The sport’s biggest attraction and most sought-after free agent will remain put for the time being.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has decided to remain with DAZN-USA, as a promotional deal was struck with Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing, according to sources with knowledge of ongoing talks between all parties. As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, the fight will consist of a mandatory WBC super middleweight title versus Avni Yildirim, which will take place Feb. 27 at a venue to be determined.
The Athletic's Mike Coppinger reports that the fight will likely land at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium—home of the NFL's Miami Dolphins. Venues were sought in Texas and Alvaez's native Mexico well before that, though both locations ruled out due to not being able house fans in attendance. Texas has previously served as boxing's hotbed during the pandemic but will not allow large gatherings throughout the month of February, which Alvarez always had pegged for his next fight.
Hard Rock Stadium allowed for a maximum of 20% venue socially-distanced seating capacity for NFL home games during the 2020 season.
The current pact comes with the intention of staging a title unification bout surrounding the Cinco de Mayo holiday. Specifics regarding such a fight, however, were not made available as this goes to publish.
As for the bout with Yildirim, it will mark the second straight fight for Guadalajara’s Alvarez (54-1-2, 36KOs) with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA brought in to co-promote with Canelo Promotions. The two collaborated on Alvarez’s most recent achievement, soundly outboxing previously unbeaten Callum Smith (27-1, 19KOs) en route to a 12-round decision in claiming a super middleweight title on Dec. 19th at Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Alvarez returned to the Lone Star State two weeks later, this time in support of unbeaten stablemate Ryan García who headlined a Jan. 2nd DAZN show at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. The event was promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, with whom Alvarez split last November following a 10-year relationship with the company. The Mexican icon let his allegiance known, strutting into the venue sporting a COVID protective mask branding Alvarez’s own CA logo on one side and the Matchroom Boxing logo on the other.
That said, a deal had not yet been struck as the boxing superstar was weighing his options for his next move. A mandatory title defense versus Yildirim (21-2, 12KOs) was always going to take place next, though a matter of physical location and on-air affiliation. The former is still being sorted out, although it will no longer come in the form of a planned Guadalajara homecoming for Alvarez, who has not fought in his home country since a 5th round stoppage of Kermit Cintron in Nov. 2011.
DAZN has once again filled the network void, with the sports streaming service now entering its fifth fight with the 31-year old star. Alvarez signed what was announced as a record-breaking deal with DAZN in Oct. 2018, at the time agreeing to an 11-fight, $365 million pact. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and a subsequent lawsuit—largely between Alvarez and Golden Boy which resulted in the two sides parting ways—forced both sides to renegotiate terms, beginning with a one-off fight versus Liverpool’s Smith last month.
Alvarez was also reportedly in talks with Fox Sports, with the two sides receptive to the other’s needs though unable to come to terms that would appease all parties. It involved Alvarez once again entering talks with Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) creator Al Haymon, having previously discussed the possibility of Alvarez fighting on a Fox platform or Showtime last December before deciding to stay with DAZN and move forward with the fight versus Smith.
The appeal of Alvarez fighting under the PBC banner would arguably strengthen even if the Mexican icon were to extend to a two-fight deal with DAZN. Wins over Yildirim and Saunders would leave him as a three-belt titlist at 168, with Haymon-advised Caleb Plant (20-0, 12KOs) holding the last remaining chip on the road to undisputed championship status.
For now, Alvarez will remain put with the platform he has called home for more than two years.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox