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Saturday a gunslinger from across the border rides into town as AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, hosts the biggest draw in boxing. Three super-middleweight titles are on the line as the WBA and WBC titlist and Mexican superstar Canelo Álvarez faces off with WBO holder Billy Joe Saunders from England in what will be a very intriguing clash of styles.
What can I say about Álvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) that we don't know already?
Now 30, he is at the peak of his powers and probably his optimum weight. The four-division champ is clearly the number one fighter in the world based on his résumé alone. The list of big-name victims is longer than one’s arm, yet in some quarters, he still doesn’t really get the credit he deserves. The fact remains he has faced the best in the three divisions he has mainly participated in, and except for a points defeat to Floyd Mayweather eight years ago when all the terms (including weight) were against him, he has remained unbeaten.
No matter what he does from now on in, his legacy and place in boxing history is assured. He is one of the great Mexican fighters.
So, if Álvarez is respected, but not likeable, he faces a similar enigma in his opponent on Saturday. Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) , a year older than Saturday's opponent, also is talented. Yet the difference between the two is that where Álvarez is always looking to give his best, the Englishman often doesn't and fights to the level of his opponent, frequently appearing unmotivated. When he is on his game though, he pulls out signature wins like his technical dismantling of dangerman David Lemieux, making it look easy with a shutout points win nearly 3 1/2 years ago. Add in the victory over former longtime contender Andy Lee and you can see the one-time Olympian has skills. He will need all of them, plus tons of determination, in the fight he has been waiting for — the biggest fight of his career.
Stylistically, this appears to be more of an interesting, rather than exciting matchup.
Álvarez is strong, big at match weight and, although he is not tall at 5-foot-8, his 70.5-inch reach is decent. He only gives away a half-inch in the reach measurement to Saunders, who at 5-foot-11 will be looking to utilize his length advantage, as well as his faster feet.
The power advantage certainly lies with the Mexican. He is capable of winning this by stoppage, whereas Saunders will have to do this the hard way and try to win on points. Álvarez will try to come forward, cut off the ring and get Saunders cornered where he can make use of his heavy hands to head and body. In contrast, Saunders will be moving backwards trying to keep Canelo at length, using his quick feet and snappy punches to keep the Mexican off balance and reaching.
It is a classic bull versus matador contest, the pressure getting applied by Canelo, the frustration coming from Saunders.
Both fighters' records are showing they have completed the 12-round distance 12 times. Saunders has never competed in a unification of world titles, yet Álvarez has on six occasions, each of them going the distance. Another point of interest is that Álvarez has faced unbeaten fighters in eight contests. Five of these have gone the distance (one of which is his only defeat to Mayweather). The other three have gone nine rounds or longer. Those fascinating stats shape how I see Saturday night unfolding.
I have heard the following questions from fight fans across social media: Will this be one of the biggest shocks by a Brit fighter across the Atlantic? Will Álvarez stop Saunders? I say no to both questions, if Austin Trout, Callum Smith and Julio César Chávez Jr. can take Álvarez the distance, so can Saunders, but I can't see British fighter doing enough to impress the judges in front of what will effectively be a hometown crowd for the Mexican star. The styles and stats of both fighters are indicating a logical outcome — Álvarez, by decision.
Pick: Canelo Álvarez by decision +150
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.