Popular consensus is that Canelo Alvarez is expected to deliver a decisive beating when he faces mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim.
Yildirim (21-2, 12 KOs) trainer Joel Diaz thinks his fighter will thwart the WBA and WBC super middleweight champion Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KOs) in a coming out party Feb. 27 at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
“One of the first things we’re going to do with Canelo is to get him out of his comfort zone,” Diaz told Chris Mannix on DAZN. “If he’s in his comfort zone, he’s in control. You cannot let him be in his comfort zone. You got to frustrate him mentally. Physically he’s a strong fighter, smart. That’s the reason why we cannot let him fight in his comfort zone, and we must always frustrate him from the beginning. Once he starts becoming frustrated, he loses his rhythm.”
Yildirim, 29, has not fought since February 2019 when he suffered his second career loss at the hands of former WBC champion Anthony Dirrell in a tenth-round technical decision that was getting competitive toward the end and close on the cards. Yildirim’s only other professional loss came via KO to Chris Eubank Jr. in 2017.
The Turk stained his name in October 2019 when he tested positive for two performance-enhancing drugs, but he still held on to pole position with the WBC for another mandatory shot.
Diaz, 47, said Yildirim is a completely different fighter than when he last fought Dirrell.
“If he were to fight Anthony Dirrell, he would knock him out in two rounds. Avni is a physically stronger fighter, but he had no defense when he came to me. That’s why they call him ‘The Robot.’ Right now, there’s no robot in this guy … I made a complete transformation because I dedicated time to him … We like that everyone sees Avni as a robot, one-dimensional, coming forward and taking a beating.”
Diaz, who recently built and opened his own gym in Indio, Calif., said the pandemic afforded him more time and dedication to rebuild Yildirim.
The coach however remained coy with what the exact strategy will look like.
“We’re going to put up a great fight, I guarantee you, but we’re going to be looking for the victory. We’re not going just to show up to show up; otherwise, I wouldn’t show up,” said Diaz. “I don’t like to go to a fight to a fight and say, ‘I’m just going to try.’ There’s no such thing as trying. We’re going for all the marbles, I’m telling you. I know that Canelo Alvarez is the top fighter at the moment. I understand the situation and everything. We are taking advantage of the opportunity.
“They’re going to have a big surprise. Once Avni gets in the ring, Avni is going to be well known after the fight. Well known among the fans around the world. He doesn’t care what anyone says in regards to him being an underdog. He’s going to shock people and the fans.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com