Canelo Alvarez expected to fight Avni Yildirim on Feb. 27 in homecoming bout in Mexico

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Manouk Akopyan
·3 min read
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December 19, 2020; San Antonio, TX; Canelo Alvarez and Callum Smith.
Canelo Alvarez celebrates his supper-middleweight victory over Callum Smith on Dec. 19 in San Antonio. (Ed Mulholland / Matchroom)

Canelo Alvarez is wasting little time jumping back into the fray after his unanimous-decision victory over Callum Smith on Dec. 19.

Alvarez will take on 168-pound World Boxing Council mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim on Feb. 27 in a homecoming bout in his birthplace of Guadalajara, Mexico, Alvarez’s trainer, manager and lifelong confidant Eddy Reynoso said Saturday.

In beating Smith, Alvarez picked up the WBC, World Boxing Assn. and Ring Magazine super-middleweight titles. The WBC belt was vacant, but Yildirim was the mandatory challenger who had agreed to step aside with the right to fight the victor within 90 days. Yildirim’s patience will pay off, as he’s on track to face boxing’s pound-for-pound best fighter and biggest breadwinner.

Reynoso said venues such as Estadio Jalisco and Los Charros’ Baseball Stadium are under consideration for the fight.

Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 knockouts) was a Mexico mainstay after turning professional at the age of 15, but he hasn’t fought in the country since 2011. The 30-year-old has become a star in boxing during that span by beating some of the most recognizable names. The unheralded Yildirim (21-2, 12 KOs) won't be one of them.

Should he come away victorious and unscathed, Alvarez will resume fighting on his traditional dates of Cinco De Mayo and Mexican Independence Day in 2021 and campaign exclusively at 168 pounds, Reynoso said.

The three opponents who will be considered for the two marquee dates following Yildirim include a pair of super-middleweight champions in World Boxing Organization crown-holder Billy Joe Saunders and International Boxing Federation champion Caleb Plant. Rival Gennady Golovkin, a longtime middleweight mauler, would have to move up in weight and meet the A-side demands of Alvarez in order to make a third fight between them happen, Reynoso said.

The massive underdog Yildirim can cancel all plans by scoring one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

The 29-year-old Turk last fought in February 2019, losing a technical decision to former WBC 168-pound champion Anthony Dirrell. Yildirim was up on one scorecard and coming on strong in the second half of the fight, but the match was stopped in the 10th round because of a cut suffered by Dirrell.

Yildirim’s performance was apparently good enough to hold his place in the sanctioning body’s standings despite him testing positive for two performance-enhancing drugs months later.

However, two months before Alvarez scored a decision win during his second match against Golovkin in 2018, Yildirim fought Jose Antonio Rodriguez Silvencia, an opponent with a record of 3 wins, 31 losses and 3 draws.

Alvarez might be looking to make up for lost time and paydays, all while keeping his belt and appeasing his countrymen for perhaps one last time on home soil.

Alvarez was forced to the sidelines for 13 months because of the pandemic and a lawsuit he filed against former promoter Oscar De La Hoya and streaming service DAZN. Alvarez ended up being released from his contracts, and now he can guide his career in any direction he pleases as a free agent.

His fight against Smith was promoted by Matchroom Boxing and streamed on DAZN, and all parties are prepared to forge a new path together, at least on a fight-by-fight basis.

The streaming service might be forced to bite on showcasing the Alvarez-Yildirim bout if it is guaranteed the third fight with Golovkin like it has long been demanding.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.