Canelo Alvarez vs Avni Yildirim preview - Canelo returns quickly with Saunders fight on horizon

Canelo Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KOs) defends his super-middleweight titles against Avni Yildirim (21-2, 12 KOs) on Saturday at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Canelo is coming off of two fantastic performances against top fighters Sergey Kovalev and Callum Smith and is getting a bit of a breather in terms of level of competition in former WBC challenger Yildirim.

Yildirim spent most of his career in Germany but is mostly known for his KO loss to Chris Eubank Jr in the World Boxing Super Series tournament and his technical decision loss to Anthony Dirrell in 2019. He’s got some athletic qualities, but is extremely limited technically. His style relies on putting his gloves up, marching forward and swinging hooks. That strategy is unlikely to find much success on one of the finest defensive fighters in the game. Despite a massive size advantage, Callum Smith could barely lay a glove on Alvarez and Yildirim is tailor made to make Canelo’s defensive and countering ability to shine.

Canelo’s particularly great defensively on the inside, where he combines blocks, parries and head movement extremely well. Once he’s made his opponent miss, his combinations allow him to dissect an opponent’s guard and he should have no problem getting past Yildirim’s high guard. This should be a showcase for Canelo and hopefully set up bigger fights for Canelo down the line. I’d personally be really interested to see him take on Caleb Plant but Billy Joe Saunders seems like the frontrunner at the moment.

The card originally had an interesting co-main event for the WBC flyweight belt between action fighter Julio Cesar Martinez and crafty veteran McWilliams Arroyo but Martinez had to withdraw with a hand injury. This is the second time Martinez had to pull out of this fight and the third time in the last 6 months. The plan is that the fight would only be postponed about a month, and hopefully Martinez can come back and resume what has been a very entertaining title run so far.

Given the circumstances, the co-main event will be a heavyweight clash between Chinese giant Zhilei Zhang (22-0, 17 KOs) and Jerry Forrest (26-4, 20 KOs) but the highlight of the undercard is the professional debut of the US’s best amateur boxer Keyshawn Davis. Following the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, Davis chose to forego the Olympics where he would have been the United States’ best medal hope. Davis, at just 19 years old, beat a pan am bronze medalist, two world bronze medalists and a world champion on his way to a silver medal at the 2019 world championships. The US are unlikely to medal at the Olympics without him but he has the potential to go on to a fantastic pro career.

Canelo vs Yildirim airs on DAZN on Saturday, February 27th at 8:00pm ET / 5:00pm PT

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