By James Blears
For Billy Joe Saunders the key to sweet victory, is accomplishing a boxing master class, by commanding the center of the ring, to avoid getting backed and trapped against the ropes, while Santos Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, will be trying to artfully and ruthlessly cut off all escape routes, corner and lambast BJ against those four cords, to break up and break down his body, then tag him…BAM!
Both men are rigorously prepared in mind, body and soul, for this fabulous fight on May 8th at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Many have already attempted to describe the massive through missive.
From this extraordinary encounter in the Lone Star State, but one supreme supernova will emerge holding aloft the magnificent Mestizo Belt, especially created for this Mexican Boxing Festivity. An open handed and open hearted gift for the World, it`s there and waiting to be earned from this tremendous fight. At stake is Canelo`s WBC and WBA super middleweight belts and Billy Joe`s WBO version.
All boxing matches boil down to broiling, conflicting and contrasting styles, with the dominance of one trumping the other. Canelo`s preserve is as a pressure fighter, cutting off lanes, leading opponents down blind alleys, closing in, closing down and unleashing telling power punches.
In the traditional style, he likes to work on and make mincemeat of the body, which doesn`t sway and move as much as a bobbing head. But then and ultimately … move upstairs with big leveling left hooks, shuddering straight rights and the scything uppercut, which is indeed a high-risk punch, but which also reaps significant plus impactful dividends.
Standing your ground and trading with Canelo nowadays, is pointlessly brave, rash and just about as foolish, as being in the vicinity of a telephone booth next to Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas, just after he`d received the news of the hit on Tommy De Vito, a madman who was supposed to become a mad man. It`s not the action of a wise guy… or a wise man!
We all saw and winced at the terrific sustained punishment that tall, lean and lanky Callum Smith absorbed, when he was trapped, roped in, manhandled and panhandled, with everything including the kitchen sink. Far too often for his own good, he stood his ground against Canelo, and he suffered a “Weal” of a time!
Canelo`s task is to catch up with the fleet footed Billy Joe, anchor him, root him to the spot and land his heavy artillery. While Billy Joe`s Golden and Green opportunity, is to utilize his diverse and brilliant boxing skills to their fullest, spearheading his oncoming opponent with his trademark accurate counters, while cunningly milling on the retreat. In attack, he must use his proven lightning southpaw right jab, followed by pinpoint slamming left hooks, to plaster Canelo with a very high volume of quality punches. Get in and out without being clobbered.
The key to success for Billy Joe is to be effective in this way, while being as elusive as Sir Percy Blakeney, The Scarlet Pimpernel. It will take exceptional unwavering as well as sustained focus, in a fight which will make or break him.
A momentary or even split second lapse in concentration, will cost him dear, because Canelo certainly possesses the power to knock him out at any time. Stopping iron jawed Canelo, is an altogether different and more difficult prospect, unless it was to be on cuts. Yet, in boxing, anything and everything is possible. Even at the highest level, one telling punch can upset the tally.
Canelo has won against all southpaws he`s faced, but he doesn`t perform as well against them, as the conventional stance version. He was exactingly and exceptionally tested against Erislandy Lara, who one judge saw as winning, while the other two demurred. Lara used a ramrod right jab, trying to keep Canelo at bay, backed up by fast, hard combinations from all angles, while trying to move away from the ropes, where he and all others who fight Canelo, are nakedly vulnerable.
He effectively used lateral movement and every inch of the ring to avoid getting into a toe to toe slugfest confrontation. In so doing, he seemed to be covering the distance equivalent to a marathon and the fans lustily booed him for not trading macho fashion, but it proved a smart, if not quite a winning formula. He came close with that strategy. However it has to be remembered and appreciated that this was way back in 2014, seven long years ago. That was then and this is now.
A year earlier, another southpaw Austin Trout, was decked, legs akimbo, by a juddering single straight right in the seventh round. But he too posed a nagging variety of problems for Canelo, with his silky mobility, also mostly lateral, yet hardly lethal.
More recently Daniel Jacobs lost his IBF middleweight belt to WBC and WBA Champion Canelo, in 2019 by UD, but the bout was highly competitive throughout. Jacobs who fights from a conventional stance had his moments, but not so many effective movements when he switched to southpaw, which isn`t his natural forte at this rarefied level.
Billy Joe who has fought thirty times with fourteen KO`s, says that Canelo 55-1, 37 KO`s has racked up more miles on the clock than him. But it could also be argued that Canelo has gained more experience along the way. He learned a lot in his two fights with Gennady Golovkin and his boxing education has been acquired in a higher grade class.
Canelo likes to stand close and lean in, but his subtle, supple waist and head movement, quick reflexes as well as deft anticipation, make him a hard target to pin and hit squarely. He slips and deflects many punches which would tag and sting another less intelligent, duller witted fighter. Both he and Billy Joe like to feint punches to lure opponents into second guessing, in order to set up their goodnight punches.
Billy Joe`s toughest fight to date, was against Chris Eubank Jr back in 2014. Billy Joe bamboozled and out boxed Chris, who looked lethargic and flat footed for the first five rounds, but as the fight wore on, Eubank`s power came through, became a factor and Billy Joe noticeably faded towards the end, even though he won it. Again, this was a long time ago and lessons were certainly learned.
Here and now, it very much depends on how much damage Billy Joe picks up and sustains from harder inflicting Canelo, as to how he`ll then fare as the rounds wear.
His most accomplished performance was a resounding UD victory against big hitter David Lemieux in 2017. An absolutely dazzling display from Billy Joe, who boxed his head off, while boxing rings around him, all night long.
Billy Joe will never be hit as hard as he`s going to get hit on May 8th. Seeing is believing, yet feeling is so much more tangibly telling. Canelo is a patient fighter. He doesn`t go in hopping, swinging and hoping. He`ll sometimes refrain from snapping out a punch, in order to wait for a more juicy opportune opening. When his punches land, it`s with a thud, because he`s homing in heavy handed.
Billy Joe`s sheer hand speed, boxing skills, versatility and adaptability is something that Canelo has only confoundingly encountered once before, against the legendary Floyd Mayweather Jr. To win Canelo must cut to the chase, rather than ineffectively give chase. To win, Billy Joe must judge distance with the adroit, calculating skill of Pythagoras.
Location and fame favors Canelo. This stadium is now like a second home to him. A lot more Mexicans and Mexican/Americans will be at hand to roar for him. However, the contingent of British fans will cheer their hearts out for Billy Joe and in so doing make themselves heard, with choruses of Rule Britannia.
A gaudy goodly Mexican entrance will be matched with the pomp and circumstance involving the best of British. Both men are used to big occasions, but when it comes down to it, up in the ring there are just the two of them plus the third man, hemmed in by a welling wall of sound, rising to an acoustic crescendo! It will be an awesome and unforgettable atmosphere, to be savored at the time and long remembered, during the more mellow years to follow.
Billy Joe who`s never been defeated as a professional, emits the exuberance of bravado. It`s quintessentially part of who he is, and what makes him tick. However, it might well be a better idea to stick to the task ahead and at hand, without showboating and irking Canelo with brashness, or goading impertinence. Better to save his breath, and not provocatively lower his guard nor stick out an unprotected chin. Pride often tends to come before a fall, especially if you`re in a pier six brawl.
Mutual respect doesn`t detract one iota from iron clad willpower. So, let`s also hope they don`t step on each others` toes and there`s no clash of heads, which sometimes occurs, with differing and contrasting stances, as well as diametrically opposing granite mindsets.
Billy Joe aged thirty one, stands five feet eleven inches tall, while Canelo who`s thirty, is shorter at five feet eight inches. Billy Joe`s reach extends seventy one inches, while`s Canelo`s is just a smidgeon half inch less.
If each fights to his full capacity, capability and game plan, this will be a truly great fight. Billy Joe`s untamed gypsy heritage is the essence of his wandering, wondering, wonderful independent pride and his gauche willpower, which will be tested as never before. He`s convinced he can and he will win. As Nikki Rowe wrote: “There`s only one place I want to be and it`s all the places I`ve never been.” His fellow Traveller, WBC Heavyweight Champion and friend Tyson Fury is more than likely to be at ringside to cheer him on.
As for Canelo, during the tranquil still, unrippled calm, inevitably giving way to the gathering and impending storm, he knows full well the significance of Cinco de Mayo. It is the most important, most deeply ingrained and hallowed date, circled on a Mexican Calendar. Mexico expects nothing less from him than total victory.
And, so the saying goes: “I`m Mexican. We always fight to the end.”
WORLD BOXING COUNCIL STATS
Jose SulaimánWBC HONORARY POSTHUMOUS LIFETIME PRESIDENT (+)
Mauricio SulaimánWBC PRESIDENT
WBC SUPERMIDDLEWEIGHT TITLE CHAMPIONSHIP
AT&T STADIUMARLINGTON, TEXAS, UNITED STATES
MAY 8, 2021
TV: ESPN / TV AZTECA/ DAZN
THIS WILL BE THE WBC’S 2, 104th CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE FIGHT IN THE FIFTY-EIGHT YEARS HISTORY OF THE WBC
EDDIE HEARN & MATCHROOM BOXING, PRESENTS:
SAUL ALVAREZ BILLY JOE SAUNDERS
WBC CHAMPION WBO CHAMPION
Nationality: Mexico Nationality: GB
Date of Birth: July 18, 1990 Date of Birth: August 30, 1989
Birthplace: Tlajomulco de Zuñiga, Jalisco Birthplace: Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, GB
Residence: Guadalajara, Jalisco Residence: Hatfield, Hertfordshire, GB
Alias: Canelo Alias: SuperB
Record: 55-1-2, 37 ko’s Record: 30-0-0, 14 ko’s
KO’S %: 63.8% KO’S %: 46.7%
Age: 30 Age: 31
Guard: Orthodox Guard: Southpaw
Total rounds: 417 Total rounds: 214
World title fights: 17 (15-1-1) World title fights: 7 (7-0-0)
Trainer: Jose & Eddy Reynoso Manager: Eddie Hearn
Manager: Eddy Reynoso Promoter: Matchroom Boxing
WBC SUPERMIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONS
NAME PERIOD CHAMPION
1. RAY LEONARD (US) 1988 – 1990
2. MAURO GALVANO (ITALY) 1990 – 1992
3. NIGEL BENN (GB) 1992 – 1996
4. THULANE MALINGA (S. AFR) 1996
5. VINCENZO NARDIELLO (ITA) 1996
6. ROBIN REID (GB) 1996 – 1997
7. THULANE MALINGA (S. AFR) * 1997 – 1998
8. RICHIE WOODHALL (GB) 1998 – 1999
9. MARKUS BEYER (GERMANY) 1999 – 2000
10. GLENN CATLEY (GB) 2000
11. DINGAAN THOBELA (S. AFR) 2000
12. DAVE HILTON (CAN) 2000
13. ERIC LUCAS (CAN) 2001 – 2003
14. MARKUS BEYER (GERMANY) * 2003 – 2004
15. DANNY GREEN (AUSTRALIA) INTERIM 2003 – 2005
16. CRISTIAN SANAVIA (ITALY) 2004
17. MARKUS BEYER (GERMANY) * 2004 – 2006
18. MIKKEL KESSLER (DENMARK) 2006 – 2007
19. JOE CALZAGHE (GB) 2007
20. CARL FROCH (GB) 2008 – 2010
21. MIKKEL KESSLER (DENMARK) * (EMERITUS) 2010
22. CARL FROCH (GB) * 2010 – 2011
23. ANDRE WARD (US) 2011 – 2012
24. SAKIO BIKA (CAMEROON) 2013 – 2014
25. ANTHONY DIRRELL (US) 2014 – 2015
26. BADOU JACK (GAMBIA/SWEDEN) 2015 – 2017
27. DAVID BENAVIDEZ (US) IN RECESS 2017 – 2018
28. ANTHONY DIRRELL (US) * 2019
29. DAVID BENAVIDEZ (US) * 2019 – 2020
30. SAUL ALVAREZ (MEXICO) 2020 – * REGAINED
WBC´S SUPERMIDDLEWEIGHT TOP TEN CHAMPIONS
1. RAY LEONARD (US)
2. JOE CALZAGHE (GB)
3. NIGEL BENN (GB)
4. ANDRE WARD (US)
5. MARKUS BEYER (GERMANY)
6. CARL FROCH (GB)
7. MIKKEL KESSLER (DENMARK)
8. ROBIN REID (GB)
9. DANNY GREEN (AUSTRALIA)
10. ERIC LUCAS (CANADA)
SUPERMIDDLEWEIGHT GENERAL INFORMATION
23 WORLD CHAMPIONS RECOGNIZED BY THE WBC OF WHICH ONLY 3 HAVE REGAINED THEIR TITLE:
MARKUS BEYER (GERMANY)
THULANE MALINGA (S. AFRICA)
CARL FROCH (GB)
80 WORLD TITLE BOUTS HAVE BEEN HELD
THIS WILL BE THE 28th SUPERMIDDLEWEIGHT FIGHT IN THE USA
WORLD SUPERMIDDLEWEIGHT TITLE BOUTS BY COUNTRY
SOUTH ARABIA 1
SOUTH AFRICA 1
TOTAL FIGHTS 80
** IN THIS DIVISION NIGEL BENN HAS THE RECORD OF MOST TITLE DEFENSES WITH 10
WBC TITLE FIGHTS IN TEXAS
71 WORLD TITLE FIGHTS HAVE BEEN HELD IN TEXAS 2 TITLE FIGHTS IN THE SUPERMIDDLEWEIGHT DIVISION HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN TEXAS AND THIS WILL BE THE 72ND WBC TITLE FIGHT IN TEXAS
FIGHTS BY DIVISION IN TEXAS
TOTAL FIGHTS 71
WBC TITLE FIGHTS BETWEEN MEXICO-UK
THERE HAS BEEN 42 WBC TITLE FIGHTS BETWEEN MEXICO – UK
MEXICO HAS WON 30 BOUTS / GREAT BRITAIN HAS WON 11 and THERE IS 1 No Contest
07/09/1965 VICENTE SALDIVAR – HOWARD WINSTONE DEC 15 LONDON FE
12/12/1969 RUBEN OLIVARES – ALAN RUDKIN TKO 2 INGLEWOOD BA
06/12/1975 JOHN STRACEY – JOSE NAPOLES TKO 6 MEXICO CITY WE
22/06/1976 CARLOS PALOMINO – JOHN H. STRACEY TKO 12 LONDON WE
19/09/1980 LUPE PINTOR – JOHNNY OWEN TKO 12 LOS ANGELES BA
12/12/1981 SALVADOR SANCHEZ – PAT COWDELL DEC 15 HOUSTON FE
28/10/1987 JORGE VACA – LLOYD HONEYGHAN TDEC 8 LONDON WE
29/03/1988 LLOYD HONEYGHAN – JORGE VACA KO 3 LONDON WE
28/04/1993 GOYO VARGAS – PAUL HODKINSON TKO 7 DUBLIN FE
18/12/1993 JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ – ANDY HOLLIGAN TKO 6 PUEBLA SL
30/03/1996 WAYNE MCCULLOUGH – JOSE LUIS BUENO DEC 12 DUBLIN BA
11/01/1997 DANIEL ZARAGOZA – WAYNE MCCULLOUGH DEC 12 BOSTON SB.
22/10/1999 NASEEM HAMED – CESAR SOTO DEC 12 DETROIT FE
22/10/1999 ERIK MORALES – WAYNE MCCULLOUGH DEC 12 DETROIT SB
07/05/2016 SAUL ALVAREZ – AMIR KHAN KO 6 LAS VEGAS MI
28/01/2017 LEO SANTA CRUZ – CARL FRAMPTON (DIAMOND BEL) MD 12 LAS VEGAS FE
25/02/2017 REY VARGAS – GAVIN MCDONNELL (VACANT) MD 12 YORKSHIRE FE
15/12/2018 SAUL ALVAREZ – ROCKY FIELDING (SPECIAL EVENT) TKO 3 NEW YORK SM
29/02/2020 JULIO CESAR MARTINEZ – JAY HARRIS (VOL) UD 12 FRISCO FL