SMITH TKO
“I think a lot will depend on how much time Smith has had to prepare for the fight. I do think he always keeps himself in tremendous shape, so he should be absolutely on top of his game. I think he will rise to the occasion. He had a lull in the Ryder fight. When he’s fully rehydrated after the weigh in, I expect him to be huge. He has what it takes to put away Canelo, who I still feel is a smaller guy, an absolutely great fighter, but he’s punching above his weight. Callum Smith by stoppage with a body shot in the later rounds.”
CARL MORETTI (VICE PRESIDENT OF TOP RANK): CANELO TKO 10
“Solid fight. Smith beats almost everyone at 168, except Canelo, who’s right up there with [Terence] Crawford and [Naoya] Inoue for the on-going pound-for-pound debate.”
CAMILLE ESTEPHAN (PROMOTER, EYE OF THE TIGER): CANELO SD
“I am impressed with the challenge that Canelo wanted. I believe Callum Smith to be very dangerous at 168. I think it will be a very complicated fight for Canelo but I still give him the edge. I believe he wins a close split decision.”
BILLY JOE SAUNDERS (WBO SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHT TITLEHOLDER): CANELO PTS
“It’s a fight Callum can win, but the late notice is certainly not going to help. You can never disregard Callum, he’s a good fighter, you always have to give him a shout, and especially with everything that’s at stake, you have to say he’s got a very good chance. But the Canelo camp has done the snidey thing they always do and gave him late notice. Callum needs to stay out the firing line, keep it long, and be strong at length. He needs to watch the counters and use his feet. We don’t always see Callum use his feet but in this fight he’s gonna have to. We’ll see what he can do from there. I’m hoping for a Smith win, but if I’m putting money on it, I’d say Canelo on points because you either need to knock Canelo out or completely embarrass him.”
RAUL MARQUEZ (FORMER WORLD TITLEHOLDER/ COMMENTATOR): CANELO TKO
“Canelo been off for over a year. Smith is very tall 6-foot-3 with a 78-inch reach, so it won’t be easy for Canelo to look impressive. Smith’s not a bad fighter, but he has never been on the big stage. Canelo by decision or late-round TKO.”
RUDY HERNANDEZ (TRAINER): CANELO TKO
“This fight was officially announced at 30 days’ notice, but I’m sure they were in talks way before. Smith is a good champion but not in the same league as the other champions that Canelo isn’t picking:[David] Benavidez, [Dmitry] Bivol or [Artur] Beterbiev. I don’t see Smith being a big problem for Canelo. I think Smith’s style will make Canelo look really good. It’s only competitive because Canelo carries this fight as long as it goes. Now, if Canelo wants to make a statement, he’ll go for broke right from the get-go and make it an early night. I just don’t see that. He’s never been that guy. Canelo wins by late stoppage in probably a one-sided fight.”
WAYNE MCCULLOUGH (FORMER WORLD TITLEHOLDER/ TRAINER): CANELO KO 7
“This fight could be a tough night for both fighters. Smith, the naturally bigger of the two, needs to use his reach and try to keep Canelo from getting close by using his left jabs and straight rights to the head. We know that Smith likes to trade inside but he can’t do that in this fight. He will fight hard and give everything he has to try to win. Canelo will be trying to get inside, where he uses his hard hooks and uppercuts to the body very well. He will use left jabs to break through the guard, then throw the overhand right to the head – as Smith usually has his left low. That will probably land clean on the chin of Smith and send him to the canvas for a knockout win in the seventh round or earlier for Canelo.”
ALEX STEEDMAN (COMMENTATOR): CANELO TKO
“This is one of the best matches to be made right now and Smith is a serious test for Canelo at 168 pounds. Freakish for the weight, Smith can jab, bang and is unusually effective on the inside, too. It won’t be a shock or even a surprise if he wins. But Smith hasn’t been tested yet, particularly to the body and Canelo will surely get close, applying subtle pressure behind his tight guard. Several results are possible here and most likely is a Canelo win by decision, but I’m taking Alvarez to break Smith down late.”
VICTOR SILVA (TV ANALYST): CANELO UD
“When Canelo fought Fielding, I was wondering if the reach would be a problem, it wasn’t. Now, Callum has almost eight inches in advantage and, of course, Smith is way better than Fielding. This is going to be a very interesting and close fight that I was expecting from long ago. Punching to the body would be the key for Canelo. I would go with unanimous decision for Canelo.”
Final Tally: Canelo 18-2
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