MIAMI GARDENS, Florida – There was great debate about whether Canelo Alvarez deserved to win the last time he boxed a smart, skillful southpaw.
Six-and-a-half years later, the four-division champion is completely confident that he is much more equipped to beat Billy Joe Saunders than he was when he encountered Erislandy Lara. Alvarez edged Lara by split decision, but the result of their 12-round junior middleweight match in July 2014 is considered controversial.
The 30-year-old Alvarez has since evolved into arguably the best boxer, pound-for-pound, in the sport. The Mexican icon believes that’ll be evident when he boxes Saunders on May 8 at a site to be determined.
“I’m way better now,” Alvarez said early Sunday morning during a press conference following his technical knockout of Avni Yildirim. “Because I’m a more mature fighter. I’m a more complete fighter, and I have much more experience. I’m in my best moment.”
Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) hasn’t lost since retired pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather beat him by majority decision in their 12-round junior middleweight bout in September 2013 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. He battled Lara two fights after facing Mayweather, also at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Two judges – Levi Martinez (117-111) and Dave Moretti (115-113) – scored Alvarez the winner over Lara. Judge Jerry Roth scored that fight for the Cuban southpaw, 115-113.
Alvarez is favored to defeat Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) in their 12-round, 168-pound title unification fight, which was officially announced in the ring following his easy victory over Yildirim. The unbeaten WBO champion will present a far different challenge than Turkey’s Yildirim (21-3, 12 KOs), whom Alvarez was a 50-1 favorite to beat, and England’s Callum Smith (27-1, 19 KOs), Alvarez’s previous opponent.
Smith, the former WBA super middleweight champ, and Yildirim both are right-handed fighters. Saunders tends to compete up and down to his level of opposition, therefore Alvarez anticipates the best version of the polarizing Brit when they meet.
“He’s a different fighter [than Smith and Yildirim],” Alvarez said. “He’s a southpaw. He has a complicated style. We have a fighter with a lot of experience, and I’ll be ready for whatever comes.”
Alvarez, the WBA and WBC super middleweight champ, has faced right-handed opponents in 11 straight fights.
He hasn’t fought a southpaw in nearly six years. Alvarez knocked out his last left-handed opponent, James Kirkland, in the third round of their May 2015 fight at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.