By Matt Lieberman: Canelo Alvarez could be challenging WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. (27-3, 21 KOs) in 2022 for his title in what could lead to him attempting to capture all four belts to become the undisputed 175-lb champion.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum says Team Canelo wants to fight Smith Jr. first in what would be a situation where he arguably takes on the most beatable of the three champions before moving on to tackle the progressively more challenging champs in Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol.
Team Canelo hinting about Joe Smith Jr. fight
Arum says he thinks Canelo will fight IBF/WBC champion Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) AFTER taking on Joe Smith first for his WBO belt. Whether that’s the right move for Canelo remains to be seen.
With Smith’s power, size and youth, Canelo might come unstuck against him before he ever gets a chance to fight Beterbiev. Smith is a better puncher than anyone Canelo has faced during his career, including Gennadiy Golovkin.
Smith, 32, fights next month against Callum Johnson on January 15th. Whoever comes out victorious in that fight has an excellent chance of facing Canelo next.
What’s vital to Canelo is the WBO title, not the fighter that holds the strap. But obviously, the 36-year-old Callum (20-1, 14 KOs) would be the easier of the two on paper than Smith Jr because he’s older and is coming off an unimpressive 10 round majority decision win over little known 36-year-old Russian Server Emurlaev last October.
Arum would probably prefer Canelo face Joe Smith Jr. or Beterbiev next because he promotes both guys, so it’s in his best interest that the Mexican star face either of them rather than Johnson.
“There haven’t been any real conversations [for Canelo vs. Artur Beterbiev]. I think they might want to fight Joe Smith Jr next and then go to Beterbiev to unify the titles. They sort of hinted at that,” said Bob Arum to iFL TV on his discussions with Cnaelo’s manager Eddy Reynoso on his next fight.
“That’s why this fight on January 15th between Joe Smith Jr. and Callum Johnson is so important,” said Arum.
Beterbiev out of luck
It’s telling that Canelo’s management hasn’t contacted Arum about wanting to put together a fight with Beterbiev. If they haven’t said anything about that match-up by now, it tells you that Canelo has zero interest in facing Beterbiev next.
The reason for that is Alvarez is expected to wait on fighting WBC cruiserweight champion Ilunga Makabu in May.
What’s remarkable about that is Canelo is seemingly immune to the criticism and lack of interest from the boxing world in the Makabu fight. Despite the tremendous amount of criticism Canelo is receiving, he doesn’t care and will go through with the battle with the WBC champion anyway.
It’s almost as if Canelo is taking the fight now because fans don’t want him to, and he doesn’t want to be seen as giving in to them.
That stubbornness has helped make Canelo a success, but it’s also turned off many fans because of his bad habit of picking beatable opposition rather than the gifted fighters they want him to fight.
When Canelo has finally fought the opposition that the fans wanted him to, the fighters were often old.
Examples of Canelo fighting older fighters:
- Gennadiy Golovkin
- Shane Mosley
- James Kirkland
- Daniel Jacobs
- Miguel Cotto
- Lovemore Ndou
- Billy Joe Saunders
- Floyd Mayweather Jr
- Erislandy Lara
- Ryan Rhodes