Callum Smith has been waiting a long time for this moment. He’s a great fighter and deserves the opportunity to meet a superstar.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is on a mission to become the greatest Mexican fighter of all time. He is boxing’s biggest star and arguably the best pound for pound boxer in the world.
I’m a big fan of Smith. He comes to knock you out. My kind of fighter. And this is personal after Canelo knocked out his brother, Liam, four years ago. It means more, as they say in Liverpool.
Smith is unbeaten, has some good scalps on his record, notably George Groves. He’s a formidable puncher at middle and long distance, and works off a solid jab.
His problem, as it has been for every opponent bar Floyd Mayweather Jnr, is Canelo has no obvious weaknesses.
He has won world titles from super welterweight to light heavyweight, albeit he caught Sergey Kovalev on the rebound less than three months after a gruelling encounter with Anthony Yarde.
Canelo keeps his hand high against dangerous punchers. When opponents open up he just pulls his hands in, blocks, then fires back. He is remarkable at catching punches and firing off at close range.
He is also expert in closing distance. Smith has a terrific right hand but he is up against a fighter on another level.
And worryingly, he struggled in his last fight a year ago against John Ryder, an opponent similar in dimension to Canelo.
Smith couldn’t hurt nor deter him. And technically Ryder is no Canelo.
To keep Canelo off you have to hit him hard but that is a risk against a fighter who judges distance brilliantly.
Punching down against a man six inches shorter is a nightmare when you miss. Once you throw the right hand and don’t hit the target you are exposed.
In the nano-second it takes to adjust position into a defensive shape Canelo is on you. It is so demoralising.
Even when you do catch him, Canelo has a chin like granite. Attacks bounce off him and is straight on you.
He eats your energy making you fight at an unstainable pace until the gaps emerge. Suddenly he hits you to the body, lifts your head with a left hook and rams home the right cross.
Kovalev, who was up on two of the three cards after ten rounds, showed the way Canelo might be beaten by staying on the outside.
I expect it to be competitive for six to eight rounds before Canelo starts to grind Smith down and finish it in the championship rounds, as he did against Kovalev in the 11th, or on the cards.