Saul “Canelo” Alvarez anticipated criticism as soon as his next opponent — not named Gennady Golovkin — was announced.
With the majority of the boxing universe yearning for an Alvarez-Golovkin bout, Alvarez opted for a little-known opponent when the Mexico native returns to the ring Saturday night. Alvarez will face England’s Liam Smith for a super-welterweight belt at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“You know — there’s always going to be critics,” Alvarez said of his decision to fight Smith instead of Golovkin in a recent conference call. “It’s part of the business.
But the important thing is it doesn’t faze me. I’m used to it now and I’ve got to do what’s best for my career.”
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Yet Alvarez intensified the teasing of the dream bout with Golovkin when he called the reigning middleweight champion into the ring following Alvarez’ fifth-round knockout win over Amir Khan in May. Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs) talked about his bravery and how he ducks no one.
Instead, fight fans continue on a holding pattern for the one bout that would provide the sport much needed attention.
Alvarez’s current status as the sport’s top pay-per-view attraction and Golovkin’s dominant run through the tradition rich middleweight class lend the appealing qualities to the dream match.
Once Golovkin learned that Alvarez vacated the middleweight title he defended against Khan instead of facing Golovkin in a mandatory match, the native of Kazakhstan fought welterweight champion Kell Brook on Saturday afternoon in London. Golovkin scored a fifth-round TKO over Brook to retain his multiple sanctioning body middleweight belts.
Alvarez’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya said in the same conference call that the decision to vacate the title was not to avoid Golovkin, but return to Alvarez a more comfortable weight. In his two middleweight bouts against Khan and Miguel Cotto, Alvarez fought at a 155-pound catch weight clause — five under the middleweight limit.
“Canelo knows his body, his trainers know his body and the bottom line is Canelo is a 154-pound fighter,” De La Hoya said. “The fact that he fought at 155 [pounds] people expect him to go up and fight at middleweight and that’s not the case. He’s a 154-pounder and he’s going to go up to 160 when his body feels ready.”
The weight problem certainly didn’t seem an issue when Alvarez talked about facing Golovkin after his quick finish of Khan. Meanwhile, Golovkin used another fight cycle against Brook in his continuous quest to reach crossover acceptance.
“[Alvarez] is the star fighter in boxing and people want him to fight the very best,” De La Hoya said. “And he has always fought the very best and fighting Golovkin is going to be no exception. He’s going to fight him but when he’s ready to move up to 160.”
Many will question whether Smith ( 23-0-1, 13 KOs) belongs in any “bests” list but the British fighter known by the nickname “Beefy” is recognized as a champion by the World Boxing Organization. A solid underdog against Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs), Smith will make his U.S. debut on Saturday.
“Look, whether people consider if he has a name or not, he’s still a very good fighter,” Alvarez said. “I’ll be prepared for everything. I just don’t want any surprises, but this is going to be a tough fight.”
When the Alvarez-Smith date was finalized in the summer, Miami heavyweight Luis Ortiz was mentioned as a possible participant on the undercard. However, Golden Boy Promotions announced three weeks ago it no longer represents Ortiz.
Under the Golden Boy banner, Ortiz (25-0, 22 KOs) ascended in the heavyweight rankings and eventually won a second-tier sanctioning body belt. Moreover, HBO televised Ortiz’s last three fights.
But differences between Golden Boy and Ortiz’s managerial team ended the partnership.
Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez became the first native Nicaraguan fighter to win four world titles in separate weight classes after defeating defending champion Carlos Cuadras by unanimous decision Saturday night at the Forum in Inglewood, California. The victory earned Gonzalez the World Boxing Council super-flyweight belt.
All three judges scored the bout for Gonzalez, 116-112, 115-113 and 117-111. Considered along with Golovkin as the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters, Gonzalez (46-0) previously held titles in the minimum, junior-flyweight and flyweight divisions.
A native of Mexico, Cuadras (35-1-1) was a busy titleholder in his two-year run as champion, making six successful defenses before he faced Gonzalez.
▪ Tuesday (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1): Eddie Ramirez vs. Kevin Watts, 10, super lightweights.
▪ Saturday (9 p.m., HBO pay-per-view): Liam Smith vs. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 12, for Smith’s WBO super-welterweight title.