As we awaited the ring walks for Saturday night’s super middleweight world title fight, we were allowed a significant peep behind the curtain to the Canelo Show. Callum Smith, the unbeaten, defending world champion, was named second throughout fight week and walked first, having been coordinated within an inch of his life on the protocol of such an occasion.
A staff member juggling a clipboard gave him the nod, ticking a box dedicated to the champion on the smallest section of her list. Cutting a lonely figure on the DAZN runway, Smith strolled towards to ring to a chorus of Mexican boos. Tonight he was the bridesmaid, a mere acquaintance of the bride — no eyes were really focused on the 6 feet and 3 inches of “Mundo.”
The challenger followed with antithetical aplomb. Buoyed by the tones of a Mexican conjunto banda, Canelo hopped, skipped and shadowboxed his way into Smith’s focus. As a cover of “The Final Countdown” echoed around the arena, the Briton started his very own as a titleholder. Smith was merely a guest to the Alamodome in Texas, and like many before him, he was about to find out why.
Over 36 minutes of boxing beauty, Canelo Alvarez carefully but convincingly diffused Callum Smith’s arsenal. A frustrating evening for the Briton saw the No. 1 at 168 reduced to just another stepping stone along the growing resume of the pound-for-pound star, with the wide winner left fresh-faced with barely a mark on him.
It was a contest that saw Alvarez make subtle adjustment to negate anything that Joe Gallagher and the Smith’s four-piece band of brothers could conjure up. Smith’s left arm – hanging on by a thread by the time the last bell chimed – was targeted by the Mexican in an attempt to quell Smith’s signature check left hook and his jabs were consistently effective by being thrown at a slightly higher angle than typically drilled.
The right uppercut returned as a money shot. Not to be outdone by Anthony Joshua’s use of the classy shot a week prior, Alvarez implemented the snaking right with ease, jarring Smith’s head back and giving the Briton another couple of inches in height. Smith was brave, game, but fundamentally flawed in having zero answer to any of the questions that the challenger posed.
Seeing Canelo in this mood is a joy to watch. He’d stand in close quarters, relying on his silky head movement to avoid any danger like a man stood in the middle of a busy highway, leaping and bending out of the way of oncoming traffic. He never looked remotely close to being run over. With a stocky head melted onto his traps like a reinforced candle, it would need quite the hit.
Smith will be disappointed by his showing but will ultimately concede that the better man won. A reluctance to trade in the pocket with healthy combinations or spoiling tactics in the clinch may have squeezed a few more rounds out of the judges, but from as early as the second round the visitor would have realized that it wasn’t to be his night.
Eddie Hearn looks keen on feeding Billy Joe Saunders and Gennadiy Golovkin to the unified super middleweight champion next. “GGG” is too proud to turn down a trilogy with Alvarez up at 168 pounds, but it’s easy to argue that fight now going a similar way to Saturday’s.
Canelo still has just the one official loss on his record to Floyd Mayweather back in 2013 where he was given a master class in defensive boxing by the recent Hall of Fame inductee. It’s a popular opinion that that defeat shaped the modern-day Alvarez and gave him an insight into the tools needed to operate at the very highest level in the sport.
The thing is, it was probably more of an insight into how the business of boxing works at the top of the mountain. To win the “Canelo sweepstakes”, like Floyd before, is seen as more of an accolade than any of the trinkets on offer. You are the chosen one. Like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, you only realize you are in too deep once you walk through the door.
On Saturday night, Smith was just the latest guest on the Canelo Show. And the show must go on.