Canelo Alvarez ready to unify super middleweight titles

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Said coach and former light heavyweight champion Glen Johnson, right: “When Raphael came to see me he was very raw, as raw as it can be,” Johnson said of the former player University of Miami football and basketball player Raphael Akpejiori. “It’s very gratifying to see how he has evolved. When you have a vision for yourself of what a fighter can accomplish and you see it manifesting itself, that’s a beautiful thing.

Courtesy of Raphael Akpejiori

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s 11-month title consolidation, which included a combat appearance in South Florida, has reached a crucial stage.

Regarded by many experts as the best pound-for-pound boxing fighter, Alvarez will face Caleb Plant in a unification super middleweight title fight on Saturday night in Las Vegas (9 p.m., pay-per-view). Alvarez, already recognized as a world champion by three of the sport’s four sanctioning bodies, will try to become a rare undisputed title holder.

The native of Mexico’s current reign in the 168-pound class follows previous super-welterweight and middleweight titles. Alvarez, 31, also won a lightweight belt, but immediately gave it up and returned to the super middleweight class.

“To be the undisputed champion is huge for my legacy,” said Alvarez. “Even more difficult than reaching the top is staying there. That’s why I try to improve myself every day. This is what I have tried to do from my first fight until now.

Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) won two super middleweight belts with a convincing unanimous decision over Callum Smith last December in San Antonio. Two months later, Alvarez retained both titles with a technical third round knockout against Avni Yildirim at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Another belt ended on Alvarez’s waist after his eighth-round TKO of former champion Billy Joe Saunders on May 8.

With the WBA, WBC and WBO titles now in his possession, Alvarez’s remaining target is the IBF belt that Plant has held since 2019. Despite having managed three title defenses, Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) did not. has never met the scrutiny associated with fighting the sport’s best card attraction.

“The goal is to be an all-time great,” Alvarez said. “I’m so proud of the path I took to get there. I am not going to stop until I have done my best to achieve this goal.

When the fight was officially announced in September, Alvarez and Plant had a downcast look that led to insults and a brief skirmish before the two fighters were separated by their respective camps.

“I hope he has a good chin because he’s going to need it on fight night,” Alvarez said. “With all this talk, it got personal. He crossed a line. But I have to stay focused because it’s a very important fight for me.

The mood was calmer on Wednesday as Alvarez and Plant appeared in their final media frame ahead of Saturday’s fight.

“It wasn’t my intention to step into Canelo’s shoes at the first press conference,” Plant said. “I think the media do more than we do. We’ve both been in worse fights than this. When the bell rings, it’s completely different.

Plant, from Nashville, reiterated that he relishes the role of huge underdog and is seen as Alvarez’s stepping stone to boxing history.

“It’s a place that I love to be, I love that people root against me,” Plant said. “I like to be the underdog. It gives me extra motivation. Fighting for the world’s undisputed first super middleweight championship, you don’t need more than that.

Plant, 29, is also not concerned with close range combat and the popularity of Alvarez helping to tip the scoreboards in his favor. Notable narrow decisions Alvarez won in Las Vegas include his fight against Erislandy Lara and the second of two games against undefeated middleweight champion Gennadiy Golovkin. The first fight with Golovkin also ended in a contested draw.

“I believe the right people are in place to make sure the right decision is made on Saturday night,” Plant said. “Anything other than that is beyond my control. So all I can focus on is the game plan and the work that needs to be done. “

Local fights

Former University of Miami tight player and Miami Dolphins training squad player Raphael Akpejiori will head a boxing show on Saturday night at the Miami Airport Convention Center.

Akpejiori, who won his first 12 professional fights by knockout, will face Santander Silgado (30-9, 24 KOs) in a scheduled eight-round heavyweight bout. The Akpejiori-Silgado match will headlining an announced nine-fight card.

The show also includes undercard fights featuring South Florida fighters Courtney Jackson, Jessy Cruz and Ermal Hadribeaj.

The first fight is scheduled to start at 6:30 a.m. For more information on individual tickets and table reservations, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/night-of-boxing-tickets-164362975083?aff. The airport convention center is located in the Miami Merchandise Mart at 711 NW 72 Ave.


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