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Canelo Alvarez vs GGG, Saunders or Murata next, by process of elimination

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Canelo Alvarez & Co are in a real pickle these days as they're trying to determine who's next for boxing's middleweight champion and the sport's biggest star.

We've read rumors about possible May 2020 opponents from middleweight to light heavyweight, but a deal doesn't appear close.

So, why is it so difficult?

1) DAZN's payout / subscription concerns
2) Canelo's potential outgrowth of the 160 lb division
3) Risk vs reward factor when pitting Canelo against much rangier, elite-level opponents
4) Team Alvarez's perceived reluctance to face Gennady Golovkin again

1. DAZN's payout / subscription concerns

Thanks to Canelo's mammoth contract with DAZN, Alvarez is earning between $30 and $35 Million per fight. As a result, DAZN will require him to face legitimately elite opponents in the most intriguing affairs possible. And yes, Canelo vs Kovalev intrigued due to the fighters' size difference and Sergey's name recognition, experience, KO power and status as a legitimate light heavyweight champion.

Now, Team Canelo and DAZN must agree on an opponent for May who'll also offer some interesting sizzles.

If Team Alvarez had it's way, they'd likely pick IBF Super Middleweight Champion Caleb Plant, surging middleweight Chris Eubank Jr, WBA regular middleweight champion Ryota Murata or top contender and fan favorite David Lemieux.

All of them have attractive gimmicks and, most importantly, wouldn't be considered a high threat to beat Canelo.

However, given DAZN is paying Canelo so handsomely but is seemingly not getting as much ROI as it had hoped, the network won't allow Canelo to face just anyone. And yes, while Canelo was handed a'soft touch' in Rocky Fielding in December 2018 in the first bout on his DAZN contract, the fight was a planned showcase to whet the public's appetite.

To date, there are no more soft touches scheduled for boxing's top star.

So, options such as Plant, Eubank Jr and Lemieux would produce an authoritative "NO" from DAZN if that hasn't already happened.

And who knows why Canelo vs Murata negotiations seemingly failed? Perhaps it's for the reason stated in No.2?

2) Canelo's potential outgrowth of the 160 lb division

Promoter Eddie Hearn seems to think Canelo has outgrown the middleweight division.

“For me, and this is only as a fan, I don’t think you’ll see Canelo Alvarez at 160 again,” Hearn told BoxingScene.com while in Miami to promote the Demetrius Andrade-Luke Keeler card Thursday night. “You know, when you’ve boxed at 175, to drop 15 pounds to come back to middleweight, I think he’s gonna box at 168. He’s got loads of opponents there. But again, that’s just an opinion as a fan.”

Perhaps Canelo vs Murata talks potentially hit a brick wall because Alvarez can't make the 160 pound weight limit anymore and Team Murata opted not to fight Canelo at a higher weight without receiving a purse substantially higher than DAZN would approve?

And yes, to Hearns's point Canelo has some good options at 168 but those fellas can be a threatening propositions if you're Team Alvarez. And that leads us to No. 3.

3) Risk vs reward factor when pitting Canelo against much rangier, elite-level opponents

Super Middleweight champions Billy Joe Saunders (29-0, 14 KO), Callum Smith (27-0, 19 KO) and David Benavidez (22-0, 19 KO) are hungry, polished elite-level, hit-and-don't-be-hit pros who would tower over Canelo and boast sizable reach advantages over the Mexican.

Stylistically, each would represent a noble task for Alvarez who made a name for himself at 154 pounds facing shorter, less rangy super welterweights.

Canelo would have to find a way to shorten the distance and work his way inside. He was brilliant against Fielding but the above opponents are on another level. In fact, the 6'3" Smith, who, like Canelo, is considered by RING Magazine as one of the top 10 fighters in the world pound for pound, stopped Fielding in one round in 2015.

Let's cycle back to November. Alvarez, prior to ending matters against Kovalev in Round 11 with a devastating 1-2 combination, wasn't a ball of fire against the rangier 'Krusher' who opted to box instead of bang. At the time of the stoppage, two judges had the bout scored 96-94 for Canelo while the other had it even, 95-95.

DAZN would probably be amenable to Saunders and Smith because they are undefeated world champions from the United Kingdom boxing is very popular and those fights would draw considerable interest.

And even the 23 year old Benavidez, also an unbeaten belt holder at 168, might be attractive to DAZN because he's a Mexican-American who could potentially introduce a lot of casual Hispanic American boxing fans to the subscription-based sports network.

So, what about light heavyweight champions Dmitry Bivol and Arthur Beterbiev?

There's a reason Team Canelo picked Kovalev over Bivol and Beterbiev. And there's a reason Alvarez relinquished the light heavyweight title he won from Sergey. He has no plans to stay at light heavyweight, and for good reason.

Dmitry Bivol (16-0, 11 KO), the 28 year old WBA Light Heavyweight Champion, is a slick and dangerous technical boxer who posses an obvious stylististic threat to Canelo. Not only is he naturally bigger, he boasts fast hands and feet and can move around the ring well. Quick and explosive, he still likes to sit on his shots and can punch with devastating effect.

Of note, Bivol could, conceivably, outbrawl and outbox Canelo.

And Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KO), the current WBC / IBF Light Heavyweight Champion, was never in serious consideration.

Beterbiev is not as rangy as some of the other fighters mentioned in this article. And unlike Saunders and Bivol, he wouldn't be hard for Canelo to find.

... No problem there.

But Beterbiev, who boasts a 100 percent KO ratio, possesses a combination of power, technique and durability that make him the greatest risk for Canelo from 160 to 175 pounds.

In addition to the size and strength advantages Artur would have versus Canelo, Beterbiev might be the hardest punching light heavyweight champion in history and yet makes few mistakes.

Beterbiev would be a poor choice for Canelo in May and the former's team, realizing they were never in contention, went ahead and confirmed another opponent awhile back.

4. Team Alvarez's perceived reluctance to face Gennady Golovkin again

If you're a DAZN powerbroker, rival and IBF Middleweight Champion Gennady Golovkin is the preferred next-fight option for Canelo. But, again, is Alvarez capable of making 160 to bring about a middleweight unification showdown? If not, would Golovkin agree to fight the Mexican at a weight between 164 and 168 pounds without pricing himself out of the market?

Their two previous bouts performed well at the box office and Golovkin is, by far, the biggest name Canelo could conceivably face so DAZN wants this fight. But, at this moment, it seems Team Canelo wants no part of GGG.

Perhaps they saw something in those 24 rounds they didn't like? Let's not forget, some still believe GGG deserved the nod in both of their previous bouts; especially the first which was ruled a draw,

Golovkin, whose stock has dropped a bit since his tight points win over Sergiy Derevyanchenko in October, is tentatively slated to face his mandatory, Kamil Szeremeta. However, that bout, which has seemingly been in negotiations forever, still has yet to be finalized.

Perhaps Golovkin vs Szeremeta is just a rouse. Maybe Teams Canelo and Golovkin will surprise us all by announcing Canelo vs GGG 3 for May?

If not, Saunders and Murata are the lone next-fight options for Canelo.

The freakishly large, superbly-talented Callum Smith would be too much risk for the reward at the moment as would Benavidez who boats a 86 KO percentage.

Best of the rest (after GGG)

Ryota Murata, until negotiations seemingly failed a week ago, seemed to be the logical choice. Canelo vs Murata would garner added exposure in Asia, making it a true "international" event. Moreover, it would likely increase DAZN's sports market influence in Japan. And yes, the Land of the Rising Sun undoubtedly represents a piece of their business expansion model.

In the ring, Canelo would have nearly every conceivable advantage over Murata and would enter the bout as a massive favorite. Perhaps Canelo-Murata talks have simply stalled and will resume? Or maybe a deal has been reached behind closed doors?

If we don't see Canelo against GGG or Murata in May, Saunders should be a shoe-in. He looked a bit vulnerable in his most recent bout and is the lowest 'knockout' threat to Alvarez of the three super middleweight powerbrokers.

And although crafty, quick and slippery, Saunders has a style a lot of judges - and fans - may not like. Hence, Billy Joe might not be able to win a decision against Alvarez who unleashes eye-catching bombs and has a crowd-friendly style.... And keep in mind, Saunders is attractive to DAZN because he's British and the United Kingdom is a hotbed for boxing.

Rest-assured, DAZN and Canelo's team are taking the above factors - and more - into consideration for Alvarez's next fight.

At this moment, Canelo's real options are the following, in order of most likely to least likely.

1. Billy Joe Saunders
2. Ryota Murata
3. Gennady Golovkin

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