On Saturday night, Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders will throw down in Arlington, Texas with three of the four recognized super middleweight world championships on the line. The only fight that would seem to make sense for the winner would be a meeting with IBF champion Caleb Plant to unify the division.
Alvarez and promoter Eddie Hearn agree with that line of thinking, saying Alvarez’s mission to make history is the true focus in the here and now. Hearn told CBS Sports that there are only two reasons Alvarez vs. Plant wouldn’t happen should Alvarez get past Saunders on Saturday night (8 p.m. on DAZN, sign up now).
“Politics, maybe. Or networks. It shouldn’t do,” Hearn said. “This is one of the things that’s so bad about boxing. Here we were able to make two champions for a unification fight. The winner of this fight could fight Caleb Plant for the undisputed. That should be a natural fight for boxing. That’s sometimes where boxing kicks itself in its teeth, by not making the obvious fight. I’m pretty confident Caleb Plant would want a shot at this fight. Certainly, the winner of Saturday night is going to be the top dog in the 168-pound division.”
Alvarez, who has won world championships across four weight classes, confirmed beating Saunders and meeting Plant was the only thing on his mind, brushing off the idea of an eventual return to the light heavyweight division. Alvarez defeated Sergey Kovalev in November 2019 to win the WBO championship at 175 pounds, but immediately dropped back to super middleweight to continue his pursuit of all four belts in the 168-pound division.
“My personal goal is to unify the titles at 168 pounds,” Alvarez told CBS Sports. “Caleb Plant is the other champion and hopefully we can make that fight happen. We don’t know the [next] goal right now. We don’t know what’s going to happen then. I want to make history and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
Hearn agreed with Alvarez’s assessment of the situation. Saying that the plan was simply Saunders, then Plant and that Alvarez’s desire to test himself left open plenty of possibilities after becoming unified champion. However, Hearn said, “I think light heavyweight is not necessarily a division he’s looking at and saying, ‘I must move up there.’ He just wants to test himself against the best fighters and continue to face champions. Whether that’s moving up to 175 or whether that’s continuing at 168.”
Of course, before Plant or talk of a return to light heavyweight comes actually getting both Alvarez and Saunders in the ring on Saturday night.
The bout took an odd turn early in fight week when Saunders suddenly threatened to pull out of the event, claiming Hearn and the Alvarez camp surprised him with a ring he felt was too small in an effort to neutralize his ability to use movement and boxing to pull off the upset.
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Alvarez chalked up Saunders’ talk to being a case of laying groundwork to have excuses for an eventual loss.
“The fight will happen,” Alvarez said. “He’s playing with a lot of excuses with judges and the ring. They’re just excuses and the fight is going to happen.”
To Hearn, who has also drawn the ire of Saunders for perceived favoritism in the direction of Alvarez, Saunders’ actions may have been a continuing attempt to mentally prepare himself for facing the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
“I’ve been here before,” Hearn said. “I think that sometimes you deal with different types of characters and personality. Billy Joe is the one that would probably get on the plane and fly home. You can say, ‘No, he wouldn’t do that. He’s not going to turn down this opportunity.’ Sometimes you meet people who are a little bit different and Billy is one of those guys. I had a little chat with Canelo and he didn’t see an issue with it and we moved forward. We’re all up and running and ready for a huge event on Saturday night.
“I do think a lot of it is mind games, to be honest with you. But he definitely feels like his back is against the wall in this fight, and it is. He’s coming here to Texas in front of 70,000 people against the pound-for-pound No. 1. He hasn’t done a lot of media because he’s almost been on strike in a lot of ways. At the same time, he may need that, you know? I think he’s the type of guy who performs better when his back is against the wall.”