On Friday, the word came out that Canelo Alvarez will face WBO super welterweight champion Liam Smith as his next opponent. While this is hardly the showdown that so many fans had been hoping for, against undefeated middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, it is a credible move if Alvarez indeed plans to drop any pretense to being a middleweight. If Alvarez wants to remain a 154-pound fighter, he might as well set about collecting belts again.
Beyond that, from a business perspective, Smith makes sense. When a fighter is a top box-office draw like Canelo, any opponent who brings his own fan base is a good option. And the Liverpool native will do just that. British boxing has been riding a great wave of momentum for the past two years. Expect to see some real enthusiasm build among the island nation’s diehard fans, as one of their brightest young champions spends the summer preparing to face one of the sport’s biggest international stars.
Liam Smith is one of four popular boxing brothers. Older brother Stephen was a world-title challenger at 130 pounds in 2016. His other older sibling, Paul, is a fringe contender at super middleweight and light heavyweight. His younger brother, Callum, is an undefeated super middleweight contender and potential star in his own right.
Liam Smith captured the vacant WBO belt by knocking out John Thompson in August 2015. Smith was originally supposed to face Frenchman Michel Soro in that bout and I don’t actually consider Soro vs. Thompson much of a title fight. Still, getting a belt around Smith’s waist set the table for him to be an opponent for a fight like this with Canelo.
I think there will be some grumbling among North American fans that Alvarez is fighting down. I’m not sure that’s a fair assessment of Smith, though. While he hasn’t faced what I would consider a true contender, he’s shown outstanding abilities against some decent, second-tier competition. After Alvarez knocked out the game but much smaller Amir Khan, Golden Boy will find plenty of English fans anxious to see the Mexican star face a Brit he can simply impose upon physically.