Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez v Avni Yildirim: Pound-for-pound star defends titles in Miami

By Sports Desk February 26, 2021

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez makes the first appearance in what is hoped will be a far busier year on Saturday, defending his super-middleweight titles against Avni Yildirim in Miami. 

The coronavirus pandemic put paid to many best-laid plans for 2020, though Canelo was still able to squeeze in one outing before the end, putting on another emphatic demonstration of his skills against Callum Smith last December. 

Smith was deemed the best around at the 168-pound limit. He had won the World Boxing Super Series - his coronation coming after a stoppage triumph over George Groves - and was 27-0, while had a considerable height and reach advantage over the Mexican for their in-ring meeting at the Alamodome in San Antonio. 

However, the British boxer simply became the latest opponent to find out just how good Alvarez truly is. A lopsided triumph on the scorecards secured the WBA and WBC belts, as well as enhancing an already impressive CV. 

He is far from done just yet, either. A unification clash with WBO holder Billy Joe Saunders is seemingly lined up for May, while a third episode in the long-running saga with Gennadiy Golovkin could yet happen before the end of 2021 - though don't hold your breath on that one. 

First, though, he must make sure he deals with Yildirim. The Turkish fighter is the mandatory challenger with the WBC and is a hurdle that should not be overlooked, even if the two defeats in his career raise questions over whether he may be out of his depth at the home of the Miami Dolphins. 

To Canelo's credit, he has never been a fighter to look too far beyond the next man put in front of him. The target is clear: clean up in the division and become the undisputed champion. 

"It's important for me and Eddy [Reynoso, his trainer] because very few people have achieved becoming undisputed champions," he said in the build-up. "That's a short-term goal for us. To win all the titles at 168 pounds. 

"Obviously, no Mexican has ever done it. So that's our short-term goal, to keep making history. And that's what we want. Eddy and I have always wanted the best. And we want to keep making history." 


RECENT HISTORY 

Canelo dispelled any potential concerns against his decision to face a bigger man in Smith at the super-middleweight limit, though the latter was hampered in their bout by an arm injury.

Still, Smith was suitably impressed by what he faced that night, telling Sky Sports a month after his first loss: "I don't think anyone beats him. He may only lose if he keeps going up in weight but he's put a stop to that. His defence is just too good."

Yildirim was actually beaten last time out, his attempt to win the vacant WBC belt cut short in February 2019 following a clash of heads in the seventh round that left Anthony Dirrell with a nasty cut. The action was eventually stopped in the 10th, Dirrell named the winner via split decision. 

His other loss came in October 2017, when he was stopped inside three rounds by Chris Eubank Jr in Stuttgart.


TALE OF THE TAPE 

SAUL ALVAREZ
Age: 30
Height: 5ft 8ins (173cm) 
Weight: 167.6 lbs
Reach: 70.5ins  
Professional record: 54-1-2 (36 KOs) 

AVNI YILDIRIM
Age: 29
Height: 5ft 11.5ins (182cm) 
Weight: 167.6 lbs
Reach: 70ins  
Professional record: 21-2 (12 KOs) 

Saul '@Canelo' Alvarez is in elite Mexican company  pic.twitter.com/t6mgshtBsg

— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) February 26, 2021 THE UNDERCARD 

Matchroom's Miami offering includes a further glimpse at Zhang Zhilei, the unbeaten heavyweight prospect last seen knocking out Devin Vargas. Jerry Forrest is his opponent this time - the American southpaw has suffered four defeats, though went the distance last time out before losing on points to world-title challenger Carlos Takam.

There are two undefeated super-middleweights on duty before the main event, Diego Pacheco and Alexis Espino taking on Rodolfo Gomez Jr and Ashton Sykes respectively. 

Look out for Keyshawn Davis too, as he prepares to make his professional debut. After the COVID-19 crisis forced a delay to Tokyo 2020, he opted not to wait for a chance at Olympic gold in Japan this year and instead is stepping into the paid ranks.


WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY... 

Canelo expects a typically aggressive approach from his opponent: "I always want to be perfect, I always want to do things right inside the ring and this isn't any exception. I always try to be patient, but it depends on what Yildirim tries to do – he's going to try and rip my head off. So it's going to depends on what's going to do."

The subject of fervent support in his homeland, Yildirim said he was ready for the toughest assignment in boxing: "I'm feeling good, I'm ready for tomorrow. It's showtime, baby. I've waited a long time for the first, it's my time."

Promoter Eddie Hearn on the headline act: "I've been around the sport for 34 years and I do feel like a fan boy around Canelo Alvarez because he's the best fighter I've ever seen up close."

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