The Big Question: Canelo vs Smith - who wins?
As Liam Smith prepares for the seemingly impossible mission of defending his WBO junior middleweight title against the intimidating Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez, we canvassed opinion among the Boxing Monthly online team about what might happen on Saturday night in Texas ...
Without wishing to seem hard on Liam Smith, this has 'lamb to the slaughter' written all over it ... and that is not trying to diminish Smith's place in the world's top 10. The 'manoeuvred' route to the WBO title has paid dividends and gets Smith the biggest exposure possible and a fine payday. Canelo though is too big, too strong, too seasoned. He may not wish to fight GGG at 160, but at 154lbs he is still the top dog of a division he never truly left. Canelo, by stoppage, after Smith has given everything he's got and is pummelled to defeat in about six rounds. - Colin Harris
I'm afraid this is another fight I have very little interest in and certainly won't be staying up for - the undercard is also very poor. I've never really been sold on Canelo and his diva attitude is now rather tiresome, the Mexican is good but not that good. Unfortunately we have no idea how good Liam Smith is due to his very thin resume so there's no way I could even dream of picking him. I think the bout will be fairly competitive early on before Canelo takes over and forces the referee to step in after ten or eleven rounds. - Marcus Bellinger
Liam Smith is big, strong and skilled. I just think, unfortunately, Canelo is bigger, stronger and more skilled. I like Smith, and he gives off a bully vibe in the ring, which I mean as a compliment. He mercilessly and ruthlessly dispatches his opponents and, so far, he’s been in with guys he can do that with. But Canelo, regardless of his behaviour as the ‘middleweight’ champion, is the real deal. The Mexican hits very hard, his speed is deceptive, and his variety and footwork continue to improve. I feel Smith will hold his own until around the fifth round, at which stage Canelo will start to land hooks and uppercuts with regularity, forcing the referee or the corner to step in. - James Oddy
I’m looking forward to this clash of two big, bullying fighters who each appear to be going from strength to strength. I think Liam Smith has developed well and obviously has an excellent amateur pedigree. Without any disrespect to him and what I’m sure will be a very game effort, I do consider Canelo the more physically strong and skilled. He has worked hard to address and improve weaknesses - in particular his footwork. Like a lot of other fans, I was surprised and disappointed when he vacated the middleweight title in order to sidestep Golovkin - but at the division below I feel he remains an aggressive and athletic force to be reckoned with. I have no doubt that Smith will arrive focused, determined and well-conditioned with a genuine desire to fight. Unfortunately I see Canelo landing harder, more accurately, and causing cumulative damage to end the fight around the ninth. - Jessica S
Liam Smith is two years older and a stone heavier than Andy Holligan was when he embarked on his 1993 'Mission Impossible' against the great Julio Cesar Chavez and, although I expect Smith to last longer than the five torrid rounds Holligan experienced, I predict a clinical mid to late rounds stoppage for Canelo. - Chris Williamson
I really fear for Liam Smith this Saturday, I see very little in this fight to give him much of a hope. If there is one I think it’s that he won’t be massively the smaller fighter in the ring on Saturday. Liam looks the taller man and will probably be a super middle at the time of the opening bell. The problem with this fight is that Smith would not have been in anything like this kind of event before, he hasn’t fought an opponent who is this accomplished and he hasn’t fought in front of crowd of this size before. Golden Boy have picked Smith because they see it as an easy belt against the weakest champion and, while I like Smith as a fighter, I think that’s exactly what it is. When you’ve faced Trout, Cotto, Kirkland, Lara and Mayweather, you’re not going to worry about a guy who’s best win is against John Thompson. Smith may have his moments in the fight but I expect Canelo to win and win well, somewhere around round eight. - Callum Rudge
Smith's demeanour in the build-up tells you everything you need to know about the man: he is neither overawed nor intimidated by his surroundings. Texas has a huge Mexican contingent and let's not forget AT&T Stadium (then under the guise of Cowboys Stadium) was the futuristic setting of Pacquiao - Margarito. It's a fight Smith might remember watching on television and if, like me, he wondered then how it was possible for boxers to occupy a stage so dizzyingly high, he hides it well for a man about to do the same.
Eddie Hearn has shepherded Smith well to the WBO title; he won and defended it with minimum risk or injury, and looked good doing so. But it also left a void of invaluable experience that would pay huge dividends come September 17. Joe Gallagher is a diligent student of boxing, and when he says one of his own student's is able to "definitely win" I tend to take notice. All the more so since I think Smith is bullishly strong and possesses understated and underrated boxing skills and fitness.
Smith could win, but I don't think he will. Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez has a decade's experience at the age of 25 and has only ever been beaten by the greatest pound for pound fighter of the last 20 years. He outboxed Trout and Lara, blasted out Baldomir and Kirkland and battered Alfredo Angulo. All were full-blown light middleweights and either top-ranked, future or former world champions. Whatever one might make of the Golovkin debacle, it was unquestionably a promotional move, Alvarez isn't scared of anyone.
Stylistically I expect Smith to try and set the tempo and impose himself on Canelo, but he will need to show more than a walk-forward style that he usually uses to dictate the pace. His beautiful movement and footwork inside are other seldom celebrated tools of his, but whether they will allow him to avoid Canelo's power shots throughout the fight - which could knock out anyone - is another question. I can see Smith shocking people by winning a few early rounds, even convincingly, but Canelo will come on strong down the back stretch for a wide points win. To borrow the words of the great Buddy McGirt (and borrowed by Gallagher himself): this fight is for "all the marbles". Smith won't win all but some and progress to bigger things Stateside after showing valour and pride but ultimately losing in his first career challenge. - Danny Wayne Armstrong
Might Liam Smith grow great for a night and secure an upset victory to rank alongside the likes of Turpin versus Robinson or Honeyghan versus Curry? The short answer is "no". The longer answer is "definitely not". Smith is in over his head and will show guts but be stopped, probably while still on his feet, either by the referee or his corner someway around the midway point of the fight. - Luke G. Williams
Final count: Canelo 8 Smith 0