Turkish challenger Avni Yildirim is widely expected to be the fall guy when he faces unified super-middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on February 27.
Canelo is as much as a 1/50 favourite in early betting markets with the main question seeming to be how long the aggressive Yildirim will last against such a distinguished and punishing counter-puncher. The duo have been regular sparring partners in the past, but few in boxing are expecting the challenger to be competitive when the first bell rings in a real fight.
Yet Yildirim’s manager Jose Perez insists the Turk, blown away by Chris Eubank Jr. in three rounds in October 2017, will present a stronger test than Canelo’s previous opponent Callum Smith, who dropped a wide decision to the Mexican in Texas last month.
“It’s going to be interesting, competitive. God only knows what’s going to happen. I recommend you go see it. You won’t regret it, because Avni is very motivated and is going to give himself up completely,” Perez told journalist George Ebro. “Is that enough? I can’t say for sure, but it’s going to be better than Canelo’s previous fight.
“Callum Smith tried to survive. The Turk doesn’t come to do that. He’s coming to win or lose. Either I kill you or you kill me. He’s got nothing to lose. Supposedly, he doesn’t have a chance of winning. And a man who is not given a chance is a dangerous man. That’s what I can tell you.
“Canelo is not dumb. All I see is that he’s taking this lightly. He started training a few days ago. I’m sure Canelo is underestimating the Turk. He didn’t do that with Callum Smith. Let him keep him doing that. Look at what happened between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz. There are many examples of big upsets: Miguel Cotto vs Austin Trout, Orlando Salido vs Vasiliy Lomachenko. Recently, Félix Verdejo vs [Masayoshi] Nakatani. That’s the story of boxing. You can’t underestimate anyone and Canelo and the press are underestimating him.”