ESPN Light-Heavyweight Clash! Smith vs Alvarez Preview

This Saturday Eleider Alvarez and Joe Smith Jr meet in the first contest of a four man tournament to crown a new WBO champion at light-heavyweight. Canelo Alvarez relinquished the belt he took from Sergey Kovalev back in 2019 and Smith Jr and Alvarez look to get closer to the vacant title Saturday August 22nd on ESPN. Ring Magazine has Alvarez ranked at fourth with Smith Jr at eighth. Lets assess some details and statistics on these two fighters:

RankRing 4 & WBO 3Ring 8 & WBO 4
Height & Reach6’0 & 76″6’0 & 73″
Record25-1 (13)25-3 (20)
Experience11 years & 180 rounds11 years & 114 rounds

Eleider Alvarez spent many years in the shadow of former Light-heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. Despite fighting out of Canada like Adonis and ranking highly in the WBC, the title Stevenson held, they never met in the ring. In that time Alvarez defeated the always tough light-heavyweight contender Isaac Chilemba along with former champions Lucian Bute along with fellow Canadian Jean Pascal. His big break came in 2018 when he scored a shocking knockout over Kovalev for the WBO title. Finally he had reached the heights he had failed to attain in the first nine years of his career. Six months later this time in the spotlight was cut short as Kovalev avenged his defeat in a dominant decision win where Alvarez failed to gain any momentum. After eleven months Alvarez came back to defeat hard hitting but limited Michael Seals and has since sat out eight months.

Joe Smith Jr debuted as a professional while working as a construction worker. He was defeated early on in his career by fourth round technical knockout when a left hand possibly broke his jaw and left him turning away from his opponent ( He went undefeated from 2011 to 2017 and had his break out year in 2016. That June he entered the ring at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago as the underdog against Polish fan favorite Andrzej Fonfara. Fonfara had recently went the distance with Stevenson in a WBC title fight and had the champion on the canvas and was looking for a second chance. Smith hurt Fonfara early in round one and never let him off the hook. Smith was able to take that victory and follow it up with a retirement knockout of the legendary Bernard Hopkins on HBO. He had the 2016 Upset of the Year for Ring Magazine and was a hot commodity. 2017 was a less kind year for Smith who faced highly ranked Cuban Sullivan Barrera. Smith dropped Barrera in the first but suffered a broken jaw in the second round and lost a clear unanimous decision. Two fights later Smith still got a shot at a title when he faced undefeated Russian Dmitry Bivol and lost a lopsided decision. Smith won a round where he managed to rock Bivol briefly but was otherwise outmaneuvered and made completely ineffective. It seemed that the hard punching Smith had been found out at the world level as a hard puncher who could be out boxed. In January he met two time title challenger Jesse Hart in a vital crossroads fight for both as they came off high profile defeats and needed a win to get back on track. Smith put on a dominating performance as he imposed his will on the skillful Hart who hit the canvas in the seventh and suffered a nasty cut.

Alvarez Pros: Experience, yes they have the same amount of time as professionals and a similar amount of fights but Alvarez has him in rounds and twelve round experience. Alvarez has 180 rounds to Smith’s 114 and has nine fights scheduled for twelve rounds to Smith’s three. Alvarez also has the better resume of opponents and the outstanding win with Kovalev. Alvarez is the better and more skilled boxer and is a serious threat to Smith.

Smith Jr Pros: Knockout power, Smith Jr can turn out the lights at any point in the fight. He destroyed Fonfara early, dropped Barrera early, dropped Hart in the middle and hurt Bivol later on. Alvarez was rocked several times versus Kovalev but Kovalev began to tire a little much like he did with Andre Ward and Alvarez punished him for it. This brings me two my second point, endurance, Smith is a workman fighter who carries his punch and work rate deep into the fight. Alvarez wore down a little with Seals and any kind of slow down or lapse can be fatal against Smith Jr.

Wild Card: Smith’s jaw, it has been confirmed as broken once and a potential injury in his first career defeat. Alvarez is not a terrific puncher but neither is Sullivan Barrera and he managed to break the jaw of Smith Jr. If that jaw breaks Alvarez is going to carry the day over Smith Jr who is tough as nails but has not overcame that type of injury previously.

Prediction: I like Alvarez to be able to box and exploit weaknesses in Smith Jr. I think in some cases Fonfara showing issues with punchers and Hopkins’s age flattered Smith to a degree and Hart whom he bullied moved up for the fight. I hate to microscope a guy like that but I think Alvarez is a cut above. Alvarez is thirty-six years old but has shown himself as sturdy in the ring. I would like to see Smith Jr score a big stoppage here but I favor Alvarez by decision in a close contest.

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