WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. says he’d be open to defending against Canelo Alvarez next May on the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend if he moves up to 175.
Callum Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) still needs to defeat challenger Callum Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) this month on January 15th at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino, in Verona, New York. That fight event will be shown live on ESPN & ESPN Desportes at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said last month that he believes Canelo (57-1-2, 39 KOs) will choose to face Joe Smith Jr. first when he goes up to light heavyweight and move on to IBF/WBC champion Artur Beterbiev and WBA champion Dmitry Bivol.
“I want to get the fight with Beterbiev and with Bivol again to show I am now the best,” said Joe Smith Jr. to Forbes.
“I had a rough fight with Bivol the first time. After fighting him, I learned a lot. I’ve had so much competition since then,” said Smith.
Canelo could move up to light heavyweight in May if he changes his mind about going up to cruiserweight to challenge WBC champion Ilunga Makabu.
If Canelo decides to go to 175 instead, he has three great options for fights that the boxing world would be far more interested in seeing than watching him facing Makabu. That fight by Canelo would be a self-serving move that would do nothing for the fans or his popularity.
Although the excuse that Canelo would be making in fighting Makabu would be about him wanting to cement his legacy by winning a fifth division world title, fans would suspect that it would be a move to allow him to avoid taking a risky fight against the talented fighters at 168 and 175.
Also, Canelo’s money for the fight against Makabu would be in the millions, so it’s an easy way to get paid without needing to take a serious risk.
I see [promoter] Eddie Hearn keeps mentioning that Canelo is coming to light heavyweight. I could see him wanting to fight a Bivol or a Beterbiev first,” said Smith Jr.
“But there could be a shot there for me, maybe during Cinco de Mayo. I’m motivated to look good and win this fight against Johnson. I’d prefer to unify the titles. But I couldn’t turn down a Canelo payday,” Smith Jr. said.
To be sure, the money that Joe Smith would get for a fight against Canelo Alvarez would be worlds better than what he can pull in for a unification match against 175-lb champions Beterbiev and Bivol.
If the chance is there for Smith to fight Canelo, he’s got to take it because he could lose his WBO title if he faces Bivol or Beterbiev. Smith already lost to Bivol by a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision in 2019.
While Smith does seem to have improved since that fight, the chances are high that he’ll lose to Bivol again. That’s why Smith must take the fight with Canelo if it’s available to him.