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April 6, 2020
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Boxing reset — Canelo Alvarez holds the keys at 168 and 175 pounds

Boxing reset -- Canelo Alvarez holds the keys at 168 and 175 pounds
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The coronavirus pandemic has brought the boxing world to a halt. Nearly all events worldwide are off through at least early May, and more cancellations and postponements are expected to be announced in the coming days.

So for a year-round sport that never has an offseason, this is a first. During this lull in the action, let’s check in on the light heavyweight and super middleweight divisions and see where things stand.

Light heavyweight

What’s the biggest question you have about this division?

Undefeated knockout artist Artur Beterbiev unified two world titles and became the lineal champion with his 10th-round stoppage of Oleksandr Gvozdyk in October, so there is no question who “the man” is in the division right now. But what kind of damage could Canelo Alvarez do at 175 pounds if he decided to return to the weight class?

In November, Alvarez moved up two divisions from middleweight, where he is “the man,” and sensationally knocked out Sergey Kovalev in the 11th round to take his world title. Kovalev might not have been what he once was at his dominating best a few years ago, but he was still a formidable fighter with great power, huge experience and a size advantage. Alvarez had a few issues early on but ultimately tore through Kovalev.

What could Alvarez, who looked extremely strong at the weight, do if he made light heavyweight his home?

Who is the star? Who is their biggest competitor?

With Alvarez vacating the belt he won from Kovalev and intending to face Billy Joe Saunders at super middleweight, there really is no star in the division even though it still has a lot of talent. None of the rest of the top 10 fighters in the division — Beterbiev, Dmitry Bivol, Gvozdyk, Kovalev, Jean Pascal, Eleider “Storm” Alvarez, Marcus Browne, Badou Jack or Joe Smith Jr. — is a star with broad appeal or who has the ability to pack an arena, although Pascal could do that in Montreal during his heyday.

Who is a potential dark horse?

England’s Joshua Buatsi (12-0, 10 KOs), who claimed a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, is on the fast track. Buatsi has already won the British title and a regional sanctioning body belt (WBA international belt) that has him quickly moving toward a world title opportunity. He has the build, the amateur background, the power and the skills — not to mention the promotional backing of Matchroom Boxing — to cause havoc in the division in the not-too-distant future.

What fight do you need to see next in the division?

Beterbiev is the clear No. 1 with two belts. Fellow undefeated Bivol, who also has a title, is the clear No. 2. A meeting between the two would be by far the most interesting and compelling fight the division has to offer — assuming Alvarez is not coming back to light heavyweight anytime soon. Beterbiev has the pure power and Bivol is the superior boxer with also good power. The match would be a contrast of styles and a gift for hardcore fans.


Super middleweight

What’s the biggest question you have about this division?

What the heck happened to Callum Smith? The undefeated Brit looked good on the way up the ladder and then demolished George Groves in the seventh round to win a 168-pound world title in the final of the World Boxing Super Series in September 2018. Big things seemed to be in the offing for Smith, widely regarded as No. 1 in the division. But since then, he has been a bit of a disappointment, with two lesser fights against unimpressive opponents, including one poor performance.

In two defenses in 2019, Smith blasted out much smaller Hassan N’Dam, a former middleweight titlist whose best days are in the rearview mirror. And then he struggled mightily to a decision victory over John Ryder in a fight many thought Ryder deserved to win.

Who is the star? Who is their biggest competitor?

Canelo, by far, is the star of the division. He vacated a light heavyweight world title and is the reigning middleweight world champion, but Alvarez also owns a secondary super middleweight belt that he intends to defend in his next fight against fellow titlist Saunders. Alvarez is the biggest star in boxing with the possible exception of unified heavyweight world titlist Anthony Joshua.

Alvarez’s biggest competitor, however, is not a super middleweight. That would be middleweight titlist Gennadiy Golovkin, a bitter rival against whom Alvarez is 1-0-1 in disputed decisions. They finally have a deal in place to fight each other for the third time in a bout that is supposed to take place at middleweight.

Who is a potential dark horse?

Demetrius Andrade (29-0, 18 KOs), a former two-time junior middleweight world titlist, holds a middleweight world title but has not been able to land a significant fight in the division despite his best efforts. Andrade is one of boxing’s most-avoided fighters, and he has said repeatedly that for the right opportunity he would move up to super middleweight. He is a southpaw with speed, smarts, superb defense and the kind of outstanding boxing skills — not to mention a strong amateur background — that I believe would allow him to be very successful at 168 pounds.

What is a fight you need to see next in the division?

Without question, the most attractive fight in the division would be a unification bout between young guns David Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) and Caleb Plant (20-0, 12 KOs). They have talked some smack, professed a desire to fight each other, and it is a very makeable fight given that both box under the Premier Boxing Champions banner. I think it is the kind of fight that still needs a little room to build, but it could blossom into a really big matchup. Both have fan bases and contrasting styles, with Benavidez being more of a brawler than boxer and Plant being a more refined boxer who is willing to mix it up if necessary. I love this fight and I really want to see it.



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