Ringside Seat – Can Canelo Alvarez take care of business against long shot Avni Yildirim?

The vast majority of the boxing world see the result of Canelo Alvarez’s defense of the super middleweight title in Miami on Saturday as a foregone conclusion. Mandatory WBC challenger Avni Yildirim lost his two major career comeback and has not been in the ring for two years. Alvarez has tried to stay active and is on his way to merging his WBC and WBA belts with the WBO world title currently held by Billy Joe Saunders later this year.

But there is a reason the fights have to be in the ring. Yildirim rates an outsider almost as great like Buster Douglas was before his historical annoyance with Mike Tyson, but the Turkish boxer and his team don’t seem to shy away from this moment. In the run-up to the fight and especially during the fight week, Yildirim (21-2, 12 KOs) guessed what will be a milestone in Turkish sports history only by reaching this fight.

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“Nobody gives a Turkish boxer a chance, but we are going to stab them in the face,” said Yildirim. “All together we will live this joy and this triumph.”

Despite the previously announced Saunders fight, Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KOs) suppressed the thought that he is overlooking Yildirim.

“The only thing I expect is to win – to trust nothing for granted, but to continue my goal of winning,” said Alvarez.

Avni Yildirim enters the biggest fight of his career with little to lose against Canelo Alvarez. Eva Marie Uzcategui Trinkl / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

As long as things go according to plan, Alvarez will be on his way to doing one of the few things he has never done in his career – becoming the undisputed champion of a division. He held three out of four world middleweight titles at the same time, but the road to winning all of the super middleweight gold seems straightforward. It starts with Yildirim, goes through Saunders and, if all goes according to plan, would culminate against the IBF world title list Caleb Plant.

“It’s important to me and [trainer] Eddy [Reynoso] because very few people have managed to become undisputed champions, “said Canelo.” And that’s a short term goal for us. To win all titles at 168 pounds. Obviously no Mexican has done it yet. That is our short-term goal to keep making history. And that’s what we want. “

Otto Wallin urges Yildirim to believe and enjoy it.

Although he was disappointed at the time, Otto Wallin (left) now realizes how much he has gained by exceeding expectations against Tyson Fury. EPA / ETIENNE LAURENT

Heavyweight contender Otto Wallin was in a similar situation to Yildirim when he challenged Tyson Fury for the heavyweight title in September 2019. Like Yildirim versus Alvarez, Wallin was essentially an unknown fighter in the US and a serious underdog 35-1. Just like Alvarez with Saunders, Fury had already booked a rematch with Deontay Wilder.

Wallin was an official’s decision not to defeat Fury after opening a huge incision over his right eye with a legal blow. The fight continued, however, and Fury won by decision.

If there is anyone who can understand how Yildirim is feeling before the Canelo fight, it is Wallin. Though no one picks Yildirim to get over the surprise, Wallin says it’s important to stay confident and believe that anything is possible.

“My advice would be to believe,” Wallin told ESPN. “I mean, it’s just him and you. Forget all the critics and everyone else. Now it’s just you and him and everyone. So, like in my fight with Fury, he got badly cut and that shows he did is human just like me and that anything can happen. Even Mike Tyson lost when he was in his prime and other fighters lost before. This is boxing and one punch can change everything.

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“He has to go in with a belief that he can and believe in himself and not lose that focus. I’m sure there will be times when Canelo looks really good and lands hard punches and he has good defense and all of that, and Yildirim might feel, “Oh man, I don’t belong here.” But he just has to keep believing and pushing. Canelo has good torso movement and is very smart, so try on shoulders and body and just try to hit something and keep believing.

“Try to enjoy it and don’t be afraid of losing. If you are afraid of losing, you’re going to limit yourself – just play it safe – and that wouldn’t be good. Go out there and just give it up you give it your all and don’t even think about losing, do your best and whatever happens happens, but as long as you give it your all and do your best, all you can do is not much more.

Wallin understands that Yildirim is now at that championship level and will fight against perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and that has to be a dream come true.

“When he gets there he needs to remember that he has probably worked his whole life to fight such a fight and now he’s finally here and should remember to enjoy it and not be surprised by the pressure to let.”


I’ll be surprised if this fight lasts longer than seven rounds. Yildirim tends to fade into the second half of the fighting. He is an aspiring fighter who will take a lot of leather because he will be sitting in front of Canelo and Canelo will be able to do what he does best – get the hell out of him until he finally stops Yildirim.

I expect vicious body shots to bring Yildirim to the silver screen at some point, and Canelo will eventually break him enough to take him off before the seventh round.

The fans want to see Canelo fight, period. Hardcore fans will say, “This is not a challenge for Canelo,” and I understand that. But casual fans will tune in, and if he can get a spectacular knockout and look good in combat, he’ll just keep building his inventory. This is a good fight for Canelo to give these fans what they want to see – fans love knockouts.

I would be surprised and even a little disappointed if Canelo didn’t get the knockout in this fight. – Timothy Bradley Jr.

Read more analysis and predictions about this fight here.

Story from the tape

ESPN statistics and information

The chance

Canelo Alvarez-Avni Yildirim betting odds

Alvarez: -4000Yildirim: +1 500
Alvarez from KO / TKO / DQ: -1600Alvarez by Decision / Tech. Decision: +350
Yildirim from KO / TKO / DQ: +2000Yildirim by Decision / Tech. Decision: +3300
Tie: +3300
Courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, starting Friday morning
Courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, starting Friday morning

By the numbers

ESPN statistics and information

15: Alvarez wins in world championships. His overall record in title fights is 15-1. His only loss in 2013 was to Floyd Mayweather.

47.3%: In the last 16 fights, Alvarez has landed 47.3% of his power punches and 37.4% of all punches. Alvarez took second place among all boxers followed by CompuBox in both categories during this distance.

0: Boxers born in Turkey who have won a major world boxing title. Yildirim would be the first to upset Alvarez on Saturday.

Full card

  • Title fight: Canelo Alvarez versus Avni Yildirim, 12 rounds, for Alvarez ‘WBC and WBA super middleweight titles

  • Zhilei Zhang versus Jerry Forrest, 10 rounds, heavyweights

  • Diego Pacheco versus Rodolfo Gomez Jr., eight rounds, super middleweights

  • Alexis Espino versus Ashton Sykes, six rounds, super middleweights

  • Marc Castro versus Raul Corona, four rounds, junior lightweights

  • Aaron Aponte versus Harry Gigliotti, four rounds, junior world champion weights

  • Keyshawn Davis versus Lester Brown, four rounds, lightweights

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