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Canelo Alvarez, Billy Joe Saunders come to terms for May unification

Assuming nothing goes wrong when Canelo faces Avni Yildirim, the two will reportedly fight on either the 1st or the 8th

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Boxing: Canelo Alvarez vs Callum Smith Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports
Patrick Stumberg is a freelance writer for SB Nation, first joining the network in 2011 before linking up with Bad Left Hook in 2015.

After seeing COVID scuttle plans to meet in May of last year, The Athletic reports that WBC/WBA super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez and WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders “have agreed to a deal” to clash on either May 1st or May 8th, both of which are roughly equidistant from this year’s Cinco de Mayo Wednesday.

Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KO) split from Golden Boy and DAZN last year after a fairly public spat, but recently signed a two-fight deal to appear on the network. The first will see him face mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim on February 27th in Miami; the fact that Canelo intends to make what’s essentially a two-month turnaround, his shortest in the last decade, should give you an idea of the sort of threat they expect Yildirim to pose. Still, a stray cut could easily ruin everything, so chickens should remain uncounted for the moment.

Saunders (30-0, 14 KO), a former middleweight champion who moved up in weight after a failed drug test scrapped a Demetrius Andrade fight, claimed Gilberto Ramirez’s former super middleweight title with a May 2019 decision over Shefat Isufi. After an unexpectedly difficult comeback knockout of Marcelo Coceres, he saw a pending Canelo clash implode and subsequently made things worse for himself by making an arse of himself on social media and getting his license yanked.

He would ultimately make his first and only appearance of 2020 in December, cruising past Martin Murray in a functional shutout. Though dominant, it wasn’t quite as awe-inspiring as Canelo’s utter rout of Callum Smith two weeks later.

While Saunders can be thoroughly unpleasant both in and out of the ring, he’s a massive headache when he’s on, and he remains one of Canelo’s more compelling super middleweight foes alongside IBF champ Caleb Plant and former WBC champ David Benavidez. Canelo hasn’t really had to deal with a spoiler since the Austin Trout/Floyd Mayweather/Erislandy Lara run, so while he’ll rightly be favored, there’s at least some intrigue here.

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