Thursday, March 6, 2014

Alvarez-Angulo: Keys to the Fight

Saturday marks the beginning of big-fight season as Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (42-1-1, 30 KOs) faces Alfredo "El Perro" Angulo (22-3, 18 KOs) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. This matchup figures to include lots of fireworks as both Mexican junior middleweights have heavy hands and a history of putting their opponents on the canvas. Both fighters are also looking to regroup after a recent loss. Alvarez was thoroughly outboxed by pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather in September while Angulo turned his back to Erislandy Lara after suffering an eye injury, leading to a TKO loss. 

The stakes are high as Alvarez looks to establish himself as pay per view attraction and Angulo attempts to rise towards the top of junior middleweight division, a plateau he has yet to reach in his professional boxing career. Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article. 

1. Will Either Boxer Have A Lingering Effect From His Last Fight?

Angulo was having quite a bit of success against Lara, knocking him down twice, before the fight ended in the 10th round. Prior to that final frame, Angulo was up three points on one card and down by one point on the other two. Overall, he was extremely competitive against one of the toughest style matchups in the division. On paper, Lara had significant hand and foot speed advantages but Angulo fought him very well.

There were lots of encouraging signs for Angulo in that fight. He was able to corral an excellent mover. In addition, long gone were the days of Angulo trying to win with reckless aggression. His shots were purposeful and well placed. His footwork (helped by trainer Virgil Hunter) was much improved. And perhaps most importantly, he found an appropriate pace and punch volume in the fight; he was able to apply effective pressure without punching himself out or flagging in the later rounds. 

However, eye injuries are serious business. Angulo's left eye swelled to almost grotesque proportions immediately after the final shot in the 10th round. You can bet that Alvarez will test the eye throughout the fight. Perhaps some residual scar tissue will open up. Maybe Angulo, not a defensive master by any stretch, won't be able to see shots coming as well as he once did. Angulo's eye could be a significant factor on fight night. 

As for Alvarez, it will be interesting to see if he has regained his confidence in the ring after facing Mayweather. Alvarez spent much of his last fight failing to pull the trigger and falling meekly to a much better boxer. Fortunately for Alvarez, the fight with Angulo doesn't figure to be an overly cerebral affair and Angulo will be there to be hit. Hopefully Alvarez's muscle memory and experience will kick in early in the fight. If he does start out tentatively, he could be in for serious trouble as El Perro will be hounding him from the opening bell. 

2. Chins.

Angulo has proven to have a very sturdy beard. He has fought noted punchers such as Lara, James Kirkland and Kermit Cintron (back when Cintron could still really punch, the version of Cintron that faced Alvarez much later was just a shell of his former self). Although Angulo was knocked down by Kirkland, it was a classic example of a fighter punching himself out. Angulo had Kirkland almost ready to go and threw everything he had in the first round of that fight. Kirkland was able to respond and bludgeoned an exhausted and depleted Angulo later in the frame. Angulo hit the canvas and somehow survived until the sixth round on guts, but he was essentially done by the end of the first. Throughout the rest of Angulo's career, his chin has been outstanding. 

Scrolling through Alvarez's record, one thing you won't notice is a litany of punchers on his resume. In 2010, he was hurt badly in the first round against an undersized opponent, Jose Cotto. Alvarez rallied to win that fight convincingly, but I think that the Cotto bout spooked his handlers. What followed in Canelo's career were matchups against light hitters (Matthew Hatton, Carlos Baldomir and Austin Trout) or undersized guys (Mayweather, Josesito Lopez, Alfonso Gomez and Hatton again). Thus, we really don't know much about Alvarez's chin. He's never faced a real junior middleweight puncher. Make no mistake; Angulo will test Alvarez's beard in the fight. Alvarez will have to limit and withstand Angulo's power punches to win the fight. 

3. Canelo's Combinations Or Angulo's Single Shots?

Canelo is not necessarily a one-punch knockout puncher. Although he does possess the skills to drop opponents with single shots (the Trout fight is an excellent example of this), more frequently he imposes his power by landing three, four and five-punch combinations. Alvarez's power is enhanced by his expert punch placement and untraditional punch sequences. He'll throw lead uppercuts from distance or land with four types of punches during a combination. Unlike Mayweather, Angulo will play to these strengths of Alvarez. He will be right in front of Alvarez and he often has a disdain for defense. 

Angulo has the power to end any fight with one punch. And although Alvarez has the foot speed advantage in this matchup, Alvarez will certainly be able to connect at points throughout the fight. Angulo probably won't have the ability to land many combinations, but he may not need to in order to win. 

4. Can Angulo Get To Alvarez's Body?

As a corollary to Alvarez's lack of experience against punchers, he's really never faced anyone at the top level who consistently went to his body. Angulo has a nasty left hook to the body and going downstairs against Alvarez will be an invaluable strategy to slowing down the better mover. 

Most likely, Alvarez will try to make this a boxing match. Using his superior coordination and ability to box and slug from the outside, Alvarez will want to fight in the center of the ring. Angulo will have to sell out to get to the body, eating a few shots to get there, but the rewards may very well be worth the price he pays. If Angulo can't get to Alvarez's body, then most likely Alvarez will have controlled the distance and range of the fight, an extremely good barometer for a Canelo win. 

5. The Corners.

I keep thinking that if Virgil Hunter can devise a game plan where Angulo can get to Erislandy Lara, a tricky boxer with the best footwork in the division, then he can put his fighter in a position to hurt Alvarez. In addition, Alvarez has displayed some endurance problems throughout his career; I'm sure that Hunter, whose most notable boxer is Andre Ward, can find a way to exploit that deficiency. 

To say I was disappointed in Eddy Reynoso's corner work during the Mayweather bout would be a massive understatement. Reynoso looked befuddled during the fight and was unable to formulate or communicate advice to Alvarez to help turn the tide of the match. It's not just that Mayweather was the better fighter in the ring that night; he also had the far superior corner. 

If Alvarez hits the canvas early in the fight against Angulo, does Reynoso have the ability to settle his charge and find a way back into the fight? If Canelo isn't responding well to Angulo's pace and pressure, what will Reynoso tell him so that he can buy time in the ring?  In short, Angulo has a huge advantage in the corner for this fight and if there is a significant strategic adjustment to make during the match, you can bet that Hunter will be the one to make it. 


I think that this fight will be talked about for a long time. I see potential scenarios where both fighters hit the canvas and/or multiple knockdowns occur during the fight. I expect Alvarez to control many of the rounds with his boxing skills, subtle movement and superior combinations, but it is his job to limit Angulo's flurries. In addition, both fighters have been cut in recent bouts and a stoppage caused by cuts (either via butt or punch) is certainly possible. 

I am banking on Hunter to help find a way for Angulo to win the fight. Angulo might be down on the cards early; he might be sprawled out on the canvas at a given point, but I believe in Angulo's power and Hunter's ability. I also have significant questions about Alvarez's conditioning and chin. Ultimately, I see Angulo coming from behind to knock out a tiring Alvarez in an epic performance. 

Alfredo Angulo TKO 10 Saul Alvarez

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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1 comment:

  1. In agreement, but .....Angulo is fighting to make a name for himsefl again and to get those big money fights after this. Canelo is hungrier than ever due to being humiliated and disgraced by Mayweather so he will come to win 100%. Tough fight to call so I will go 50/50.