With both men popping for spicy substances over the past few years, get hype for one of the dirtier main events of the year.
Matchroom: Canelo vs Saunders Predictions & Results
Super Middleweight (168)
WBC World Super Middleweight Title
WBA Super World Super Middleweight Title
WBO World Super Middleweight Title
Saul Alvarez (55-1-2, 37KO) vs Billy Joe Saunders (30-0, 14KO)
What can be said about Canelo, that hasn’t already been said multiple times before? The clear P4P GOAT currently operating across the world of boxing, unless you have seen the Mexican box inside the ring, then you would never understand the hype. Perhaps most pivotal to his success is his defensive shell and movement. Aside from the first fight with GGG, Canelo’s granite chin has never really needed to come under an intense spotlight. Instead, Canelo is able to negate much of the incoming damage he receives by rolling with punches and transferring his weight/momentum into snapping counters. While Canelo’s granite feet were once a source of mockery, as he has moved up weight the Mexican has been able to find opponents more willing to trade in the pocket. When you bank on having an uncrackable chin, it allows a fighter to take risks and commit hard at range – and as such, Canelo is regularly rewarded richly for the risks he takes.
Canelo isn’t solely an offensive fighter, however, no champion is complete without a killer offence. Despite his smaller stature appearing more stark in the heavier weight classes, it only needs a re-watch of the Daniel Jacobs fight to see how Canelo is routinely able to win the jabbing war despite giving up several inches of reach. While Canelo was able to probe forward with double and triple jabs, Jacobs was unwilling to expand beyond a single jab as he wanted to limit the punishment that Canelo’s left hook could slip in. Additionally, Canelo is adept at cutting off the ring and potential escape for defensive-minded fighters such as BJS. While Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout both found success with their back-foot harassing, it took (the arguable GOAT) Floyd Mayweather Jr to keep himself from backing into the corner for twelves rounds.
Billy Joe Saunders, the owner of one of the largest mouths in the sport, finally has to back it up on Saturday night. There’s a strangely vocal following of BJS who believe the slick southpaw is the next coming of Muhammad Ali, but the reality is far different. There is a belief that BJS only fights accordingly to the strength of his opponent as if that excuses some of his torrid performances that not only threatened his undefeated record but also stank out the entire joint. Struggling to defend the WBO Middleweight title against the incredibly average, Artur Akavov, allowing Chris Eubank Jr to win the second half of their fight, and more recently almost dropping a decision loss to relatively unknown Argentinian, Marcelo Esteban Coceres. Aside from the David Lemieux fight, just which BJS fight instilled anyone with the belief that this was the fighter to push Canelo? While BJS is undoubtedly a far tougher match-up for the Mexican than Avni Yildirim or Rocky Fielding, I struggle to see how he represents a greater challenge than Daniel Jacobs or Callum Smith.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh, however, and styles of course make fights. If we are to focus on the positives, when BJS is ticking in the ring, he is a liquid defensive fighter who has an inhuman awareness of his position in the ring at all times. Unless BJS has faded during the later rounds, it is a rare sight to see BJS backed onto the ropes, instead matadoring his opponent back to the centre of the ring. One of Saunder’s finest punches, a back-step uppercut, is a shot that will regularly pepper Canelo as his advances can become telegraphed due to his rigid footwork. Unfortunately for BJS, if the shot doesn’t have the power to stop Martin Murray from advancing – how will it gain Canelo’s respect? If BJS hits his rhythm immediately in the first round and sets an uncomfortable pace, he may be able to bank enough rounds early that he can challenge on the scorecards. But let us be truly honest, does anyone see Canelo being allowed to lose on points? Cynic or not, Boxing is a stinky sport on its best day.
Predicted Result: Canelo TKO Round 8
It is difficult to argue that any other fighter on the planet has the skillset and record to pip Canelo to the P4P number one spot. If the Mexican’s insane durability and conditioning weren’t enough, Canelo’s preferred high-risk counter-punching game inside the pocket is equal parts effective and entertaining. Having moved up several weight classes over recent years, Canelo’s stature has not proved as much an issue as previously thought. Canelo’s tendency to win the jabbing war, in large part due to the threat of his sustained bodywork if opponents are foolish enough to double or triple their jab, plays into his ring cutting and masks the somewhat granite footwork. BJS is a liquid defensive fighter on his day, but the excuse of ‘fighting to the level of opponent’ will not hold up on Saturday night. It is inexcusable to go life and death with Artur Akavov, Chris Eubank Jr and Marcelo Esteban Coceres. If BJS can set the pace from the opening bell, he has the chance of banking early rounds as his awkward southpaw angles may find similar success as that of Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout. Sadly for the Brit, he lacks the power to dissuade Canelo from pressuring for the full twelve rounds. Moreover, while BJS has sharpened his conditioning immensely since the Eubank Jr fight, the uncomfortable pace in this fight could see him fade during the second half. There is also the factor that even if BJS is able to school Canelo, do we all fully believe that a Canelo points loss can even be considered an option?
Result: Canelo def. BJS // TKO (Retired) Round 8 3:00
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Light Flyweight (108)
WBO World Light Flyweight Title
Elwin Soto (18-1, 12KO) vs Katsunari Takayama (32-8, 12KO)
Twenty-four year old, Elwin Soto, is one of the top prospects in the manlet divisions. Since stepping up in quality against Angel Acosta, Soto has looked immense in his two defences of the WBO World Light Flyweight title. Incredibly heavy-handed for the weight, Soto stalks opponents across the ring and looks to brutalise with hard overhands. While Soto’s defence is somewhat limited to a high guard, his bravery to remain in the pocket (in addition to his solid chin) allows him to counter hard with his huge check left. Against Acosta, Soto absorbed a ten-punch combination before sliding laterally with a check left that left the Puerto Rican knocked out on his feet.
Former Minimumweight champion, Katsunari Takayama, is an old man in a young man’s division. At thirty-seven, Takayama is attempting an audacious comeback at a higher weight class and against one of the hardest hitters around the 100lb mark. Sure, Takayama has bags of experience that Soto lacks, but after a four-year lay off (aside from a solid tune-up against Reiya Konishi), Takayama would need a career performance to succeed. In his return, Takayama still appeared spritely on his feet and was able to maintain a solid pace throughout the fight. Konishi failed to cut off the ring, however, while Soto will not allow Takayama to so easily slide around the ropes.
Predicted Result: Soto TKO Round 10
Elwin Soto is one of the best fighters to watch in the manlet divisions as a result of his heavy hands. While anything around the 100lbs mark is often overlooked in favour of the bigger boys, Soto’s bruising front-foot aggression brings a breath of fresh air to Light Flyweight. Defensively, Soto is somewhat limited to a high guard, but his durability and resolve in the pocket enable him to land his powerful counters. Against Angel Acosta, Soto spent the first half of the fight picking apart the Puerto Rican, before spending the remainder absorbing punishment before finding a huge check left in the final round. Japanese veteran, Katsunari Takayama, found great success over the past two decades at Minimumweight, but after a four-year lay-off is moving up in weight to challenge for a title at thirty-seven. Thirty-seven at Heavyweight? That’s prime condition. Thirty-seven at Flyweight? That’s suicidal. In his tune-up against Reiya Jonishi, Takayama was able to set a decent pace for the six rounds, yet Konishi lacked the skill to effectively cut of the ring. Soto is a stronger pressure fighter with heavier hands and the ability to keep an intense pace for twelve rounds, Takayama may be facing his first stoppage in almost two decades.
Result: Soto def. Takayama // TKO Round 10 2:44
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Rest of the Card
Super Welterweight (154)
WBA Inter-Continental Super Welterweight Title
Kieron Conway (16-1-1, 3KO) vs Souleymane Cissokho (12-0, 8KO)
Conway is a technical fighter that exudes class on the outside but this represents a large step-up in quality. Strong performances against Ted Cheeseman and Navid Mansouri highlight Conway’s ability, as he racked up rounds behind his straight shots. Positioning in the ring, however, is a major issue that led to Conway dropping the draw to Cheeseman and getting tagged often by the tame Macauley McGowan. Conway was far too comfortable allowing McGowan to dictate the range in the early rounds. Despite never being at risk of eating anything significant, Conway has the ability to keep himself off the ropes leaving no excuses for his poor ring craft. Laser accurate, Conway is a beautiful fighter to watch for the purist, but he desperately needs to tighten up on the inside. In the pocket, Conway is too tall, leaves too many opening and fails to wrap up opponents correctly.
2016 Olympic bronze medallist, Souleymane Cissokho, is so far undefeated as a professional and already has a decent level of competition under his belt. Having already dominated a few borderline international journeyman/gatekeeper hybrids (Carlos Molina, Jose Carlos Paz, Dmitry Mikhaylenko), Cissokho will be fighting for his first organisational belt on Saturday night. Cissokho is a heavy favourite in this fight, but he still has a lot of amateur tendencies that need to be ironed out. Far too clean on the outside, Cissokho struggled with the somewhat illegal head-first advances of Mikhaylenko during the early rounds of their fight. Still, the French prospect has an exceptional left hand which he triples shots from (jab, liver, left hook), while largely using his right hand for a spearing uppercut through the middle of an opponent’s guard.
Predicted Result: Cissokho Decision
Conway offers a style that will trouble Cissokho, but the Brit’s lack of power will ultimately fail him. Both men are technically superb on the outside, with Conway’s jab the stronger of the two. While Conway fights behind laser-accurate short straight shots, Cissokho is more creative, tripling up shots off of his left hand (jab, liver, left hook) while largely using his right hand for a spearing uppercut. Both men have struggled against fighters dirty the fight and advance with their head/dirty boxing, but in what should be a clean boxing affair between the two, Cissokho’s positioning and heavier hands will prove key. Conway’s inability to keep his back off the ropes will see him bleed rounds and absorb unnecessary damage.
Result: Cissokho def. Conway // Decision (split – 92-97, 95-94, 96-93)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Frank Sanchez (17-0, 13KO) vs Nagy Aguilera (21-10, 14KO)
A Cuban twenty-eight years old, Frank Sanchez is taking his time to move up the Heavyweight rankings. Sanchez’s best win to date is a ten-round decision over US gatekeeper, Joey Dawejko. Last time out against Julian Fernandez, a Mexican journeyman, Sanchez broke Fernandez down against the ropes for seven rounds. Patient on the outside, Sanchez can win with his jab (as seen against Dawejko) but his best work is countering opponents with a lead hook when opponents lunge in or breaking down the body on the inside.
Yet another gatekeeper for Sanchez to test himself against, Nagy Aguilera is a rite of passage for hopeful American heavyweights. Having fought Gerald Washington, Dominick Breazeale, Tomasz Adamek, Antonio Tarver, Chris Arreola and Samuel Peter – Aguilera is one of the most experienced heavyweights to offer solid rounds. Returning after a four-year lay-off (spare one tune-up fight), Aguilera is a fighter who goes through the motions without taking many risks. There isn’t anything of significance to write about, he is a typical heavyweight bruiser who looks to close distance and rough opponents in the clinch.
Predicted Result: Sanchez TKO Round 3
Nagy Aguilera is one of the more experienced Heavyweight operators to be found, having spent rounds with Gerald Washington, Dominick Breazeale, Tomasz Adamek, Antonio Tarver and Chris Arreola. Unfortunately, Aguilera never really impressed aside from stealing a couple rounds against a green Washington. Aguilera is a typical Heavyweight bruiser who looks to close the distance and rough opponents in the clinch. Sanchez, a Cuban twenty-eight years old, is a heavy-handed monster capable of jabbing to victory (i.e. Joey Dawekjo) but prefers to opponents down against the ropes.
Result: Sanchez def. Aguilera // Technical Decision (Aguilera BS) Round 6 1:42
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Christian Alan Gomez Duran (19-2-1, 17KO) vs Xavier Wilson (11-2-1, 1KO)
Having fought a litany of cans in Mexico, Gomez was successful in his first fight in the US against journeyman, Angel Hernandez. Facing his first live body in Xavier Wilson, Gomez will need to bank on his left hook finding the mark early to gain respect. Gomez thrives in sloppy affairs, dragging opponents into a dog fight, and creating holes in which he can throw his left hook across body and head.
Xavier Wilson has had mixed results fighting at the small hall level, only dropping razor-thin decisions to fellow prospects Jeremy Hill and John Arellano. The Arellano fighter particularly seemed a case of suspect scoring as Wilson knocked his opponent down early in the first round and maintained a solid pace for the remainder. With a low lead hand, Wilson throws a looping left from an unorthodox angle that catches opponents unaware – especially when they are restricted against the ropes. The major issues with Wilson are a lack of volume, settling into inactivity for extended periods while he waits for an opening, and over-committing to his right hand which sometimes leaves his feet crossed and unbalanced.
Predicted Result: Wilson Decision
Don’t be fooled by the power differential, Wilson has heavy enough hands to gain the respect of opponents while Gomez’s stoppages are largely over Mexican unknowns. That isn’t to doubt Gomez’s firepower, his left hand is a cannon that regularly lands when he is able to make the fight into a sloppy war of attrition. Whether that power will carry up in quality, however, is the real question. Wilson is a cleaner boxer, using his low lead hand to snake around opponents guards at unorthodox angles. Moreover, Wilson’s two defeats are tight decision losses, especially the John Arellano fight. Wilson’s frequent periods of inactivity are what hamper his work, requiring a consistent jab to accompany his clean combinations.
Result: Gomez def. Wilson // TKO Round 2 2:19
Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Keyshawn Davis (2-0, 2KO) vs Jose Antonio Meza (6-4, 1KO)
Keyshawn Davis is a young prospect, decorated amateur, that is well worth getting excited over. A silver medallist at the World Championships and Pan-American Games, Davis is so far a perfect 2-0, 2KO in the professional ranks. Taking a risk last time against the heavy-hitting, unknown Ghanaian, Richman Ashelley, Davis set the pace from the outset and kept Ashelley pinned against the ropes. Davis remains defensively compact when waiting for an opportunity to strike, never exerting wasted energy. Using elbows and forearms to roughhouse on the inside, there is a maturity to his game beyond his age.
Meza is a Mexican journeyman who has already sprung an upset during his young career – a majority decision over the previously undefeated Juan Funez. Towering in a 5’11” at Lightweight, Meza fights frustratingly short using compact hooks to close the distance and lean on his opponent. Without a jab to stop himself from being walked down, his body is wide open for the taking when backed against the ropes.
Predicted Result: Davis Decision
Meza is a perfect match-up for Keyshawn Davis as he continues his adventure in the professional ranks. The young, decorated amateur has so looked impeccable in his first two fights, immediately dictating the range and keeping opponents pressed against the ropes. While Davis spends little wasted energy, there has been little use of his jab so far, a tool that he will require against tougher opposition. Meza is a towering 5’11” but he fails to utilise his reach, throwing short hooks to then lean on opponents. Despite his youth, Davis has shown veteran maturity in the ring, using his head and forearms to rough up Richman Ashelley last time out. Definitely, a fighter to keep an eye on for the future.
Result: Davis def. Meza // Decision (unanimous – 60-54, 60-54, 60-54)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Marc Castro (2-0, 2KO) vs Irving Macias Castillo (9-1, 6KO)
Aside from a horrifying profile picture on BoxRec, Castro is another decorated prospect that secured two amateur World Championships and sixteen national titles. With over 180 amateur fights and only twenty-one years old, Castro has exuded class so far. Slick from both stances, Castro paid little respect to Luis Valdes or John Moraga as he walked them down with barrages of one-twos and the occasional body shot. Castro’s head movement is an excellent vehicle used in synergy with his attacks, not allowing opponents the time to make a read.
Mexican unknown, Irving Castillo, offers greater risk and heavier firepower than Castro’s current scalps. Having been stopped in six by Angel Cruz in his first fight outside Mexico, Far taller than the recorded 5’5″ on the tale of the tape, Castillo is another fighter who fails to utilise his reach effectively. Calmy parrying shots and hand fighting on the outside, Castillo bides his time until he can launch a barrage on the inside. Sadly, he is particularly weak to body shots – a bad attribute for a tall fighter.
Predicted Result: Castro Decision
Castro has been on a demolition course since transitioning to the professional ranks and is most likely to finish this fight late, but Castillo still represents a decent step-up in competition. Castro, a disgustingly decorated amateur with over 180 amateurs fights, has so far paid little respect to the journeymen that kicked off his career. Castro utilises his reach far more effectively than Castillo, and with a mean liver shot, Castillo’s susceptibility to body shots will be exposed.
Result: Castro def. Castillo // TKO Round 4 2:04
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Super Lightweight (140)
Kelvin Davis (1-0, 1KO) vs Jan Marsalek (8-2, 7KO)
Brother of Keyshawn Davis, Kelvin Davis made the move to the professional ranks after failing to make the Olympic team. During his debut, Davis’s strangely long body (similar to Dominick Reyes) rushes out the blocks and threw a barrage at Michael Honesto that left the other debutant unwilling to continue. Not a lot to glean out of his debut.
Czech journeyman, Jan Marsalek, is probably best known to UK fans for being knocked over in the first round by Florian Marku. Marsalek isn’t just a can, however, most recently casing a huge upset after he knocked out the undefeated Fatih Duebues in Germany. Marsalek’s money shot in the left hook, and if given space he can eventually set it up. Sadly, the Czech doesn’t respond well to early pressure, seemingly Kelvin’s bread and butter.
Predicted Result: Davis TKO Round 3
This a surprisingly slippy banana skin for Kelvin Davis so early in his career. Although he secured an early stoppage against Michael Honesto, it appeared only one debutant had turned up to fight. Marsalek may be best known for being blown out the water by Florian Marku in a round, but he certainly isn’t a fighter who simply turns up for a pay day. Most recently icing the undefeated Faith Duebues in Germany, if Marsalek is allowed the time to fight at his own pace, he will eventually land his destructive left hook. If Davis steams out the blocks as he did against Honesto, however, Marsalek hasn’t the back-foot boxing able to deal with the pressure.
Result: Davis def. Marsalek // Decision (unanimous – 38-37, 38-37, 38-37)
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Matchroom: Canelo vs Saunders
2021 Boxing Season
Takeaway comments: Karma strikes in mysterious ways.
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