SAN ANTONIO – Callum Smith doesn’t consider Canelo Alvarez a legitimate four-division champion.
The unbeaten Brit admires Alvarez’s ambition, which led the Mexican superstar to move all the way up to light heavyweight to challenge Sergey Kovalev late last year. But unless Alvarez can conquer him Saturday night at Alamodome, Smith will look at Alvarez as an illegitimate super middleweight champion.
Alvarez knocked out England’s Rocky Fielding to win the WBA world super middleweight title in December 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Smith was already the WBA’s “super” 168-pound champion by then, though, and had knocked out Fielding in the first round three years earlier.
“It looks a bit better because he’s gone on and won a legitimate title at 175,” Smith said in reference to Alvarez’s 11th-round knockout of Kovalev 13 months ago. “But at 168, the WBA champion was me. He won the WBA regular. He’s still got that belt, but it’s not on the line because my belt trumps it, so to speak. So, I think he picked the weakest option at the time to call himself a four-weight world champion. But now he’s fighting for the genuine one, so as I say, you can’t knock him, and he’s boxed at 175. But at the time, I didn’t really class him as a [three]-weight world champion. I thought he was a [two]-weight world champion.”
Smith suspects some of the criticism directed at Alvarez for fighting Fielding inspired his 30-year-old opponent to choose him for this fight.
“I think the position he’s in, to be a pound-for-pound great, you’ve gotta have the wins on your record, you’ve gotta fight the best, you’ve gotta take chances,” Smith said. “And I think that was it – that he didn’t fight me or [David] Benavidez or [Caleb] Plant. He picked the easy option, to fight for the regular belt. But as I say, you can’t really knock him now because he’s fighting for the genuine one and at 175, he fought for the genuine one [WBO]. So, I don’t know what his reasons was [for fighting me]. But yeah, I do think he took a bit of criticism because of the position he’s in. People demand the biggest fights, and that certainly wasn’t one.”
Alvarez floored Fielding four times, once apiece in the first and second rounds and twice in the third round, when their scheduled 12-rounder ended. Smith stopped Fielding (28-2, 16 KOs) with just 15 seconds to go in the opening round of their November 2015 fight at Echo Arena in Liverpool, Smith’s hometown.
“I think the two of us have done a similar job on him,” Smith said, “and people are reading into that. ‘Yeah, Rocky was tall and look what happened to him [against Alvarez].’ But I think our fight showed I’m not Rocky Fielding. I’ve got the size Rocky’s got, but I’ve got a lot more ability to go with it. So, I think Canelo’s in for a tougher night than he was in New York a couple of years ago.”
Smith (27-0, 19 KOs) and Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs) will fight for Smith’s WBA “super” title and the vacant WBC 168-pound championship. Their 12-round title fight will headline a card that can be watched on DAZN ($19.99 per month; $99.99 for a one-year subscription) or through traditional pay-per-view distributors ($69.99 in HD).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.