Without question, the December 19th bout between WBA World super-middleweight champion and the same governing body’s Super champion will be the greatest example of Eddie Hearn’s superb negotiating skills to date. The man at the helm of heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s career and the leader of Matchroom boxing has been trying to unify the most fabled division in the sport for years.
This has proven to be an elusive goal as rumored fights between Joshua and then WBC champion Deontay Wilder never came to fruition. However, while the heavyweight division has historically gained the most attention in the sport, currently the biggest name in the sweet science is Canelo Alvarez. After a nasty brake-up with Golden Boy entertainment and the United States streaming service DAZN, fans across the globe waited to see what Alvarez would do next.
To the surprise of everyone, just weeks after becoming a free agent, he announced he would be going back to the streaming service he’d just left for a one-fight deal. While most of the world marvels at the genius of Eddie Hearn and his ability to pull this off on short notice, there is one man who must forget about the fanfare and view December 19th as business as usual, Canelo’s next opponent Callum Smith.
Focus on what he brings to the fight, not Canelo’s star power
Callum Smith is currently the WBA’s Super champion in the super-middleweight division. At the risk of sounding silly, he must remind himself of that going into this fight. Yes, Canelo Alvarez is ranked as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, but he hasn’t fought since winning the WBO light heavyweight title against Sergey Kovalev in November of last year.
While Smith himself has had a similar layoff, due in large part to the pandemic, it was Alvarez who was embroiled in a nasty battle with Golden Boy Entertainment, eventually going to the great length of suing to get out of his deal.
Meanwhile, Smith has been training for months, publicly saying he wanted to fight before the end of 2020 and lobbying for Canelo to be his next opponent. Now that he’s got his wish, he must not miss out on the opportunity to become a household name.
If he wins, the entire sports world will take notice of the 30-year-old with three older brothers who were professional fighters, and he will finally get the recognition he feels he deserves. However, a loss to Alvarez would make him a footnote in the storied career of a man some pundits identify as the best fighter in the sport.
Don’t allow Alvarez to lure him into making wild punches
One of the reasons Canelo Alvarez is among the best fighters in the world is his knowledge and ring savvy. It’s not uncommon for him to stay dangerously close to his opponent, making a scoring opportunity enticing, only to use a superbly timed head roll to make the fighter miss. This is such a dangerous technique that most trainers won’t even teach it to a fighter unless he has displayed exceptional talent.
If used improperly, the fighter takes the risks of his opponent landing a big shot and ultimately being knocked out. However, Canelo has become the master at using head rolls to stay close, causing missed punches and then countering with his legendary power. If Smith is going to win on December 19th, he must beware of this tactic, keeping in mind that Alvarez is always dangerous and any appearance of vulnerability is usually a facade.
Smith must use his height to his advantage
In a 1941 article about the upcoming heavyweight championship bout between Joe Louis and Billy Conn, legendary sportswriter Jimmy Watterson said, “A good little man cannot beat a good big man.” That saying has been an adage in boxing ever since. At 6’3″ Callum Smith is a giant among super-middleweights. Canelo Alvarez, on the other hand, is 5’9″ which is average for the division. Smith also enjoys an almost eight-inch reach advantage over Alvarez.
If Canelo attempts to use his impeccable timing to elude punches and stay close, Smith can use his reach advantage to keep him outside with the job. If he allows Alvarez to come in close, avoiding his superbly timed power punches will be almost unavoidable; any game plan put together before climbing in the ring may be rendered useless in that scenario.
Use the counter left hook
Over the years, fight fans have fallen in love with Callum Smith’s counter left hook. Time and time again, he’s proven to have a knack for throwing the jab, slipping left outside of the other fighter’s right-hand counter and throwing a hard left hook. If Canelo Alvarez employs the tactic of trying to get close and trying to make Smith miss wild shots, this may be his best response. The jab will keep Alvarez on the outside, and when he inevitably tries to counter, the left hook will be there for the taking.
Regardless of which strategies Canelo Alvarez and Callum Smith decide to use, this fight promises to be a good one. Daniel Dubois taking a knee in the 10th round against Joe Joyce showed the world how disappointing a fight can be when an inexperienced fighter goes up against a ring savvy veteran; that won’t be the case when Alvarez and Smith climb into the ring together. Both men are 30 years old, and both are fully confident that they will come out of the fight victorious.
Canelo Alvarez is the biggest name in the sport, but Teofimo Lopez upsetting Vasyl Lomachenko in October reminded fight fans that in boxing anything can happen on any given night. Callum Smith desperately wants to take the next step from well-respected fighter to a household name. On December 19th, he’ll finally get his chance.