MIAMI GARDENS, Florida – Now that Canelo Alvarez has torn through the WBC’s mandatory challenger for his 168-pound championship, he can fully focus on the first of two title unification fights he hopes to win later this year.
As expected, Matchroom Boxing announced after Alvarez’s three-round demolition of Avni Yildirim on Saturday night that he’ll battle unbeaten WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders on May 8. The site of the Alvarez-Saunders bout wasn’t announced, but promoter Eddie Hearn informed BoxingScene.com before Alvarez defeated Yildirim that Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, are the two venues under serious consideration.
Wherever their fight takes place, Alvarez won’t take much time off following his easy victory Saturday night before beginning training camp for Saunders, a much different opponent than Yildirim.
The 30-year-old Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) took just three weeks off after defeating England’s Callum Smith (27-1, 19 KOs) by unanimous decision in their 12-rounder December 19 at Alamodome in San Antonio. But his 12-round fight against Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) is considered more challenging than his win over Yildirim because Saunders is a smart, skillful southpaw who has never lost.
Turkey’s Yildirim (21-3, 12 KOs) had been knocked out in third round by England’s Chris Eubank Jr. (29-2, 22 KOs) three years before Alvarez annihilated him. Alvarez had to fight Yildirim, though, because he had long been the WBC’s mandatory challenger for its 168-pound crown.
Alvarez committed to fight Yildirim next as part of the sanctioning agreement he and Smith made with the WBC before their fight. Alvarez also won the WBA super middleweight title from Smith.
Saunders, meanwhile, is already preparing for the biggest fight of his career. The 2008 Olympian worked off some ring rust in his last fight – a 12-round, unanimous-decision victory over fellow Brit Martin Murray (39-6-1, 17 KOs) on December 4 at Wembley Arena in London.
If Alvarez defeats Saunders, he is expected to attempt to make a deal to fight IBF champ Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) in a full title unification fight sometime in September.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.