The Ring Magazine #1 Pound for Pound Canelo Alvarez (54-1-2, 36KOs) returns for his second fight in under three months when he defends his WBC Super Middleweight title against Avni Yildrim (21-2, 12 KOs) at the reduced capacity Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Saturday night. It will be the first of his two-fight deal with Matchroom Boxing, which was officially signed last month. The strong indication is that Canelo will fight Billy Joe Saunders later this year, a bout that the bookmakers suggest will be far more competitive than the one on Saturday night.
Avni Yildrim was born in Turkey, but has fought most of his contests in Germany. He appeared on the radar of many fight fans with his inclusion in the Super-Middleweight edition of the World Boxing Super Series in 2017. He faced Chris Eubank Jr there on “home turf” in the first-round in Stuttgart. The fight was expected to be competitive. What occurred was that Yildrim decided to trade with the Brit, and was caught with a big punch that settled the fight in the third round. The warning signs were already there in the opening stanza, where Yildrim was forced to take a standing count after being rocked by an uppercut. It was hardly a strong advert for the his skills – and his performances subsequent to the Eubank Jr defeat have been mixed. He went on the rebuild in trying to get a WBC ranking by defeating several gatekeepers, including Ryan Ford and Lolenga Mock, but failed to truly impress. Both of these bouts were very close, and the Mock victory on points was ultimately decided by the fast start that saw Yildrim score an early knockdown. This calibre of opponents is not what one would call suitable preparation for the likes of Canelo.
Yildrim was last seen in 2019 when facing the then-WBC champion Anthony Dirrell. The fight ended in controversy when the fight stopped on a technical decision due to a cut received by Dirrell. Yildrim celebrated wildly, believing the referee had stopped the contest in his favour. In reality, the fight went to the scorecards after 10 rounds. Yildrim was narrowly behind on two cards, and lost. In my view – the fight was a narrow defeat for Yildrim, but such was the subsequent controversy that he was given mandatory status for the WBC Super Middleweight title – and has been waiting in the wings for his chance.
Saul Alvarez to win (1/50, -5000)
Draw (50/1, +5000)
Avny Yildrim to win (14/1, +1400)
Saul Alvarez by KO (1/14)
Saul Alvarez by Decision (8/1)
Avni Yildrim by KO (18/1)
Avni Yildrim by Decision (25/1)
Under 4.5 Rounds (8/11)
Over 4.5 Rounds (Evens)
In reality – the form of Yildrim and the comparative levels of ability between the two make the possibility of an upset here seem remote. Canelo’s power has transferred well up the divisions, while Yildrim has in the past shown weaknesses in terms of his chin, and does not have the power, the jab, the reach, or the height to keep Canelo away from him. In fact – there does not seem to be particularly much in his favour here. Even the fact that Canelo has only stopped two opponents within six rounds in his last nine fights points to the quality of fighters he has faced, rather than some lack of power or motivation to end the fight early. Although Callum Smith had his share excuses for his defeat at the hands of Canelo, the bout between the two was extremely one-sided.
Why should anyone bother watching then? Firstly – the fight is on DAZN, so you do not even have to stay up if you are within the UK or Europe. You can simply watch the fight spoiler free on their app. Secondly, although there are some notable black marks on the career of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, namely his 2018 ban for a positive Clenbuterol test and two controversial decisions in his two fights at middleweight against Golovkin, Alvarez has had a long, distinguished career at multiple-weight classes. He seems to wish to stay active in a Boxing world where many cherry-pick fights, takes on challenges that many would raise their eyebrows at, and is simply taking this fight in order to keep himself a belt-holder in hopes of unifying this Super Middleweight division. Many would like to see him fight Billy Joe Saunders, a fight with several interesting dynamics. This is just one more step towards that. We should enjoy this type of fighter while he is still around and continues to stay active in this COVID-affected world.
Anything other than a Canelo stoppage would be a surprise. From a betting perspective, the total rounds line (4.5) looks a little on the low side, depending on whether Yildrim goes in there to survive, which is a distinct possibility. It does not stand out as a superb bet though, as you would think Canelo will only need to get to him once or twice before the fight is over.
Unfortunately, the world-title bout between Julio Cesar Martinez and McWilliams Arroyo has been postponed a month due to a hand injury for the champion. Martinez’s career has stalled since winning the belt and these late fight pull-outs have become the norm. It makes the other undercard bouts seem extremely light. One for fans of the Heavyweight division would be the return of undefeated Zhilei Zhang (22-0) taking on Jerry Forrest (26-4). Zhang, a decorated amateur, is the wrong side of 30 now and has had a stop-start career. He has looked reasonably good in his last two fights and takes another small step up in grade vs Forrest, whose tough, usually competitive and will provide a good test. A stoppage victory for Zhang would be impressive, though he would do well to look for a step up in his career relatively soon.
The undercard also features a mixture of Matchroom and Canelo’s own prospects, including Marc Castro having his second fight, the hard-hitting teenager Diego Pacheco having his first eight-rounder against an opponent with no stoppage defeats, and the debut of the silver-medallist at the 2019 World Championships, Keyshawn Davis.