During the first moment Canelo Alvarez stood face-to-face with his next opponent at the press conference earlier in the week to hype up Saturday’s return against WBA super middleweight champion Callum Smith, it was hard to overlook just how tall of a challenge this was for the Mexican superstar.
The pun in this case was intentional for Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs), the reigning pound-for-pound king, who was giving up no shortage of seven inches in height to the 6-foot-3 Smith (27-0, 19 KOs) when the two stared deeply into each other’s eyes as the flashes of nearby cameras clicked on and off around them.
The 30-year-old Smith, a native of England and the youngest of four pro boxers as brothers, is nothing to be taken lightly as an opponent. He has power, size and hunger. He also fits in nicely onto Alvarez’s resume given how routinely difficult he matches himself despite holding so much leverage as the sport’s biggest star.
Not only is Alvarez, 30, looking to unify the WBA title at 168 pounds after previously holding the governing bodies’ secondary belt, the two fighters will also be competing for the WBC title that was vacated after David Benavidez missed weight for a title defense earlier this year. Yet he was far from concerned when asked about how he will overcome the height difference.
“We knew about the height and we knew also about his qualities, but I have the boxing experience that’s needed and we have prepared for it,” Alvarez told “Morning Kombat” on Wednesday.
Smith’s advantage, of course, only becomes one if he uses it by keeping Alvarez on the outside of his jab and preventing the same kind of vicious body attack Alvarez once used to finish Smith’s older brother Liam during their 2016 title bout at 154 pounds.
“We will have to wait and see,” Smith told CBS Sports last week. “Obviously, I have to try and use every one of my advantages as much as possible. There’s no use having a seven-inch height advantage if I didn’t use it.
“At the highest level, a lot of it can change as the fight goes on. Some of it will be at close quarters and some of it will be at distance. I just have to be prepared for whatever Canelo Alvarez turns up. I have to have a good game plan and pull it off at the night. I believe that Dec. 20 I will wake up still a champion.”
Asked whether he would target Smith’s other two brothers or any extended family members next should he get past Callum this weekend, Alvarez let out a rare chuckle.
“Whomever is there and whomever is the best, we will go after him,” Alvarez said.
The reality is that Alvarez will have no shortage of big opportunities awaiting him after recently freeing himself from exclusive deals with both DAZN and former promoter Golden Boy. But none of that matters if he doesn’t get through Smith first by finding a way to get inside on his opponent.
“Hopefully yes, hopefully yes,” Alvarez said about whether he’s targeting the body. “That’s what we are going to try to see and may it be the best history.”
It’s not the deepest card we’ve seen, but there’s still plenty of intrigue surrounding the main event. Let’s take a closer look at the complete fight card and latest main event odds before making an expert pick and prediction on Canelo vs. Smith.
Fight card, odds
Canelo Alvarez -650 vs. Callum Smith (c) +475, WBC and WBA super middleweight titles
Marc Castro vs. Luis Javier Valdes, bantamweights
Frank Sanchez vs. Julian Fernandez, heavyweights
Austin Williams vs. Isiah Jones, middleweights
Christian Alan Gomez Duran vs. Angel Hernandez, welterweights
It’s a credit to Alvarez’s greatness that he can so effortlessly bounce between a trio of weight classes from 160 to 175 pounds and still carry both his power and instincts as a finisher. But despite being the smaller man in recent title bouts against the much bigger Rocky Fielding at super middleweight and Sergey Kovalev at light heavyweight, Alvarez played the role of stalking power puncher looking for the finish.
Alvarez can box his way to victory just the same should he need to, of course, which he did in 2019 against an also much bigger Daniel Jacobs in their middleweight title unification. Still, there’s reason to believe he’ll look to walk down and overwhelm Smith in this fight and look to do so slowly.
While it’s easy to say that Smith’s jab will be potentially the most important punch in this fight so he can control range and prevent Alvarez from getting close enough to target his body, none of that will matter if he doesn’t give Alvarez a reason to be hesitant.
That’s where the effectiveness of Smith’s right hand becomes critical, particularly early in the fight. Getting a decision against Alvarez has long proven to be a difficult thing given how much judges have favored his clean counter punching in close fights. So the first half of the bout should be telling as to whether Smith can actually play the role of the bigger man and make Alvarez pay for crossing the imaginary line in front of him.
Should Smith prove unable to do that, a late stoppage (particularly via heavy hooks to the rib cage to slow him down) seems almost inevitable.
Smith is big, tough and hungry, but it’s largely up to him as to how much risk he’s willing to take on in order to actually try and win as opposed to hanging around and hoping for the best.
FIFA Club World Cup 2020 – News – Lee: My European experience would be a weapon against Bayern
Lee Chungyong one of Ulsan Hyundai’s most experienced players
The winger starred in Europe and played at two FIFA World Cups
Lee: “We can compete with Bayern”
Few South Koreans have enjoyed as long a stay in Europe as Lee Chungyong. The 32-year-old spent 11 years between Bolton Wanders, Crystal Palace and Bochum before joining Ulsan Hyundai last year.
Lee helped the Tigers win the AFC Champions League in December and consequently book a trip to the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™, which will begin next month. And he believes his experience on the Old Continent will be an asset if Ulsan can secure a dream match-up against the mighty Bayern Munich.
“My experiences in Europe are perhaps the biggest weapon,” the winger told FIFA.com. “They are one of the best clubs in the world. We may not be on the same level as them, but I played in Europe for years and I am pretty sure we can compete against them if we make the best of our strengths.”
Lee has reason to be confident. Upon the resumption of the AFC Champions League in September, Ulsan won seven straight matches to reach the semi-finals. There, they battled from behind to see off Andres Iniesta and Vissel Kobe, before another fightback victory, this time over Persepolis, in the final. The winner came from a penalty earned when Lee’s cross was handled.
“I’m proud of my team for this achievement,” said Lee. “Our journey proved tough and the campaign was hard-fought throughout. But our players maintained a relaxed mindset during the competition, and this was the reason why we enjoyed this campaign and won it.
“Every team participating in the AFC Champions League is of a high standard. But Vissel Kobe and Persepolis proved harder to play against. Against both of them we conceded the first goal and had to fight back.
“But we trusted each other and believed that we could reverse the match, and we made it. The bond between us team-mates is solid.”
Ulsan will travel to Doha under a new coach – none other than Korea Republic legend Hong Myungbo. Lee, having helped his side finish K League runners-up and become Asian champions, wants to continue being an example to his team-mates.
“Perhaps my place in the team is not fixed yet, but I want to share my experience with our youngsters,” he said. “I want to be a role model both on and off the pitch. Maybe this is what the coach is expecting me to be.”
Lee is no stranger on global scene, having figured prominently for Korea Republic at two FIFA World Cups™: South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. The Seoul native is now excited to play in his first Club World Cup.
“Of course I’m looking forward to playing in the Club World Cup,” he said. “It’s been quite a while [since my last FIFA tournament]. All the clubs in the competition are world-class and I can’t wait to play against them.”
Lee got his country’s goal in a 4-1 loss to Lionel Messi and Argentina at South Africa 2010, and his second of the tournament against Uruguay in the Round of 16. Is he dreaming about finding the target at Qatar 2020?
“It would be truly wonderful if I can score goals,” he said. “But for me, the team always comes first. I have to do whatever I can to help my team win.”
HIGHLIGHTS | 🇮🇷 Persepolis FC 1-2 Ulsan Hyundai 🇰🇷
Updates, analysis and colour from the third day of the fourth Test
Welcome to our live report of the third day of the Australia-India Test from Brisbane. Join us for updates, analysis and colour. You can find our traditional ball-by-ball commentary here
David Warner’s counterpunch at the end remining us that Australia have still finished the day with a handy lead and two days to go. But the rain forecast for the last two days is sure to play on their minds as they seek a 2-1 scoreline for the series, the only one that guarantees the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for them. Perhaps only Josh Hazlewood goes back feeling like he had a good day today, another incisive day of Test match bowling for him, finishing with a five-for.
For the second innings in a row, India found resistance from their last recognised batting pair to deny Australia a strong push for a win. On this occasion, it was debutant Washington Sundar and bowler Shardul Thakur batting together for 36 overs, across sessions, and making maiden Test fifties to help India post 336 after they were reduced to 6 for 186 just after lunch.
Full report to follow…
It must be said that Josh Hazlewood’s the only bowler who hasn’t lost sight of the right plan to get wickets here. He has been consistently fuller than the other bowlers and, more or less, stuck with his trademark style. In isolation, his figures would look good in any innings. But this is some effort as Australia’s bowlers have shown signs of tiring out.
3.44pm: Some history
This pair now becomes the 18th seventh-wicket stand to get 100-plus for India in an away series. You don’t know when these guys will be in an Indian XI again. Perhaps Sundar will play in the England series at home. But then you also wonder if that’s why they, and the other newbies before them in this series, have played out of their skins. The Indian Test team is not an easy one to break into these days and there are plenty of players who’ve shown they can do a job in the unlikely event of this many setbacks.
But to zoom back into this match a little – Australia have now gone two innings in a row where they are this close to opening India’s tail end and have just been unable to do it. The frustration is showing, the weather forecasts that Indian fans were frantically checking over the last few days is probably now on Tim Paine’s mind. He’s also put down a half-chance not long ago. The faces tell the story.
The session could not have begun better for Australia, but this pair, batting together for the first time in Tests, has wiped away a major chunk of Australia’s advantage. They’ve added 67 – India’s highest 7th wicket stand on this ground – and brought the deficit down to 116. Apart from that, it will grate on Australia that they’ve taken more time out of this Test. Remember, Australia need to make it 2-1 to win the trophy and with rain in the forecast, they’ll need to be out batting pretty quickly if they want to enforce a result.
Quality session first up today and India might have been really proud of how they’ve done if they hadn’t lost Rahane towards the end there. But he had his chances playing exactly the shot that eventually got him, against the same bowler but this time with a plug in the slip cordon. Pujara looked the more assured batsman but was the one who fell first, caught off the thin outside edge yet again as he looked to play the initial angle of a ball that straightened.
For Agarwal, it’s been a much more comfortable innings than he had before being dropped for the last Test. With the older ball not really coming back into him and the bowlers a little more tired than they are when they have a new ball against him as an opener, he’s settled in well and got to play a lot more of Nathan Lyon than before as well. The deficit is still 208 though and Australia still have the upper hand here.
11.17am: Agarwal the middle-order batsman, and Australia’s bowling plans
The No. 5 numbers are from today, so it is his maiden first-class innings in this position. He does still have the Pat Cummins challenge, and it is proving quite difficult for him at that end. But on the other is Cameron Green, against whom he has looked fairly comfortable. He also got to start against Nathan Lyon. You’d think he would be most comfortable against those two in this bowling line-up. Could Australia be applying more pressure on him?
The first bits of shadow are visible now as the sun peeks out at the Gabba. Pujara and Rahane have been extremely watchful – and a bit lucky, in the case of the latter – as Australia slam the pitch just short of a good length. That’s also given Pujara, in particular, some boundary scoring opportunities square of the wicket. In the 36th over we saw Starc changing up to a more full length to him, and Hazlewood has immediately started on the fuller side of good length as well. It’s a pitch with pace and bounce, but it’s not as lively as it sometimes appears. Perhaps Australia have understood that keeping these two on their back foots is not as effective at the moment.
9.36am: The forecast
Much better viewing than yesterday’s hourly breakdown.
9.10am: Another crucial first hour
They always are, and India, two down and 307 behind at the moment, have quite a task on their hands. There’s plenty of pace and bounce here at the Gabba, though not a whole lot of seam movement, so it should be a balanced contest between bat and ball. It will be interesting to see if the cracks open up a little more today as well. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane are at the crease, after Rohit Sharma fell in polarising fashion. He copped a lot of criticism for the shot he played, having looked so good while settling in, but Sidharth Monga offers some balance in this piece.
Newly acquired LeVert out indefinitely for Pacers with mass on kidney
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers will be without newly acquired Caris LeVert indefinitely after an MRI showed a mass on his left kidney during a physical to complete this week’s blockbuster four-team trade.
Team officials made the announcement Saturday on Twitter. They say he will undergo more tests and additional details will be released at a later date.
“On behalf of my family and myself, we want to thank the Indiana Pacers for their support and guidance,” LeVert said in a statement. “We are grateful for their extreme thoroughness during the physical process and I am looking forward to joining the team and being part of this great organization as soon as possible.”
The 26-year-old LeVert was acquired Wednesday in the deal that sent Harden to the Brooklyn Nets and two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo to Houston.
LeVert was expected to replace Oladipo and help replace forward T.J. Warren, who is out indefinitely after having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot.
It’s unclear what the Pacers will do without LeVert.
“We acquired Caris because of who he is as a young man first and foremost,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said. “His basketball skill and on-court play speaks for itself and we know he has a great career ahead of him. We will support Caris through this time and know that he will join us on the court as soon as he is able.”
The Pacers expected to get several advantages from the acquisition.
LeVert’s contract is $4.8 million cheaper this season and likely cheaper than it would have been to re-sign Oladipo after this season.
Plus, LeVert is signed through 2022-23, as are three other Pacers starters. And while the 28-year-old Oladipo continues his comeback from a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee, LeVert looked like a player on the rise.
His scoring totals improved each of his first four seasons in the league and despite largely coming off the bench, this has been his best all-around season. He’s averaging 18.5 points and a career-best 6.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds.