The Wrecking Ball or the Artful Dodger? That is the wry question to be answered in this city called the Big D on Saturday.
‘This is no joke,’ scowls Billy Joe Saunders, whose bizarre sense of humour has got him into more trouble than he has ever run into in the ring. Until now.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez concurs, saying: ‘This will be different and more serious than any fight he’s ever been in before.’
Billy Joe Saunders (right) and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s (left) fight is been highly anticipated
How true. The home of the Dallas Cowboys is the most dazzling high-tech stadium in the world. The 70,000-plus crowd drawn by Canelo will surpass Muhammad Ali’s record for pulling the biggest indoor gathering in US boxing history and will comprise a majority of Hispanic fanatics.
Maverick Billy’s Mexican opponent is not only the No 1 pound-for-pound boxer on the planet but has grown into a nuclear- powered puncher. No laughing matter.
‘I’d lose my kids to beat Canelo,’ says Saunders. Which is not meant to be funny since he offers it as proof that overcoming Alvarez ‘means more to me than anything in my life’.
The pair will meet in a world super-middleweight title unification fight on Saturday night
The 70,000-plus crowd drawn by Canelo will surpass Muhammad Ali’s (above) record for pulling the biggest indoor gathering in US boxing history
TALE OF THE TAPE
- Age: 30
- Nation: Mexico
- Nickname: Canelo
- Height: 5ft 8in
- Reach: 70.5in
- Stance: Orthodox
- Turned Pro: 2005
- Fights: 58
- W-L-D: 55-1-2
- Wins by KO: 37
- Age: 31
- Nation: UK
- Nickname: Superb
- Height: 5ft 11in
- Reach: 71in
- Stance: Southpaw
- Turned Pro: 2009
- Fights: 30
- W-L-D: 30-0-0
- Wins by KO: 14
Watching what happens to Billy Joe if it is Canelo, not he, who wins to continue his quest to become the first undisputed super-middleweight champion of the world, is unlikely to be amusing either. This testing contrast of boxing techniques and lifestyles is as big as it will ever get for Billy Joe. And he knows it.
‘This is the fight I’ve wanted in all the years since I turned pro,’ he says. ‘People say I don’t live right but here I am. Undefeated in 30 fights. Two-time, two division world champion. Think I’ll keep living wrong.’
He appears to be in his most honed physical condition ever but if the louche years have taken some hidden toll then Canelo is the man to find out. But first he must catch him.
Not just for a lark did Saunders threaten to pull out of the fight unless the ring was enlarged from its original 18 to 22 feet. He will need every inch he can find inside those unforgiving ropes if his twinkle-toed movement and elusive skills are to keep out of range of the man he calls ‘the most devastating puncher in the game’.
He adds: ‘This fight is all about the brain. About executing the right game plan. Not about power. I believe victory here is my destiny because I have the skill set to beat Canelo.’
The rhetorical Alvarez riposte: ‘So he thinks he can give me a boxing lesson? We’ll see. I’m more mature, more experienced than five or six years ago. Does he think the Mexican boxer only has one style? To get in there and trade? To get knocked down and get up? It’s much more than that. It’s about moving. Hitting but not getting hit. Do that and then the Mexican warrior inside us can make the difference.’
Canelo has made over more than 50 fights and world titles won in four weight divisions
While Billy Joe Saunders – who is only a year older – says ‘I’d lose my kids to beat Canelo’
As for the larger canvas on which Saunders intends to paint his noble art, Canelo is a master of closing down the ring. Not that he expects an easy night, saying: ‘He is a southpaw. His speed makes him elusive and this will be a complicated fight. A difficult fight against a tricky mover for the first few rounds. Then I intend to knock him out so we won’t need the judges.’
Of all the improvements Canelo has made over more than 50 fights and world titles won in four weight divisions, the one he prizes most is the force added to his blows. Most boxing connoisseurs doubt it is possible to teach how to knock people out. So how has this been achieved?
‘By constant work and close attention to detail,’ says Alvarez. ‘We have focused a lot on technical ways to increase power. Like rotating the shoulder into the punch at the perfect moment. Like choosing the exact split-second to counter punch. And obviously, at 30, I am in my prime.’
He expects the same to be true of Billy Joe, at only a year older, saying: ‘That is why I have trained as hard as always for this fight.’
But if the Artful Dodger does shatter the Wrecking Ball, the joke really will be on Canelo.
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