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Pound-for-pound superstar and unified super middleweight world champions Canelo Alvarez returns to the ring in the early hours of Sunday morning when he takes on Turkey’s Avni Yildirim.
It has been little over two months since Canelo last fought, outclassing Britain’s Callum Smith in a brutal points decision victory. The Mexican has his sights set on becoming undisputed champion at 168lbs, with fights targeted against WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders and IBF champion Caleb Plant later this year.
First, Canelo will have to come through Yildirim unscathed as expected, though, entering the tune-up bout as an overwhelming favourite. Yildirim has never fought an opponent even close to Canelo’s quality, with his most high-profile defeat coming against Britain’s Chris Eubank Jr in the World Boxing Super Series, when he was knocked out in gruesome fashion.
Yildirim’s manager Ahmet Oner said: “He isn’t here for money. He is here for honour. He wants to be a superstar so I told him: ‘Then you must knock out a superstar’. You will see a real fight. He isn’t coming to survive 12 rounds. No. He’s coming to win. Mission impossible? No. He has bad intentions.”
Taking into consideration the goal to close out plans for an ambitious 2021 by becoming the first undisputed champions at 168 pounds, unified super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez is forced to look at Saturday’s return against Avni Yildirim as a means to an end.
Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KOs) is a 40-1 betting favorite to defeat his mandatory challenger when the pair of 168-pound fighters touch gloves in front of 15,000 socially distanced fans at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium for Alvarez’s WBA and WBC titles.
Although Yildirim (21-2, 12 KOs), a 29-year-old native of Turkey, is plenty game and aggressive as a rugged brawler, few are giving him more than a small puncher’s chance as most expect the Mexican superstar to score a rousing knockout in his first fight in south Florida since a first-round stoppage of Raul Pinzon in 2008.
“I hope so, I hope it’s a knockout because people really enjoy watching knockouts but I’m ready for whatever,” Alvarez told “Morning Kombat” this week.
Alvarez has been uncharacteristically gruff this week when any mention of the betting odds have been brought up or when it has been pointed out that Yildirim, fresh off a two-year layoff and a loss in his last fight, doesn’t scream deserving of the opportunity.
In his defense, Alvarez pointed out how little respect he got in December by dominating unbeaten champion Callum Smith before announcing a return for just two months later, kicking off an ambitious plan for four fights this year including two unification bouts.
Although Alvarez, 30, doesn’t believe there’s another fighter at 160 or 168 pounds who would deserve to be favored to beat him, he’s far from looking past Yildirim and respects what his hungry opponent brings to the table. The two fighters previously sparred together in 2018 when Alvarez brought in Yildiirm to help prepare him for a rematch against Gennadiy Golovkin.
“He’s a strong fighter. He’s fierce,” Alvarez said. “He’s always there, pressuring. At any moment, he’s dangerous.
“That’s what we thought with Callum Smith but the truth is, I’m in my best moment and I find it really difficult to see someone giving me problems.”
Yildirim has enlisted the services of respected trainer Joel Diaz to help him refine his face-first style just a bit in preparation for Alvarez’s counter shots. Yet it’s Alvarez’s own trainer, Eddy Reynoso, who has finally begun to receive what Alvarez believes is long-awaited recognition as one of the top coaches in the game.
In addition to Alvarez, whom he has trained from Day 1 of the four-division champion’s career in 2005, Reynoso recently guided unbeaten lightweight Ryan Garcia to the biggest win of his young career in January over Luke Campbell and junior lightweight champion Oscar Valdez last week to an upset knockout of Miguel Berchelt.
“It’s a very important relationship, the one between a fighter and his trainer,” Alvarez said. “[Reynoso] has been with me from the beginning and has taught me everything. Now that he gets the credit he deserves is something that I knew all along.