4:00 Sunday - Canelo Alvarez v Billy Joe Saunders

Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders

The AT&T Arena in Dallas hosts a mega fight this Saturday as Billy Joe Saunders (30-0) takes on the biggest star in boxing and pound for pound king Canelo Alvarez (55-1-2) in another Mexico versus UK showdown. In the last 6 months Mexico has humbled UK boxing: Alvarez made easy work of Callum Smith back in December, Mauricio Lara spectacularly dethroned Josh Warrington and last week Javonni Straffon stopped Northern Ireland’s James Tennyson, to mention just a few. Billy Joe Saunders is the next Brit in the firing line and he’s such a controversial character there are likely to be some fans in the UK cheering on the Mexican. 

The bookmakers and most pundits heavily favour the Mexican superstar in this fight. Canelo’s best odds are currently 1/5 and is as short as 1/9 in places, which suggests a 90% chance of winning. On the flipside, Billy Joe Saunders best available price is 27/5 giving him a 15.6% chance. It is understandable that the odds are heavily in Canelo’s favour when you consider his achievements over the last few years. The Mexican has comfortably dispatched the very best fighters across three divisions, in three of his last four fights. Back in May 2019, Canelo became the man at middle weight when he beat Daniel Jacobs to a competitive but clear unanimous decision. He then jumped up two weight classes to knockout Sergey Kovalev and win the world light heavyweight title before settling back into super middle weight and beating the number 1 ranked Callum Smith. Truth be told, Canelo was pretty much untroubled in all three of those fights and the run demonstrates just how far ahead of the competition Canelo currently is. He’s a phenomenal fighter and rightfully number 1 pound for pound in most people’s eyes.

 Despite all this, there is a strong argument to be made that the current odds underestimate Saunders’ chance in this fight. For starters, Saunders does have the natural style you’d want to adopt against Canelo. His footwork is sharp, he moves in and out of range quickly and has very good head movement. All this makes him very hard to hit as demonstrated in his signature victory against Canada’s David Lemieux, where he frustrated a big puncher with his movement and eventually cruised to a wide unanimous decision. The other factor that could potentially swing proceedings in Saunders’ favour is his southpaw stance. Canelo does not have a huge amount of experience fighting southpaws and he hasn’t looked his best against those he has fought. It’s a long time ago now & Canelo is a vastly improved fighter, but both Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara gave Canelo fits and both are natural southpaws. If Saunders can control the distance with his feet and move laterally then he has the natural style to make it a very competitive fight.

Canelo’s style is almost a polar opposite to Saunders; his opponents and critics often point to his footwork as being a weakness. However, like any top boxer, Canelo’s footwork is of the highest quality. Instead of coming in and out of range quickly like Billy Joe, Canelo uses his feet to quietly creep into range and apply pressure on his opponents. He cuts off space and breaks his opponents down with very heavy shots, especially to the body. It usually takes him a round or two to start judging his distance but once he does, he’s so heavy handed he usually gets rid of his opponent. Along with the pressure he applies with his feet, he also has superb head movement and a high guard. This makes him very hard to hit, despite the fact he spends most of the fight just on the edge of being in range. 

This fight pits two excellent proponents of two very different styles together, and it comes down to who can implement their game plan and impose their style over their opponent. This tipster is not set against Billy Joe Saunders the way others are, 5/1 is a generous price for an experienced boxer, who is slick, moves well and extremely talented. If you want to back him, the outright 5/1 looks a good price. Considering Canelo has gone 24 rounds with Golovkin and not been badly hurt, the 20/1 available on Saunders to stop Canelo looks big at first glance, but probably not one to pile into too enthusiastically. If you prefer to back the favourite then value needs to be hunted out a bit more. As mentioned earlier in the article, Alvarez often takes the first few rounds easy, to get a look at his opponent. He will then start to really find his range in the middle rounds; an early stoppage is therefore unlikely, especially against a very slick and awkward southpaw like Billy Joe Saunders. A late stoppage or points win for Canelo look like the best bets: Canelo in rounds 7-12 is 21/10, rounds 9-12 is 7/2 and a points win is 6/4. For everything you can say about Billy Joe Saunders, forget the controversy and even the talent, he is at the very least a very confident and arrogant fighter. He has buckets of self-belief and is evidently not just a skilled fighter but a hard and fearless one as well. He has what it takes to potentially upset the odds, but Canelo is currently the best of the best, and a decision win for the Mexican at 6/4 looks like a solid bet.

Canelo Alvarez by Decision or Technical Decision - 2pts @ 6/4