Great Britain

Supreme Canelo Alvarez aims to show why he’s boxing’s king against Billy Joe Saunders

The stage is set for Canelo Alvarez to truly seize boxing’s throne when he meets Billy Joe Saunders on Saturday.

The Mexican superstar, widely considered the pound-for-pound king of the sport, has been simmering throughout fight week. Saunders’ farcical complaints about the size of the ring and threats to head back to the UK have almost provided a comforting return to normality that only a massive fight can bring.

Now on the brink of transcending the sport, much like Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr did for over a decade, Canelo’s personality has shone through thanks to Saunders’ bravado.

A mild nuisance aside, Canelo may actually thank Saunders for bringing additional intrigue and emotional investment from sport fans around the world, who cannot ignore this colossal event.

The best in boxing is back and ready to display the complete game at his disposal, carefully built throughout a career not void of adversity. Mayweather Jr picked him apart in 2013 of course, humbling him and likely inspiring him to diversify his arsenal.

The bludgeoning power was soon married to majestic head movement and a more polished defence, charming all kinds of fans to routinely pay tribute towards both the sweet science and beautiful brutality in the ring.

Despite the tricks and foolery of Saunders in the build-up, the Briton is aware of the enormity in facing such a complete fighter. It will make the upset even more seismic, rivaling his friend Tyson Fury’s masterpiece against Wladimir Klitschko all those years ago in Dusseldorf as perhaps the greatest British victory abroad.

Despite a refined approach, it should not be forgotten how devastating Canelo can be, with James Kirkland, Amir Khan, Liam Smith and Sergey Kovalev among the best from his collection of crushing knockouts.

And, alongside a granite chin that endured 24 rounds against bitter rival Gennadiy Golovkin, Saunders will be tasked with reading those subtle touches that have distinguished the four-weight world champion as boxing’s king.

Notably, Daniel Jacobs and Callum Smith were left deflated after repeatedly striking air as a result of the immense reflexes and carefully-disguised traps.

Canelo during his victory over Callum Smith

But Saunders, to his credit, will bring a different kind of challenge to those in recent years, one previously implemented expertly by Erislandy Lara, who controversially left defeated after his 12-round contest in 2014.

The 30-year-old will be enticed into initiating the exchanges here, but this only brings more intrigue and excitement at the prospect of Canelo revealing one of his most trustworthy weapons: bodywork.

The strategy of a fighter investing down low, trusting that the reward will arrive in the rounds to come, brings a certain nuance to this contest.

But no matter the outcome of this weekend’s super-middleweight unification at Jerry Jones’ spaceship-like Dallas theatre, Canelo has proven a worthy face of the sport to this point.

Perhaps his standards will rub off on future champions: the willingness to take on all comers, an appetite to collect all the belts - in several weight divisions no less - as well as his activity.

Saunders will be Canelo’s third fight in under five months, a gift to fight fans accustomed to one or two fights per year from the very best around.

Saturday also sees Canelo headline the return of big crowds, not only in boxing but sport as a whole post-Covid, with the AT&T Stadium expecting the biggest crowd since the pandemic with up to 70,000.

It is a worthy stage for Canelo and his journey to this point, emerging from a year of upheaval due to the pandemic to celebrate the return of mega fights.

Known for his obsession to the gym, Canelo’s addiction fits a certain criteria for a truly great fighter. There is now a feverish anticipation in the hours left to fight night as many imagine what will be his latest trick refined under the tutelage of trainer Eddy Reynoso.

Boxing’s king is back and Canelo is primed to show why he is just that and much more besides.

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