Photo: Javon Sandiford
By Kieran Mulvaney
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Who knew that one pound could be such a weighty matter? But, perhaps because of the absence of other storylines leading up to a fight Canelo Alvarez is widely expected to win against Liam Smith on Saturday night, it has been a matter of some discussion in Dallas the past few days, and all the more so following Friday’s weigh-in at AT&T Stadium.
A brief recap, for new readers: In his last two outings, against Miguel Cotto and Amir Khan, respectively, Alvarez fought for and defended the middleweight title, each time at a contracted weight of 155 pounds, one pound above the junior middleweight limit. On both occasions, the arrangement, while irritating to traditionalists who believe that middleweights should fight at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds, made sense: Cotto, barely even a middleweight himself, insisted upon it; while Khan, who had never fought above welterweight before in his career, likely welcomed it. Canelo himself asserted – and continues to assert, despite evidence to the contrary – that like Cotto he isn’t truly a middleweight either. And so instead of remaining in the division, he relinquished his belt and returned to 154 pounds, to challenge for the title held by Britain’s Smith.
As early as Wednesday of fight week, it was clear that Jose “Chepo” Reynoso, Canelo’s manager and co-trainer, was fed up with questions about the weight division in which his fighter truly belonged.
“I think that a lot of the critics haven’t done their homework,” he told HBO this week. “It’s not really going down in weight. The notion of going down in weight is ridiculous. It’s only one pound.”
Even so, losing that pound may have taken a bit more effort than Reynoso cared to admit, judging by the fact that as Alvarez strode to the scale on Friday, his handlers immediately raised a towel and he dropped his underwear, treating Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones -- who was standing at the back of the stage -- to a perfect view of Canelo’s rear end. He hit right on 154 pounds, and immediately re-donned his shorts and stepped as far away from the scale as possible.
To be fair, however, he certainly didn’t look at all drained. And also to be fair, Smith is a naturally bigger and stronger opponent than either Cotto or Khan, whatever the weight division. Indeed, Smith bullishly asserted after weighing in that, should Alvarez indeed be struggling, “We’ll know on Saturday, because I’ll bring it out of him.” He hopes, he said, that Canelo starts fast, “because if he does do that and it doesn’t work as planned, it’s a massive mistake later on in the fight, because I’m confident he’s not going to budge me. I’m going nowhere in this fight.”
Canelo in turn was appropriately respectful to Smith and his qualities – as indeed he has been throughout the build-up to this contest. But he was also focused on the importance of the day at hand, what victory will mean for his countrymen and on the journey he has taken since he first fought on Mexican Independence Day weekend 10 years ago in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“I’m very grateful to my fans,” Canelo said. “I’m very grateful to the love and support they always give me. And all I can tell them is: You’re going to see a beautiful fight on Saturday, and at the end of the night, it will end in victory and we can all yell together, ‘Viva Mexico!’”
Official weights from Arlington:
Canelo Alvarez: 154 pounds / Liam Smith: 154 pounds
Gabriel Rosado: 159.25 pounds / Willie Monroe Jr.: 158 pounds
Joseph Diaz Jr.: 125.5 pounds / Andrew Cancio: 126 pounds
Diego De La Hoya: 121.75 pounds / Luis Orlando del Valle: 121.75 pounds