Now that Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has made his choice, the time has come for the World Boxing Council to follow suit.
Guadalajara’s Alvarez (53-1-2, 36KOs) ended months of speculation over his next opponent when the global superstar announced his upcoming challenge of unbeaten super middleweight titlist Callum Smith. The two will collide on December 19, live on DAZN from The Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, with the bout representing a World Boxing Association (WBA) title consolidation clash—Liverpool’s Smith (27-0, 19KOs) owns the WBA “Super” title, while Alvarez has held the “World” title since December 2018.
Left out of the equation—at least for the moment—is the vacant WBC title, for which Alvarez was previously approved to contend. It would have come versus Istanbul’s Avni Yildirim (21-2, 12KOs), the sanctioning body’s leading super middleweight contender and whom is owed a title fight. Alvarez enforced his “Franchise” status—an honor bestowed upon a select few exceptional athletes by the WBC—in requesting a 168-pound title fight, which was granted near-unanimous approval by the sanctioning body.
With Alvarez heading in a different direction, the question remains when the WBC will order a new title fight between Yildirim and the next available leading contender.
“The WBC board [still] has the super middle weight status in discussions,” Mauricio Sulaiman, president of the WBC informed BoxingScene.com. “There is nothing [new] to report at this time.”
Given the current WBC rankings, the easiest solution is to revisit a fight that was previously targeted for 2020, albeit under different circumstances. Unbeaten former two-time WBC 168-pound titlist David Benavidez (23-0, 20KOs) is the next highest rated challenger and was previously due to defend versus Yildirim.
Plans to stage a fight earlier this year were delayed when Yildirim suffered an injury in training camp, with Benavidez instead scheduled for a voluntary title defense versus Alexis Angulo this past April in his Phoenix hometown. The event was shut down due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, rescheduled for this past August in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Benavidez wound up leaving the title at the scale after coming in nearly three pounds above the 168-pound divisional limit. The fight moved forward, with Benavidez winning by 10th round stoppage and thus leaving the title vacant. The unbeaten former champ—who turns just 24 in December—insisted that he can still safely make the weight, prompting the sanctioning body to reinsert him as the number-two contender at super middleweight after having previously placed him number-one at light heavyweight.
Also of note is that Smith still holds the WBC “Diamond” belt, and was promised next in line after Yildirim for a shot at the full title in a ruling made during the annual WBC convention earlier this summer. Benavidez vacating the belt and Smith since moving on to face Alvarez should change those plans, although a Yildirm-Benavidez vacant title fight would nicely set up the division for a title unification fight in 2021.
Wins by Alvarez and Benavidez would represent the best case scenario, as it would position the two for a massive collision whether on weekends celebrating Cinco de Mayo (May 5) or Grito de Indepedencia (Mexico’s Independence Day, September 16). Alternatively, Benavidez once again bringing back a super middleweight title to Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) would serve as motivation to move forward with a long-craved unification and grudge match with unbeaten IBF titlist Caleb Plant (20-0, 12KOs).
Even the worst-case scenario—wins by Smith and Yildirim—leave the division in good shape. Smith will have gained even more profile to where an all-British clash with unbeaten WBO 168-pound titlist Billy Joe Saunders (29-0, 14KOs) would come in high demand, if not a straight away rematch with Alvarez. Meanwhile, a win by Yildirim coupled with the profile he’s gained just by his name being in the mix for the past several months would make him a far more desirable option in 2021 than while chasing a big fight and a title.
All it will take is for the WBC to act in timely fashion.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox