The Mexican Saúl ‘Canelo’ Álvarez, one of the great stars of current boxing, will have to overcome a difficult test on Saturday against the undefeated Dmitry Bivol to recapture the World Association (WBA) light heavyweight title, before facing the expected closing of his trilogy with Gennady Golovkin.
Saturday’s fight at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (Nevada) means Álvarez’s return to this category (175 pounds – 79.4kg), which he only tried in November 2019 when he knocked out Russian Sergey Kovalev.
‘Canelo’ returns to the division at the best moment of his career and has become the undisputed monarch of the super middleweight (168 pounds – 76.2kg).
"I look for difficult challenges because it is what keeps me alive. I like the adrenaline, being competitive"assured the boxer from Guadalajara upon his arrival in Las Vegas. "It is a motivation to continue making history. I love boxing, I love what I do and that is what makes me want to continue making history".
‘Canelo’, 31 years old, has 57 wins (39 knockouts), two draws and a single defeat in his career, suffered against the American Floyd Mayweather Jr by points in 2013.
The Mexican is one of the boxers with the most appeal among fans, capable of gathering more than 73,000 fans at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in his victory a year ago against the British Billy Joe Saunders.
His last step in the ring was on November 6 in his knockout victory against American Caleb Plant, which established him as the first undisputed super middleweight champion in boxing history.
Saturday’s fight at the 20,000-capacity T-Mobile Arena is the first of three that ‘Canelo’ has on the books for this year in his lucrative contract with Matchroom Boxing and DAZN.
In the second, to be held in September, the Mexican is expected to complete his trilogy against Golovkin at super middleweight.
The Kazakh, who fulfilled his part in April by defeating the Japanese Ryota Murata, and the Mexican staged a controversial draw in the first chapter in 2017, while Álvarez won the rematch in 2018.
"That fight is for the fans"’Canelo’ told ESPN. "They want the fight with Golovkin, so I say: "Why not?"
But before reuniting with his archrival, ‘Canelo’ awaits a fight against Bivol that could lead him to an unprecedented feat in boxing.
No anthem and Russian flag
If Álvarez takes his WBA light heavyweight title from the Russian, he will have taken a first step towards being the undisputed champion of a second category.
No male boxer has accomplished this feat since the start of the four-belt era at the beginning of this century.
Bivol, for his part, is determined to be the fighter who ends all of the Mexican’s great plans.
At 31 years old, the Russian has an immaculate record of 19 wins (11 knockouts) and no losses and has successfully defended the WBA title since 2016.
Six centimeters taller than ‘Canelo’, Bivol is a strong boxer with a refined technique, who handles distance to limit exchanges and relies on his powerful jab to attack.
"I expect a great fight. I believe in my victory and I will do my best to keep my belt"assured the Russian.
"He is a solid opponent at 175 pounds, who moves very well, has a very good jab, strong, intelligent, it is a complicated fight"Alvarez acknowledged. "I don’t care about the (difference in) height. It is the qualities and boxing skills that matter".
Although he was born in Kyrgyzstan, Bivol has Russian nationality and, like many athletes from that country, he will have to compete in Las Vegas without national symbols due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The WBA decided not to exclude Russian boxers but prevented them from entering the ring with their national flag or anthem.