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Dublin: 3°C Sunday 28 February 2021

Canelo to face England's Callum Smith in end-of-year superfight following split with Golden Boy

Eddie Hearn will promote the long-awaited super-middleweight world-title scrap on 19 December.

Canelo Alvarez (L) and Callum Smith (R).
Canelo Alvarez (L) and Callum Smith (R).
Image: PA Images

SAUL ‘CANELO’ ALVAREZ will challenge champion Callum Smith for the Ring Magazine and WBA World super-middleweight titles in what will be his first professional bout in 10 years as a promotional free agent following his high-profile split from Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy.

The Mexican megastar [53-1-2, 36KOs], who knocked out Sergey Kovalev to win a light-heavyweight title 12 months ago, will make his ring return on 19 December in a bid to become a four-weight world champion when he squares off with the unbeaten Smith [27-0, 19KOs] a division below.

Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing, who count Smith among their stars, will promote the event in an as-of-yet undetermined location in the United States, with Texas believed to be the frontrunner. ‘Canelo Promotions’ will also be listed as a co-promoter, and the Guadalajara native’s working relationship with Hearn is believed to pertain only to this upcoming fight — at least for the moment.

Even more intriguingly, the fight will be shown live exclusively on streaming platform DAZN, who will also own the broadcast rights in Ireland and the UK (not Sky Sports, which had previously shown the majority of Matchroom cards from the USA).

This is something of a twist: Canelo, the 30-year-old pound-for-pound superstar, recently filed a lawsuit against DAZN and his promoter, De La Hoya, seeking damages in excess of $280 million — or effectively the remainder of his 11-fight, $365 million contract which he signed with the sports streaming giant in October two years ago. It was “resolved to everyone’s satisfaction” per De La Hoya, with Canelo free to re-enter both the promotional and TV markets as an unattached free agent. But his first fight with no strings attached will take place on the same streaming platform with which he severed contractual ties earlier this month.

“I’m very happy to return to the ring and continue to make history,” said Canelo. “I am motivated to continue to be the best, and I look forward to fighting Callum Smith, who is one of the best at 168lbs.”

“We are very happy to return to the ring and close out the year with one more victory to continue demonstrating that Canelo is the best boxer on this planet,” added Eddy Reynoso, Alvarez’s trainer.

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Smith, also 30, will be making the third defence of his super-middleweight throne since he destroyed fellow Briton George Groves in 2018.

Like Canelo, he hasn’t fought since last November — and many believe the Liverpudlian should have suffered his first defeat that night, as he received a fortunate points-decision win over compatriot John Ryder.

His older brother, Liam Smith, lost his light-middleweight world title to Canelo in a one-sided affair in 2016.

But Smith has targeted a showdown with Canelo for over a year, and will be considered to be a significant test for the flame-haired superstar when they clash in a month’s time.

“I’ve been wanting a big fight since becoming World champion, so I’m so pleased that during these challenging times we can deliver to the fans a fight between the very best in the division,” said the champion. “I truly believe I beat him and will prove that 168lbs is my division.”

Promoter Hearn added: “I’m delighted to be part of this huge fight to close out 2020 and deliver this opportunity for Callum Smith. “Canelo is a fearless competitor who constantly challenges himself against great champions and this will be a thrilling battle for 168-pound supremacy. It’s a pleasure to be working with Canelo and Eddy Reynoso and we look forward to a spectacular event on 19 December.”

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