The concept of a mandatory challenger in boxing should be simple.
While boxing is a business, a mandatory could protect the integrity of the competition side by ensuring deserving but less marketable fighters are not denied opportunities.
Occasionally, that happens.
It’s not what’s happening Saturday night (DAZN, 7 PM EST). It’s not unusual for a major name to take a tune-up sort of title defense between bigger fights. Saul Alvarez, with a plan for an aggressive schedule of up to four fights in 2021, and potentially five in the twelve month spread from December 2020 to the end of this year, fighting a sizable underdog between fights against a then-WBA titlist Callum Smith and a planned fight against WBO titlist Billy Joe Saunders is no big deal.
But why is this a mandatory?
Avni Yildirim is a solid professional and gave a quality account in a title shot against then-titlist Anthony Dirrell in February 2019. Despite not having a fight since (COVID explaining some inactivity for everyone), and not having won a fight since September 2018, he will fulfill a mandatory status he was awarded after being cleared following a failed test for banned substances in October 2019.
A quick glance at the current WBC ratings posted online at their website doesn’t find a single win for Yildirim against any of their present top twenty contenders. He did win a WBC sub-title against Lolenga Mock in his last win in 2018, illustrating history with the sanctioning body, and Mock was a decent fringe contender on a winning streak. However, if a mandatory should represent the most deserving contender, the guy one MUST fight or be stripped of their honors, shouldn’t there be at least a single top twenty win? What’s the phrase these days; make it make sense?
Does Yildirim have a shot to make it make sense once the bell rings?
Stats & Stakes
Titles: Ring/WBC/WBA Super Middleweight (2020-Present, 1st Defense)
Previous Titles: WBC Super Welterweight (2011-13, 6 Defenses); Ring Jr. Middleweight (2013); WBC Middleweight (2015-16, 1 Defense); TBRB Middleweight (2015-17); WBO Jr. Middleweight (2016-17); Ring World Middleweight (2015-18, 2 Defenses); IBF Middleweight (2019); Lineal World Middleweight (2015-20, 4 Defenses); TBRB/Ring/WBC/WBA Middleweight (2018-Present, 1 Defense)
Weight: 167 * lbs.
Hails from: Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Record: 54-1-2, 36 KO
Press Rankings: #1 (TBRB, ESPN, Boxing News, BoxRec),
Record in Major Title Fights: 14-1-1, 7 KO (15-1-1, 8 KO including WBA sub-title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 161-6-2 (.959)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Ryan Rhodes TKO12; Josesito Lopez TKO5; Austin Trout UD12; Floyd Mayweather Jr. L12; Erislandy Lara SD12; Miguel Cotto UD12; Amir Khan KO6; Liam Smith KO9; Gennady Golovkin D12, MD12; Rocky Fielding TKO3; Daniel Jacobs UD12; Sergey Kovalev KO11; Callum Smith UD12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Miguel Vazquez SD4, UD10; Carlos Baldomir KO6; Lovemore N'Dou UD12; Kermit Cintron TKO5; Shane Mosley UD12; Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. UD12
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 167 lbs.
Hails from: Istanbul, Turkey
Record: 21-2, 12 KO
Press Rankings: Unrated
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1
Last Five Opponents: 118-55-6 (.676)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Anthony Dirrell LTD10; Chris Eubank Jr. KO by 3; Lolenga Mock MD12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None
The Pick: Rankings don’t win fights and the gutsy outing with Dirrell showed Yildirim can compete with some of the better super middleweights. It would be a mistake to judge him on his worst day, a WBSS loss to Eubank where he was overwhelmed by Eubank’s speed early. Given the seeming zone Alvarez has been in since the Golovkin rematch, it’s hard to imagine him losing soon at super middleweight. But can Yildirim compete and make it interesting?
The problem for Yildirim against Alvarez is he appears to have a deficit in too many significant categories. Yildirim is not as quick, he gets hit far easier, is light on comparable professional experience, and so far he hasn’t appeared to carry the sort of power that can catch the proverbial lightning in a bottle. Effective and gritty on the inside, Yildirim can be expected to try hard but if Alvarez is fully focused and engaged the fight should be target practice eventually.
Alvarez breaks a streak of six straight starts, going 5-0-1 in the spread, against fighters rated in the top ten of their divisions by Ring or TBRB. He should be ready to start his next streak against Saunders soon enough. The pick is Alvarez by stoppage.
Rold Picks 2021: 6-1
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org