Billy Joe Saunders boxes well, but will that be enough to defeat Canelo?
By Max Warren
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (53-1-1, 36KOs) will face Billy Joe Saunders (29-0, 14KOs) on May 2nd at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the WBA/WBO super middleweight world title. Canelo currently holds the WBA belt, and Saunders has the WBO strap. Both men are coming off of knockout victories in their last bout.
Canelo moved all the way up from middleweight to light heavyweight, and brutally knocked out Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev last November. Saunders was having a lackluster performance in his U.S. debut versus Marcelo Esteban Coceres, but suddenly energized the crowd by knocking down Coceres three times in the 11th, prompting the referee to stop the fight. Even though Saunders and Canelo recently scored knockout victories, their May match-up has the look of a fight that will go all 12.
Many would argue that Canelo has received the benefit of the doubt in several of his close decision victories. Few boxing fans have confidence that Canelo can lose a close decision in Las Vegas. Can Saunders be the first man to score a decision victory over Canelo since Floyd Mayweather in 2013? It has been a long time since Canelo faced a slick southpaw.
Two talented lefties, Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout, gave Canelo considerable difficulty and came very close to defeating him. Some even argue that Canelo should have lost to both Lara and Trout. But, Canelo’s talent and ring IQ has come a long way since facing Lara in 2014 and Trout in 2013. Interestingly, Saunders poses many of the same threats that Trout and Lara showcased versus Canelo. Saunders is slick, boasts a quality jab, and punches at unique angles.
Saunders needs to box circles around Canelo and continue to move laterally. He will also have to double and triple his jab in order to prevent Canelo from planting and throwing his flashy combinations. Canelo’s impressive combinations tend to impress the judges, despite their effect. In fact, it can be the sole reason he ends up winning some rounds. Saunders always comes prepared when he has a big opportunity.
Just like heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, Saunders may fight down to his opposition, but he employs a masterful strategy when faced with a daunting challenge. The best strategy for Saunders is to use a steady jab and straight punches, and make Canelo chase him around the ring.
Saunders’ style may be kryptonite for Canelo. It has been a long time since Canelo faced someone like Saunders, and similar strategies that Canelo has used in recent fights will not be ideal for his next outing. Saunders might have to win 10 rounds decisively in order to earn a decision in Las Vegas. A third Canelo vs. Gennady “GGG” Golovkin match-up is on the horizon, and a Saunders victory will derail the superfight. It is highly unlikely that Saunders knocks out Canelo. Billy Joe Saunders possesses the tools necessary to give Canelo fits, but it is difficult to envision a fight in which Canelo is thoroughly outclassed for 12 rounds. A decision victory for Saunders is not out of the realm of possibility, but don’t count on it.