By James Blears
For Billy Joe Saunders, the key to achieving victory is to achieve a boxing masterclass, dominating the center of the ring, to avoid being caught against the ropes, while Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez, will ingeniously and ruthlessly try to cut all the routes of escape, dodge and lunge at BJ, smash and tear his body apart, then find him and… BAM!
Both men are rigorously prepared in mind, body and soul for this fabulous fight on May 8 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. From this extraordinary encounter in the Lone Star State, a supreme supernova will emerge holding up the magnificent Half-Blood Belt, created especially for this Boxing Party. An open-hearted gift to the world, it is there waiting to be conquered in this tremendous fight. At stake are Canelo’s WBC and WBA super middleweight belts and the WBO version of Billy Joe.
All boxing matches boil down to styles, offensive and contrasting, with one dominating over the other. Canelo is known as a pressure fighter, cutting distance, leading opponents down dead ends, closing in, closing in and unleashing forceful blows of power.
Traditionally, he likes to work and mince the body. But then, and ultimately … he moves up with big left hooks, bone-chilling right hands, and the scythe uppercut, which is indeed a high-stakes punch, but also reaps significant and shocking dividends.
Standing your ground and trading with Canelo today is uselessly brave, reckless, and almost as foolish as being in the vicinity of a phone booth with Jimmy Conway at Goodfellas, right after receiving word of the hit from Tommy De Vito, a madman who he was supposed to go crazy. It is not the action of a wise man …
We all watched and shuddered at the terrible sustained punishment that the tall, thin, lanky Callum Smith absorbed when he was trapped. Too often for his own good, he stood his ground against Canelo, and he suffered!
Canelo’s task is to catch up to Billy Joe on light feet, anchor him, root him in place, and land his heavy artillery. Whereas Billy Joe’s golden and green opportunity is to use his diverse and brilliant boxing skills to the fullest, leading his oncoming opponent with his trademark accurate punches, as he slyly advances into retreat. On offense, he must use his proven jab, followed by precision left hooks, to plaster Canelo with a very high volume of quality hits. Get in and out without getting hit.
The key to Billy Joe’s success is to be effective in this way, while being as elusive as Sir Percy Blakeney, The Scarlet Pimpernel. You will need exceptional focus, unwavering and sustained, in a fight that will take you to the next level or screw you up.
A momentary deconcentration lapse or even a fraction of a second will cost him dearly, because Canelo certainly possesses the power to strike at any moment. Stopping Canelo with an iron jaw is an entirely different and more difficult prospect, unless it involves cuts. However, in boxing, anything is possible. Even at the highest level, a telltale hit can upset the score.
Canelo has won against every left-hander he faced, but he doesn’t perform as well against them as the conventional stance version. It was rigorously and exceptionally tested against Erislandy Lara, whom one judge deemed the winner, while the other two objected. Lara used a right jab, trying to keep Canelo at bay, backed by fast and hard combinations from all angles, as he tried to get away from the ropes, where he and everyone else facing Canelo are vulnerable.
He effectively used lateral movement and every inch of the ring to avoid getting into a head-to-head confrontation. In doing so, he appeared to be covering the distance equivalent of a marathon and was enthusiastically booed by fans for not failing, but it turned out to be a clever formula, if not entirely a winner. It was close to that strategy. However, it must be remembered and appreciated that this happened in 2014, seven long years ago. That was before and this is now.
A year earlier, another southpaw Austin Trout was dropped with a heartbreaking straight single in the seventh round. But he also posed a variety of nagging problems for Canelo, with his silky mobility, also mostly lateral, but hardly lethal.
Most recently, Daniel Jacobs lost his IBF middleweight belt to World Boxing Council and WBA champion Canelo, in 2019 for UD, but the fight was very competitive throughout. Jacobs, who fights from a conventional stance, had his moments, but not as many effective moves when he switched to southpaw, which is not his natural strength at this level.
Billy Joe, who has fought thirty times with fourteen KO`s, says Canelo 55-1, 37 KO`s has racked up more miles on the clock than he has. But it could also be argued that Canelo has gained more experience along the way. He learned a lot in his two fights with Gennady Golovkin and his boxing education was acquired in an upper grade class.
Canelo likes to stand close and lean in, but his subtle, flexible head and waist movement, quick reflexes, and deft anticipation make him a difficult target to pin down and hit directly. He slips and deflects many punches that would score and sting another less intelligent fighter. He and Billy Joe both like to simulate punches to lure opponents into a second guess, in order to set up their goodnight punches.
Billy Joe’s toughest fight to date was against Chris Eubank Jr in 2014. Billy Joe cheated on and defeated Chris, who fought lethargic and flat-footed for the first five rounds, but as the fight progressed, the power from Eubank arrived.
Over time it became a factor and Billy Joe noticeably faded towards the end, even though he won. Again, this was a long time ago and lessons were certainly learned.
In the here and now, it largely depends on how much damage Billy Joe takes and suffers from dealing Canelo, as to how he will fare as the rounds wear out.
His most resounding performance was UD’s win against heavy hitter David Lemieux in 2017. An absolutely stunning display of Billy Joe, who hit his head while boxing around him, all night long.
Billy Joe will never be hit as hard as May 8. Seeing is believing, yet feeling is much more tangible. Canelo is a patient fighter. It doesn’t come in jumping, swinging, and waiting. Sometimes he will refrain from throwing a punch, to wait for a juicier and more timely opening. When his punches land, it is with a thud, because he is aiming with a heavy hand.
Billy Joe’s blazing hand speed, boxing skills, versatility and adaptability is something Canelo has only encountered confusingly once before, against the legendary Floyd Mayweather Jr. To win, Canelo must cut to the chase. rather than ineffectively pursuing it. To win, Billy Joe must judge distance with Pythagoras’ deft calculating ability.
The location and fame favor Canelo. This stadium is now like a second home for him. Many more Mexicans and Mexican / Americans will be available to roar for him. However, the contingent of British fans will rejoice their hearts for Billy Joe.
Both men are used to big occasions, but when it comes down to it, it’s only the two of them plus the third man in the ring.
Billy Joe, who has never been defeated as a professional, emits the exuberance of bravery. It is essentially part of who you are and what motivates you. However, it might be a better idea to stick to the task at hand and at hand, without boasting and teasing Canelo with cheekiness or incitement to impertinence. Better to save your breath and not let your guard down in a provocative way or stick your unprotected chin out.
Pride often tends to come before a fall. Mutual respect does not take away an iota of iron-clad willpower. So, let’s also hope that the fingers of others are not stepped on and that there is no clash of heads, which sometimes happens, with different and contrasting postures, as well as diametrically opposite granite mentalities.
Billy Joe, thirty-one, is five feet eleven inches tall, while Canelo, who is thirty, is shorter at five feet eight inches. Billy Joe’s reach is seventy-one inches, while Canelo’s is just a pinch of a half inch shorter.
If everyone fights with all their ability, ability and follows their game plan, this will be a great battle. Billy Joe’s indomitable gypsy heritage is the essence of his wandering, astonished, wonderful independent pride and awkward willpower, which will be put to the test like never before. He is convinced that he can and will win. As Nikki Rowe wrote: “There is only one place I want to be and it is all the places I have never been.” More than likely his fellow traveler, the WBC heavyweight champion, and his friend Tyson Fury will be in the ring to cheer him on.
As for Canelo, during the quiet stillness, the uninterrupted calm, which inevitably gives way to the coming storm, he knows all too well the meaning of Cinco de Mayo. It is the most important, deeply rooted and sanctified date, circled in a Mexican calendar. Mexico expects nothing less from him than total victory.
And so the saying goes: “I am Mexican. We always fight to the end ”.