ARLINGTON, Texas – Billy Joe Saunders sensed that Canelo Alvarez’s recent opponents happily accepted their sizable paydays, yet they didn’t truly try to knock off boxing’s biggest star.
That will not be the case Saturday night, Saunders assured his doubters, when they square off for three super middleweight titles at AT&T Stadium. Saunders swears making history and strengthening his legacy mean much more to him than the career-high purse that the unbeaten British southpaw will receive for facing arguably boxing’s best fighter, pound-for-pound, in their 12-round, 168-pound title unification fight.
“I’m here for a reason,” Saunders stated during a press conference Thursday at Live! by Loews, a hotel near AT&T Stadium. “And there’s no other reason for me to be here apart from win. Not about fame. Not about anything else. Not about publicity. Win. And I don’t think we’ve had somebody come to win for a very, very long time [against Alvarez]. We’ve had a lot of people turn up, fly in, collect checks and fly out. But we haven’t had the, you know, heart and soul and IQ that I will bring to the table and to the ring on Saturday night to win.”
Alvarez has easily won his two super middleweight championship matches during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He dominated previously unbeaten Brit Callum Smith (27-1, 19 KOs) in their 12-rounder December 19 at Alamodome in San Antonio. Alvarez out-pointed Smith by huge margins on all three scorecards (119-109, 119-109, 117-111) to win Smith’s WBA title and the then-vacant WBC crown.
Just 10 weeks later, Alvarez stopped Turkey’s Avni Yildirim (21-3, 12 KOs), the overmatched mandatory challenger for his WBC belt, after three lopsided rounds February 27 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Before beating Smith, the 30-year-old Alvarez hadn’t fought in the 13 months since he knocked out Russia’s Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KOs) in the 11th round of a competitive contest to win the WBO light heavyweight title in November 2019 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“Listen, I can’t talk what he’s done down,” Saunders said. “He’s done brilliant things for boxing. You know, he’s a good champion. But, you know, like I say, there’s a time in life when you get tested. And sometimes, when you forget where you come from and forget all them hard things, you know, what’s brought you to where you’re at, sometimes, you know, that can make it difficult on yourself. And I just think that he’s gonna be bumping into the wrong man on Saturday night to be going home with them titles.”
Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs), of Guadalajara, Mexico, and Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs), a two-division champion from Hatfield, England, will fight for Alvarez’s WBA and WBC championships and Saunders’ WBO belt. Handicappers have installed Alvarez as a 7-1 favorite in advance of the main event of a DAZN stream scheduled to start at 8 p.m. EDT and 1 a.m. BST.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.