There have been two ways to look at this fight: odds being overwhelmingly in Alvarez's favor, and the boxing fan who knows Ryan Rhodes knowing that a veteran lefty with slickness and power in both hands, plus terrific counter-punching ability, is a danger to any 20-year-old fighter, no matter how celebrated or hyped.
Alvarez can fight and there are a lot of reasons he should be considered a heavy favorite here. He's aggressive, he's better than the guys that Rhodes has been beating in his career rebirth of the last few years, and he's got youth on his side. The 34-year-old Rhodes has some question marks concerning his inactivity since beating Jamie Moore in that terrific brawl, but I'm not really concerned about his ability to take Canelo's punches. Matthew Hatton and Lovemore N'dou have survived Canelo in the youngster's last two fights, though both clearly lost the fights, and Rhodes is a far better counter-puncher than either of them, and is a true 154-pound fighter, too.
It seems as though most analysts, pundits and fans have acknowledged that this is a legit fight for Canelo, but one he should still win easily. But I maintain that uneasy feeling for Alvarez going into tonight -- Rhodes is no joke, and I can't get Lemieux, Kirkland and Guerrero out of my mind. If Canelo dominates this fight, he'll have put in his true best performance to date, and will have a win over a top ten opponent for the first time. I'll take Alvarez, but I think trouble is in the cards for him tonight.
Unlike Canelo's previous opponents, at least Rhodes isn't being dredged up from semi-retirement or significantly undersized. He's a legit junior-middleweight, and has earned his opportunity to square off against the Golden Boy youngster. He can also punch a little bit, and his ability to fight off his back foot will be a key to countering the heat that Alvarez will bring.
Okay, Rhodes isn't a pushover... but can he win? Maybe. We just saw Grady Brewer stop Fernando Guerrero last night, and not too long ago, a couple of other hyped prospects in James Kirkland and David Lemieux were also taken down. Like the three aforementioned sluggers, Alvarez is there to be hit when he comes forward, and his durability has yet to be truly tested. Let's see what happens when he gets cracked by a man his own size... and that should happen tonight.
My pick: I took Rhodes in the Bad Left Hook pick'em game, but that's an odds play, as I think his chances are a little better than 5 to 1 against. Most likely result though is an Alvarez win, and I think he'll gain the nod via 116-112 type scores.
Rhodes may be tricky, but I don't think he has the power to push Canelo back for long, nor the defensive skill it would take to counter-punch to a win. With Alvarez moving forward and throwing at his usual rate, I can see either a mid-fight KO or a fairly lopsided UD, but I don't see how Rhodes mounts enough offense to pull this off while still evading the big punches.
This is undoubtedly the biggest test of Alvarez's career; Rhodes is experienced, has a solid chin, can switch-hit and punches hard with either hand. If Alvarez is expecting another Matt Hatton then we might be in for a shock.
I'm not sold on Alvarez being the next ‘big thing', he's a good young fighter but he's got some obvious flaws, most notably being he's easy to hit. His hand speed and combinations to both head and body are impressive and he seems to be a natural fighter, someone who can dig deep when he's put in trouble.
The fight being in Mexico is a big advantage for Alvarez; Rhodes will have to acclimatise to the altitude and heat, which is never the easiest of things for an Englishman to do. If Rhodes is on form then there's a chance of the upset, but my gut instinct tells me Alvarez will win via a points decision, perhaps having to recover from an early knockdown to do so.
I'll be perfectly honest: I know nothing of Rhodes. But I know that if he were really a threat to beat Saul Alvarez, he wouldn't be facing him Saturday night. The story here is Alvarez, the 20-year old red-head sensation. He's a fan-friendly action fighter who's been pegged by Golden Boy as the next great fighter to hail from Mexico. From what I've seen of him so far, I'd say that he has the goods to be great - a fearless warrior of exciting brawls, title defenses, and a couple of signature wins - but his lack of athleticism makes me assume he'll fall short of the special category. Saturday night, though? It won't matter. Canelo, easily, over this Rhodes dude.