- •Reports on boxing for ESPN.co.uk, as well as several national newspapers
•Has been reporting on British boxing for over 15 years
•Appears on BoxNation’s Boxing Matters show
Callum Smith is not the first English boxer to face Canelo Alvarez. In fact, he’s not even the first person in his family to box the Mexican superstar.
Smith (27-0, 19 KOs) is one of four brothers who have all either fought for or won world titles. In 2016, Callum was ringside when elder sibling Liam Smith lost his junior middleweight world title to Alvarez in front of 51,240 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs) floored Liam three times in the ninth-round stoppage, sealed by a body shot that left the boxer from Liverpool writhing in agony on the canvas. It was Alvarez’s fifth win over an Englishman.
As painful as that experience and memory was for Liam, Callum regards it as a positive for him as he heads into Saturday’s third defense of his WBA super middleweight world title against Alvarez at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Alvarez, 30, a four-division world titlist, is a strong betting favorite for this fight.
“It definitely helped being around Liam when he fought Canelo,” Callum Smith told ESPN. “You have to prepare for all the eyes that are on you there because he is such a superstar.
“I’ve been around Canelo before Liam’s fight with him. I know what he’s about; it won’t bother me.”
Smith, 30, who won the title with a fifth-round KO victory over English rival George Groves in the World Boxing Super Series final in 2018, has talked tactics with Liam, and even though the matchup was confirmed only a month ago, he has been preparing for some time to fight this month.
“I’ve spoken to Liam about him, little things he does and sets you up with, things I can exploit, and it’s definitely been useful having a brother who has been in the ring with him,” Smith told ESPN. “I can pick his brains to gain that little advantage. I never thought then I would fight him because he was fighting at a lower weight; he wasn’t a potential opponent in my mind.”
Callum, at 6-foot-3, certainly has physical advantages that he hopes to exploit against the 5-8 Alvarez, but Alvarez has recently knocked out taller opponents in Sergey Kovalev at light heavyweight and Rocky Fielding at super middleweight. However, Smith says nobody is invincible.
“As good as he is, he’s only a human being, no one is unbeatable,” Callum Smith said. “The best can get beaten, and we have seen that recently. [Vasiliy] Lomachenko was the best in the world in my opinion, and he lost to another good fighter in [Teofimo] Lopez, and it shows great fighters are not invincible.”
Smith will also have to produce a much better performance than he did in his last outing, a unanimous points decision over John Ryder, who was not the only one who thought he should have gotten the decision in November 2019.
“It could have been anything — sometimes you just don’t perform and it was a lot closer than it should have been. It was my own fault,” Smith told ESPN. “I’ve got to be better, and whenever I have the pressure on me knowing I have to perform, it makes me deliver, and I believe you will see the best out of me against Canelo Alvarez.”
Prediction: Smith will perform much better than he did against Ryder and utilize his height, reach and jab to limit the success of Alvarez, especially early on in the fight. Canelo’s quality and versatility as one of the best boxers in the world will be enough to see him earn a unanimous decision victory, but Smith can do enough to make the margins interestingly narrow enough and stay on his feet for all 12 rounds.
By the numbers
1 Alvarez is one of five Mexican fighters in history with belts in four different divisions (Juan Manuel Marquez, Jorge Arce, Erik Morales, Leo Santa Cruz)
36.8% Total punches connected by Alvarez per fight, according to CompuBox (first among super middleweights)
46.3% Power punches landed by Alvarez per fight, the fifth best among all active fighters, according to CompuBox
39.6 Jabs landed per round by Smith, first among all super middleweights and tied for first in all of boxing, according to CompuBox
62 Punches thrown per round by Smith, which is well above the super middleweight average of 52.5, according to CompuBox (Alvarez averages 42.4 punches per round)
In their own words
“I’ve been wanting a big fight since becoming world champion, so I’m so pleased that during these challenging times we can deliver to the fans a fight between the very best in the division. I truly believe I beat him and will prove that 168 pounds is my division.” — Callum Smith
Title fight: Canelo Alvarez vs. Callum Smith, 12 rounds, for Smith’s WBA “super” super middleweight title and Alvarez’s WBA “regular” super middleweight title and the vacant WBC super middleweight title
Francisco Rodriguez Jr. vs. TBA, 12 rounds, flyweights
Diego Pacheco vs. Rodolfo Gomez Jr., 8 rounds, super middleweights
Alexis Espino vs. Ashton Sykes, 6 rounds, super middleweights
Frank Sanchez vs. TBA, 10 rounds, heavyweights
Christian Gomez Duran vs. TBA, 8 rounds, welterweights
Austin Williams vs. Miguel Angel Hernandez, 6 rounds, middleweights
GGG needs to win — and impress — if he wants a third fight with Alvarez
Gennadiy Golovkin would rather be in Callum Smith’s shoes this weekend, stepping in the ring with Alvarez, but instead he will have to make do with his own challenge that might lead him back to his rival.
Golovkin will meet IBF mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta on Friday behind closed doors at Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Despite the rather unheralded opponent, Golovkin will make history in this fight, as it will be his 21st title defense. Golovkin was tied with Bernard Hopkins with 20 consecutive defenses before losing to Alvarez in their rematch in 2018. He then regained the IBF world title with a unanimous decision against Sergiy Derevyanchenko in October 2019.
Title ambition aside, Golovkin knows he needs to impress in order to revive interest in a third fight between him and Alvarez. Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KOs), 38, must beat Szeremeta and then hope Alvarez is tempted by completing their trilogy rather than looking for unification fights at super middleweight first in 2021, should he beat Smith. Golovkin needs to look better and win more convincingly than in his last outing against Derevyanchenko. Golovkin looked less ferocious than he has been in recent years in that fight, which left fans asking if Father Time had caught up with him. Some even thought Derevyanchenko should have gotten the decision.
So there’s plenty at stake for GGG even if this is not the fight he — or boxing fans — wanted this year.
Golovkin’s first spell as champion was mostly a reign of terror, as the California-based boxer racked up 23 consecutive knockout wins until Daniel Jacobs took him to a decision in 2017. GGG has not found the stoppages so easy to pull off since, as he was held to a controversial draw with Canelo later in 2017, then lost on points in the rematch before knocking out Steve Rolls in four rounds in June 2019.
Ahead of this fight, Golovkin has been working on improving the power that has served him so well throughout his career.
“I tried to broaden my scope, and a special emphasis was made on power training,” Golovkin said through a translator at a virtual news conference earlier this week.
“[This fight] is very important because it’s a record-breaking defense, and it’s very exciting for any athlete to set a new record,” GGG said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a 21st defense or some other number. It’s just the fact that you’re setting a record is something that pleases you. I treat every fight very seriously, and at this level, there are no easy fights. When you are a champion, you realize that every opponent brings certain challenges, and I take training very seriously.”
Golovkin believes he still has some things to accomplish in boxing, but everything is up in the air until he defeats Szeremeta.
“I have not achieved everything I wanted to achieve,” Golovkin said. “I first need to win on Friday, and after that I will start to look into other opportunities and options in order to achieve more in my career.”
Szeremeta (21-0, 5 KOs) fought on that Golovkin-Derevyanchenko card, beating Oscar Cortes via second-round TKO, and is seven years younger than the defending world champion. This will be Szeremeta’s biggest fight.
“You cannot cheat time. His prime is behind him, but he’s still an extremely dangerous fighter and I have to remember this all the time,” Szeremeta said of GGG. “A lot of people when fighting GGG, they go backward. You cannot fight going backward against GGG because this is what he likes. I want him to fight my tempo, my fight. I want him to fight like I want him to do.”
Prediction: Szeremeta will find himself out of his depth by the halfway mark, and Golovkin will go on to force the stoppage around the eighth round. This is a chance for Golovkin to look good, and you have to think he will deliver.
By the numbers
1,064 Golovkin held the IBF title for 1,064 days between 2015 and 2018. He is one of two boxers to be two-time IBF middleweight titlist (Jermain Taylor)
21 If Golovkin beats Szeremeta, he will break the tie with Bernard Hopkins for the most title defenses at middleweight (both have 20)
1 This is Szeremeta’s first career world title fight. He’s a former European middleweight champion
3 Szeremeta has won three of his past five fights by stoppage. He just had two stoppage victories in his first 16 pro fights
In their own words
“I treat every fight very seriously. At this level, there are no easy fights. When you’re champion, you realize that every opponent brings certain challenges. I take training very seriously, and I hope the more I train, the easier it will be for me during the fight.” — Gennadiy Golovkin
“You cannot defeat time, we know that. We know his prime is behind him, and I’m walking into my prime right now. He is still an extremely dangerous fighter, and I need to remember this all the time. There is no pressure on me. I don’t pay attention to what the bookmakers are saying or what the predictions are. I’m just going into the ring to beat him.” — Kamil Szeremeta
Title fight: Gennadiy Golovkin vs. Kamil Szeremeta, 12 rounds, for Golovkin’s IBF middleweight title
Ali Akhmedov vs. Carlos Gongora, 12 rounds, for the vacant IBO super middleweight world title
John Ryder vs. Mike Guy, 10 rounds, super middleweights
Hyun Mi Choi vs. Calista Silgado, 10 rounds, junior lightweights
Jalan Walker vs. Rafael Reyes, 6 rounds, featherweights
Reshat Mati vs. TBA, 6 rounds, welterweights
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