Kell Brook’s dice with destiny earned him many plaudits, but cost him an unbeaten record and a broken eye socket. Now just a week shy of that night at the O2 Arena, Liam Smith 23-0-1(13KO’s) hopes that his time in the Texas sun will bring him greater joy.
Brook’s venture to face the best Middleweight on the planet was gutsy. But it carried with it a sense of mission impossible, while Smith’s challenge does not pose such jaw dropping odds against him.
That is why the same level of hype has not been needed for Smith’s defence of his WBO Light Middleweight crown. His date with Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 47-1-1(33KO’s) is a match-up of two legitimate 154lb fighters.
The venue for this titanic clash is fitting. With Alvarez’s takeover of prime time boxing being set in the City that cries out “bigger is better”.
The AT&T Stadium – known by most as the Cowboys Stadium – is perfect for arguably boxing’s biggest attraction, the flame-haired Mexican waiting to be crowned world champion once again.
But Liam Smith bids to become the second visitor within a week to take victory in the same arena. The New York Giants opened their NFL season with a 20-19 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday evening.
And while Smith will not be doing Victor Cruz’s salsa in the End Zone, he will be hoping to do his own victory celebration on Saturday night.
Alvarez is fresh off his venture to “Middleweight” which began with victory over Puerto Rican icon Miguel Cotto (UD 12) and ended with a chilling knockout of Amir Khan (KO 6).
Smith enters, this, his 3rd defence of the WBO title he won in a vacant title contest with John Thompson (TKO 7). The tall but vulnerable Thompson was broken down by Smith who finished the contest in style. He then went on to make a voluntary and mandatory defence, winning both by knockout.
‘Jimmy’ Kilrain Kelly (TKO 7) lasted longer than expected, but was never a match for the vastly more experienced Smith. Then Predrag Radosevic (KO 2) proved no sort of threat to Smith’s reign.
For all his criticism of not fighting Gennady Golovkin, Alvarez has never before been one to avoid the tough fights. When holding the WBC title, he challenged then WBA ruler Austin Trout (W UD 12) – a fighter who was fresh off a shock victory of Cotto.
Then after losing his belts to Floyd Mayweather Jr, it didn’t take long for him to fight the heavily avoided Erislandy Lara (W SD 12).
(Highlights of Mayweather vs Canelo via the Leroy Burfict YouTube channel):
The long list of notable names on his resume make this seem a gigantic task for Liverpool’s Smith.
Having never fought outside of the UK, Smith will be in very hostile territory as the Mexican and Mexican-American contingent come out in force in this stadium that can hold over 100,000 spectators – as it did for WrestleMania this year and the 2010 NBA All-Star game – it won’t reach that sort of attendance but expect there to be heavily more fans in the stadium than there was for Manny Pacquiao’s triumph over Ghanaian Joshua Clottey (41,843).
The respective styles of the two boxers should mesh well for a highly entertaining fight. They both suit each other down to the ground, which means it may come down to who has the better pedigree and who can hit the hardest.
One has to believe that both of those are with Alvarez. Smith will not necessarily stand in the pocket with Alvarez, but he won’t be on the move in the same way that Lara or Mayweather were – Canelo’s toughest fights to date.
Smith may want to take a note out of Trout’s book – in spite of the defeat he suffered that night.
Trout fought on the move, but remained in range enough to find his own successes while restricting what Alvarez could land with clever lateral movement. But Trout was also a tricky southpaw, something the orthodox Smith obviously is not.
Smith is an underrated operator, but the feeling is that Alvarez is just a level above in almost every department.
‘Beefy’ will remain a threat throughout an often exhilarating contest. He will find success to both the head and the body of Canelo, but it will be the work downstairs from the challenger that will cause the greater damage.
Contentiously behind on the scorecards at the halfway point, Smith will begin to take more punishment.
A brave effort from the champion will come to a close somewhere around the 9th as Alvarez highlights his serious power at this weight class once again.
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