By: Hans Themistode
Super middleweight contender Avni Yildirim has essentially become an afterthought. His upcoming showdown against the consensus best boxer in the world in Canelo Alvarez has already been chalked up as a loss.
In addition to what round Yildirim will be knocked out in, fans are already discussing how Alvarez will fare in his matchup against Billy Joe Saunders. The doubters however, don’t bother Yildirim or his trainer Joel Diaz. They simply ask that you don’t jump out of your seat once they take care of business in a few short weeks.
“Avni may be an underdog but he doesn’t care what anybody says,” said his trainer Joel Diaz. “He’s fighting for his country and he’s going to shock the world. This guy is not only a gym rat and a hard worker, but he’s a smart fighter, he loves learning. It doesn’t matter how hard the work is, he never complains.”
Yildirim, of course, is an overwhelming underdog against Alvarez come February 27th. In the mind’s eye of many, the Turkish native is fortunate to be in the position he is in today. Having been out of the ring for two years, Yildirim hasn’t officially won a fight since 2018. In his most recent ring appearance, Yildirim came up just short in his first bid to become a world champion. However, the loss wasn’t without a bit of controversy.
Roughly two years ago, Yildirim took on former belt holder Anthony Dirrell with the vacant WBC super middleweight title on the line. Although he came out of the gates slow, Yildirim picked up momentum during the second half of their contest. While Yildirim appeared to be the fresher and stronger fighter down the stretch, an unfortunate clash of heads in the seventh round forced their bout to end prematurely due to the gash on Dirrell’s eyebrow refusing to close.
Yildirim would then reluctantly accept a technical decision loss as the scorecards were read. Despite the defeat and ring inactivity, for some inexplicable reason, the WBC left Yildirim in the mandatory position and now finds himself in the most high-profile matchup of his career.
Regardless of his lack of ring appearances, Yildirim’s time on the sidelines wasn’t spent twiddling his thumbs. He worked constantly with Diaz as the COVID-19 induced shutdown helped speed up their time together. Now, with years to help mold him into the fighter he wants, Diaz believes he has just the right man to make the rest of the boxing world look stupid for doubting him.
“He’s a completely different fighter from when he fought Dirrell. I said to him, you are a physically stronger guy than Dirrell but you had no defense. That’s why they called him ‘Mr. Robot’, but there’s no robot in him now, I can tell you. I made a complete transformation because I dedicated time to him. The COVID situation helped him in a way because there was nothing to do. There were no fights, so just to keep him busy we would go to the gym and work on technique and making him a better fighter. Any trainer would like to have him, he just does what you tell him to do. He’s a true soldier – you tell him to do something, he just does it.”