BY TIM BURGESS
I have to admit this isn’t the Canelo Alvarez column I wanted to write. Initially I planned on writing a piece on how I’m tired of Canelo. About how I planned on skipping Saturday night’s pay-per-view battle of Mexico with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. because of Canelo’s repeated avoidance of middleweight monster Gennady Golovkin. About how Canelo lost his way; he came up taking the toughest fights at the toughest moments, but now is ducking one of the biggest challenges of his career. About how if we all hit Canelo in his wallet by not buying the fight, maybe he would get the picture. But I can’t write that column. It would be a lie. No, on Saturday night I’ll be at the bar, on the edge of my seat excited to see what happens when the first bell sounds.
As much as I’d like to rail on the Alvarez/Chavez matchup, the pair do bring a lot of intrigue to the weekend. It should all start Friday when the two step on the scale. The fight is contracted for 164.5 pounds. Canelo has spent his most recent fights nearly 10 pounds lighter at his preferred weight of 155. On the other side of the spectrum, Chavez has fought as high as 172 pounds and has repeatedly struggled to make 168 pounds in the past. If Chavez can’t make the weight he’ll be fined $1 million for each pound he’s over by. It could be an expensive afternoon of Julio if he hasn’t put in the work in camp.
The size advantage will also play an interesting dynamic in the ring, of course. Canelo has feasted on naturally smaller fighters recently, cruising to knockout victories of Liam Smith and Amir Khan and winning a decision against Miguel Cotto. Similarly, Chavez has been the biggest man in all of his recent fights except when he fought natural light heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara. Fonfara knocked Chavez down and made him quit on his stool. But Canelo, a 6-1/2 to 1 favorite, has never fought at such a size disadvantage. Following Friday’s weigh in I’d expect Chavez to put on at least 15 pounds before he enters the ring. If this is the case he figures to have at least a ten pound weight advantage to go along with Chavez’s 4 inch height advantage and 2-1/2″ reach advantage. All these factors mean that Canelo will need to use his boxing skills to take down Chavez. There will be no stalking Chavez. No bullying him around the ring. Canelo will have to outpoint the bigger man.
Finally, these guys genuinely don’t like each other. Throughout the media tour and highlighted on HBO’s FaceOff, Chavez has criticized Canelo for skipping out on the aforementioned Golovkin fight. Conversely, Canelo has been critical of Chavez’s handling of his own career. I’m not one that feels like WWE-style storylines make for better fights, but a little real animosity always makes for more fun in the ring.
Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez are two fighters that probably don’t belong in the ring together. They’re vastly separated in size, and maybe even more vastly separated in skill. Alvarez took the easy money by picking a fight with Chavez when he could have dared to be great by fighting Golovkin. But despite all this, there is plenty at stake when the two step in the ring Saturday night. And as much as I hate to admit it, I’ll be there ready to watch it all.
Canelo by unanimous decision. Chavez is the much bigger man and will carry a huge effective weight advantage into the ring on Saturday. But while Chavez is big, he is neither particularly skilled nor tough. I look for Canelo to outbox him from start to finish. Because of size Canelo may never do much physical damage, but I don’t see a scenario in which the fight is ever in too much doubt.
Tim Burgess is a boxing fan in Houston. You can read his round-by-round scores for this fight and many others on his twitter @timburg.