By John J. Raspanti
After knocking out Amir Khan with a thunderous right hand four months ago, Canelo Alvarez spoke of fighting WBA and IBF titleholder Gennady Golovkin "later this year."
Apparently talk is cheap. The bout never materialized. Both sides blamed each other.
Instead of Golovkin, Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs), who’s now fighting as a junior middleweight, will face undefeated Liverpool native Liam Smith this Saturday at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on HBO pay-per-view.
Smith (23-0, 13 KOs) is fun to watch. He’s a pressure fighter. Boxing runs in his blood. His three brothers (Paul, Callum, and Stephen) all box for a living. Liam became the first Smith to win a world title when he knocked out defending WBO champion John Thompson last year. But earning a pay-per-fight against Alvarez is a bit of stretch. Most boxing fans know little about him. His best win was against Thompson, who isn’t exactly a household name either.
Alvarez, 26, won a hard-fought 12-round unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto last year. He fought in spurts and controlled most of the action. His victories over then-undefeated Austin Trout, and talented Erisnady Lara were impressive. His promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, likely chewed off all his fingernails during the Lara match. Still, Alvarez got the win, though some felt he was given an early Christmas present.
Alvarez apparently likes Texas. The last time he was there he looked sensational knocking out hard-hitting James Kirkland in less than nine minutes.
Smith, 27, is aware that not many pundits are giving him a chance of upsetting Alvarez.
“I feel like I’m ready. I’m excited going in,” said Smith to Sky Sports News last week. “It doesn’t bother me. I’m happy to be the underdog, even though I’m the champion. I am the B-side of this fight. Canelo is the big name. The show is all about Canelo.”
For his part, Alvarez refuses to look past Smith.
“When I train, I only focus on one fighter, and that is the one in from of me,” Alvarez told www.worldboxingnews.com. "Liam Smith is undefeated and the WBO champion. He has knocked out many other fighters and is hungry to become a superstar.”
To pull off a monumental upset, Smith will have to punch first, and ask questions later. He’ll need to get his offense going from the opening bell. Alvarez is loaded with big fight experience. He’s patient, and looks to counter.
Smith needs to hurt Alvarez, to make the Mexican superstar pause before unleashing his punishing hooks.
None of this appears likely. Smith is a skillful fighter. His aggressive style is ready-made for Alvarez. But he’s never been tested against someone with Alvarez’s ability. Smith will lay it all on the line this Saturday night. He’ll go down punching, likely before Round 10.
After the fight, Alvarez will again talk about fighting Golovkin. He better seal the deal soon, before more boxing fans lose respect for him.