Another weekend in boxing is done and dusted, with Canelo Alvarez returning for a predictably simple win over Avni Yildirim in the headline bout.
So what now for Canelo, Joseph Parker, and the rest?
Generally we have to guess, even if the guesses are educated, even if we “know” what’s coming next for someone.
Not this time. We know what’s next for Canelo (55-1-2, 37 KO), as it was officially announced that the WBC and WBA super middleweight titlist will unify against WBO titleholder Billy Joe Saunders, May 8 on DAZN. There’s even a trailer!
As we’ve discussed already in an attempt to quickly move past Canelo-Yildirim and on to something more interesting, this is a much better fight than Yildirim was ever going to be. Saunders is as ready as he’s getting for this sort of fight, he’s a veteran, he’s been at the world title level for years now, it’s time to do this. And the hope is that with only six months between his win over Martin Murray and this coming bout, he won’t get terribly out of shape and have to dedicate as much if not more time to his weight as he does his boxing in camp.
Saunders is no joke, no bum fighter, he’s a top five guy at 168 and about as good an opponent as there is for the Mexican pound-for-pound superstar right now. Yeah, Canelo will be the favorite and clearly so, but that’s going to be the case against anyone at 168 for a while.
Listen, I don’t think Joseph Parker lit anyone’s world on fire with his win in Auckland over Junior Fa. It was a competitive fight, certainly far closer than the judge who had it 119-109 saw, but he was favored and basically just took care of business. Fa had his moments. Parker was better.
Parker (28-2, 21 KO) is a good fighter. At 29, he’s still pretty young for a heavyweight, but you can really argue we’ve seen about the same Joseph Parker since 2016, when he stepped up his competition, and had his breakout year. And that year we saw him struggle with Carlos Takam, whose tactical choices may have cost him that fight more than anything, and edge a majority decision over Andy Ruiz Jr to win the vacant WBO belt, a fight that probably would have gone Ruiz’s way had the fight been in the United States. (Parker winning wasn’t a robbery, but it was very close, and being at home in New Zealand probably helped just enough.)
He has about the same strengths as he had then. He has about the same flaws we saw against Takam or Ruiz, or his win over Hughie Fury in 2017, or in losses to Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte in 2018.
Parker’s a top 10 sort of heavyweight, back end of the top 10 maybe, and a solid contender. He’s a pretty good all-around fighter with no “plus-plus” type attributes to his game.
So what next? I’m guessing Derek Chisora. That fight was meant to happen in 2019, didn’t, and now it’s been back on everyone’s mind for a while, with both sides openly interested even before the Fa fight. Two days before the fight, Parker himself said that’s what he wants next, then a shot at the winner of the possible Oleksandr Usyk vs Joe Joyce WBO interim title fight.
- Next for Avni Yildirim? I don’t know. Maybe a rematch with Anthony Dirrell, who struggled to a draw with Kyrone Davis on Saturday? That’s about as high as he can hope. Yildirim is 29 years old and he’s the fighter he is, and if what we saw Saturday were his “transformations” and “improvements,” he might want to go back to the old ways. He is a second- or third-tier super middleweight who had no actual business in the ring with Canelo Alvarez. Listen, it wasn’t that this was all that unusual a terrible sanctioning body ranking or mandatory order, because it wasn’t, really. Guys at the Yildirim (21-3, 12 KO) level get high rankings all the time. There are tons of them right now — look at any sanctioning body’s rankings and scratch your head if you want to be sure about that. But they rarely get shoehorned into a fight with a bona fide superstar that everyone pays attention to, and that’s what happened here. A lot more people noticed this than normal. I’m not saying that will change anything. Nothing ever really changes in boxing. Sometimes change gets lip service, that’s about it.
- Although the Parker fight was Junior Fa’s first chance at a real breakout as a pro, he’s 31 years old and it’s a big setback for any hopes he had of being a top contender. Fa (19-1, 10 KO) will have to go back to the drawing board a bit, but realistically he’s a finished product for the most part. A domestic scrap with Hemi Ahio (17-0, 12 KO) could be interesting and sell some tickets in Auckland. Other than that, there’s a lot of ground to cover between guys he’s beaten, like Devin Vargas and ancient Dominick Guinn, and the guy he just lost to in Parker.
- McWilliams Arroyo will have the obvious target of Julio Cesar Martinez, who pulled out of their fight Thursday. Arroyo (21-4, 16 KO) got to move forward and fight super short-notice foe Abraham Rodriguez, and he pounded out a stoppage win for the interim WBC flyweight title. Martinez still has the real one, and that’s who Arroyo wants next. I’d expect it to happen.
- There’s a clear reason 37-year-old Zhilei Zhang (22-0-1, 17 KO) has never been taken very seriously as a pro by boxing fans despite being huge, having some skills, and having won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics. Jerry Forrest exposed Zhang’s relatively low ceiling, getting off the canvas three times and forcing a draw when Zhang gassed out after the third round. Forrest (26-4-1, 20 KO) is a solid heavyweight gatekeeper sort, can be trouble for prospects and even vets who need a test. He’s tough and has some skills; he’s someone where I think if he’d gotten the prospect treatment going pro, he might have been in a world title fight by now. Zhang could rematch Forrest, but will he want to, and will Matchroom want a thing to do with that? There’s still money in Zhang hosting Anthony Joshua or someone in China.