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Canelo Outboxes, Punishes Callum Smith for 12 Rounds

By Caryn A. Tate on December 19, 2020


Smith was tentative and allowed Canelo to walk him down. (Ed Mulholland/Matchroom)

Tonight from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas—with some fans in attendance despite the United States’ soaring COVID-19 infection rates—Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KOs) faced Callum Smith (27-1, 19 KOs) for Smith’s WBA world super middleweight title as well as the vacant WBC championship.


Going in, Canelo was the favorite but most people gave Smith credit for being a good boxer. While I agree he has boxing skills, I felt Smith was simply too straight up-and-down for a fighter of Canelo’s caliber, regardless of the size difference.


From the outset, Smith was tentative and allowed Canelo to walk him down and back him up. Of course this played into Canelo’s plan—he would want the bigger, taller guy to back up so that even if he were to land some shots, they wouldn’t have much impact thanks to Smith moving backward. Canelo did the same thing against the much bigger Kovalev last year.


Despite a dramatic height difference—Canelo is only 5’8” while Smith stands at 6’3”—Canelo was the jabber, the boxer, and the man in control all night. Smith not only never established his jab, he hardly used it to good effect at all. Honestly it was a little hard to see what Smith’s plan was tonight; I suspect he wanted to bide his time and try to catch Canelo with a big shot later in the fight. I’m not a fan of that “waiting” gameplan in boxing, for a variety of reasons, but it’s a particularly poor idea against a guy like Canelo who is a tremendous boxer all the way around and who also has stamina issues. If you wait, you allow Alvarez to fight at a leisurely pace and avoid getting tired. Which is exactly what happened.


Canelo fought at the pace he chose for 12 rounds. Smith never pushed him, physically or mentally. On the contrary, Canelo was the one who pressed Smith and forced him to have to deal with Alvarez’s hand speed, intelligence and traps, angles, and digging body shots. Canelo repeatedly landed a terrific uppercut through Smith’s guard, and it seemed to take out Callum’s nose around the middle rounds.


Several times Smith was hurt, particularly to the body, and nearly went down. But he’s tough and he took care to survive the rounds.


I would have liked to see Smith’s corner stop the fight around the last few rounds. He was getting beat up, upstairs and down, and he just didn’t have enough left to hurt Canelo at all, much less stop him. It was also mathematically impossible for Smith to win the fight on the cards. So why was it allowed to continue? The prevalent idea in boxing that “he’s a champion so he should be allowed to go out on his shield” is, many times, simply not good for the fighter’s long-term health. If a fight isn’t competitive, there’s no doubt about who’s winning on the cards, and the hurt fighter has no chance of hurting the other, the fight should be stopped.


Alvarez tried his damndest to stop Smith, but in the end it just didn’t happen. Smith made sure he survived. But it didn’t matter; Canelo showed tremendous all-around boxing skills and applied pressure throughout. He gave it his all. That’s all any of us can ask, and sometimes a stoppage just doesn’t come. Watching a boxer as excellent as Canelo is a pleasure whether he knocks a guy out or not.


The scorecards read 119-109 twice and a bizarre 117-111, all for Canelo Alvarez. It’s hard to give Smith one round, let alone three, but the right man won.


Hopefully now that Canelo is a unified super middleweight champion, we can next see him attempt to unify another title: namely the winner of IBF world champion Caleb Plant versus Caleb Truax, which takes place next month.

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