Canelo Alvarez hasn’t fought since his Nov. 2019 win over Sergey Kovalev, as May 2 and Sept. 12 return dates this year have fallen through for a variety of reasons, but he may have his next fight now lined up. Maybe, anyway.
The 168-pound belt was stripped from David Benavidez last Friday, when Benavidez failed to make weight for a defense against Roamer Alexis Angulo. Had Benavidez made weight and went on to win, which he did as the fight went on anyway, he would have been facing Yildirim next to take care of his mandatory defense.
Instead, the belt is now vacant, and Yildirim (21-2, 12 KO) is owed his shot all the same. Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KO) is the WBC’s “franchise champion” at middleweight, and also holds the WBA’s secondary “world” title at super middleweight, which is the weight he intends to fight at right now. He moved up to light heavyweight to beat Kovalev last year, but immediately vacated the WBO belt he won in that fight, with no intention on fighting again at 175, at least for now.
The 29-year-old Yildirim, a native of Turkey, has lost the two biggest fights of his career to date. He was trounced in three by Chris Eubank Jr back in Oct. 2017, and lost a more debatable technical decision to Anthony Dirrell in his last bout in Feb. 2019. On paper, he’s not much of a match for Alvarez, who is one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport and arguably its biggest star, but he’s the mandatory, and it is what it is.
Canelo had intended to fight Billy Joe Saunders for Saunders’ WBO super middleweight title on May 2, but that fight was scrapped by COVID, and never got officially signed anyway. The expectation was the Mexican superstar would return on Sept. 12, but money concerns and a lack of attractive opposition saw him postpone his return again.
But at some point, Canelo does have to fight again, and he’d probably prefer to do it before 2020 is over. Taking an entire year off when you’ve just turned 30 is not ideal for anyone in terms of career momentum and staying sharp, and there will be bigger fights to make in 2021, including a potential third meeting with Gennadiy Golovkin.
While Yildirim is no star opponent, the fight would give Alvarez a chance for a more legitimate claim to world titles in four weight classes. He’s won belts at 154, 160, and 175, plus the half-bogus title at 168, which he already counts, of course, because why wouldn’t he, but isn’t taken seriously by a lot of people, and rightly so.
There’s also no guarantee this happens, but it seems a fairly fitting scenario. The belt would be attractive to Alvarez, Yildirim works as a “tune-up” return to keep Canelo sharp, and it’s obviously a massive opportunity for Yildirim, much bigger than a fight against David Benavidez would have been.