Who Will Be Next For Canelo?
By Will Collett
There can be no denying that Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez calls the shots when it comes to his career. His record breaking $365 million deal with DAZN set him apart from the rest of the boxers in the upper echelons of the sport.
With Canelo as the face of the sport for much of the world, it makes it a hard task for those negotiating purses with his future opponents. As a result, there is a long list of names waiting for a Canelo payday.
Having the benefit of being able to manoeuvre his way through the weight divisions with relative ease, he can have his pick of the champions across those at 160, 168 and 175 pounds. His desire to test new waters and make history will undoubtedly lead us to another spectacle that we have come to know and expect each Canelo fight night.
This desire to constantly challenge himself, has meant that the possibility of a trilogy fight against Gennady Golovkin has dropped down his list of priorities, much to the annoyance of his network partners.
Having fought for a second time, Alvarez has stated that he no longer sees Golovkin as a challenge. However, if you take this route, it does make it harder to justify the prospect of facing Ryota Murata instead, a rumour which is gaining lots of momentum.
Many media outlets had initially reported that Billy Joe Saunders was the frontrunner to face Canelo for May 2nd in Las Vegas. It now appears that Murata has emerged as the preferred option however, a much lower risk with potentially a lot higher of a reward.
This is a move that would make huge sense for DAZN. Murata is a huge star in Japan, a market that DAZN is already established in. He also brought in over 15 million viewers for his last fight, a number which is truly astounding.
Murata is co-promoted by Top Rank in the US, so a deal of some sort would of course need to be ironed out, however, Canelo has previously expressed his desire to fight in Japan and so there may be no better time.
Fans have been critical of Murata as an option for Canelo, with him being perhaps the weakest of the names on the table. The inability to get the Golovkin fight highlights one of the pitfalls of DAZN’s $365 million deal with Canelo, in the failure to cement certain opponents they wished for, into his contract.
With Canelo’s continued growth and this supposed lack of clarity in the contract, it leaves Alvarez with a lot of breathing room to pick and choose opponents he wants to face.
Despite this, the last opponent he faced was WBO light-heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev. Securing the victory here via an 11th round stoppage, saw him win world titles in his fourth division.
Having since vacated this belt, it remains unlikely that the Mexican superstar will remain at 175 pounds, however, if he did, a realistic challenge exists in the form of WBA champion Dmitry Bivol.
This would probably be preferable to someone such as Artur Beterbiev, a far more feared light-heavyweight due to the destructive manner in which he has been dismantling his opponents.
Whilst it has been a while since we have seen Bivol knock somebody out, he remains a hugely impressive fighter and is far younger than Kovalev, making this a much more competitive fight.
The more likely option, however, is for a move back down in weight for Alvarez, which would leave Bivol and Beterbiev open for a unification, which in all likelihood most fans would prefer.
At super-middleweight the two most talked about opponents for him are both British; Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders.
Callum Smith, the winner of the WBSS tournament and holder of the WBA and ring magazine super middleweight world title belts, would be a great test for the Mexican, especially due to the huge size advantage Canelo would be giving away here.
Arguably in his prime years, Smith proposes an interesting risk vs reward dynamic. He holds legitimate belts at 168 pounds, but despite his entry to the WBSS, is still not yet a household name. It has been suggested that this fight be held at Anfield, but ultimately, it will be team Canelo that decides this.
Saunders is another real challenge at 168 pounds. This fight has been mentioned on and off for numerous years when both fighters were down at middleweight. After the Lemieux performance over in Canada, it was argued that Canelo would want absolutely nothing to do with a Saunders who can perform like that.
Saunders however, has yet to build on his exceptional performance over in Canada. Many people believe that Saunders requires a high calibre opponent to really bring the best out of him and this is long overdue. His slick style has proven to work at the highest level and would be a hugely interesting match-up if he got the fight with Canelo.
Whilst Canelo would be the favourite at both middleweight and super-middleweight, Saunders’s best performances have come at 160 pounds and I believe his chances would be far greater at his natural weight.
If neither Smith or Saunders land the Canelo fight, Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn has stated that they will unify against each other instead. Whilst it would be great for either of those fighters to get the call to face Canelo in May, an all British super-middleweight showdown would be a great back-up plan alternative.
In the unlikely event that Alvarez will return to middleweight for his next fight, WBO world champion Demitrius Andrade has shown his eagerness to face him. Andrade however, has a relatively ugly style and is a nightmare for any opponent. Without a huge profile, there seems little upside to facing him for Alvarez.
With a stacked list of names, it will be an interesting wait to see who is picked as Alvarez’s next opponent. Despite both of the Golovkin fights being absolutely enthralling, I do believe that Canelo convincingly won the second fight and would do so again if they were to fight once more. There are numerous other fights I would prefer to see him in ahead of this, against champions in their prime.
Whilst I would prefer him to face either Smith or Saunders, I do understand the move to face Murata. I would however, expect him to see him face the winner immediately afterwards. Regardless of who he fights, an ever evolving fighter who is constantly adding to his arsenal such as Canelo, is sure to treat us to a dazzling display come fight night.