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Why is Canelo Alvarez fighting Avni Yildirim on Saturday, February 27th?

Canelo Alvarez won his WBA and WBC super middleweight titles on back in December 2020. He’ll return to the ring to defend them Saturday against Avni Yildirim.

Professional boxer Avni Yildirim (R), and Saul Alvarez, of Mexico who currently holds World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Council (WBC) super middleweight belts (L), set a ball during a press conference prior to the boxing match, which will be held on Feb. 27, at Hard Rock Stadium, in Miami, Florida, United States on February 22, 2021. Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui Trinkl/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez is on the short list for best boxers in the world. When considering pound-for-pound lists, he’s ranked No. 1 by The Ring Magazine and No. 2 by ESPN. He’s 54-1-2 and is coming off a dominant unanimous decision victory over Callum Smith this past December. He has not lost since 2013 and has held numerous middleweight and super middleweight titles.

This weekend, on Saturday, February 27th, he is slated to fight Avni Yildirim at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. Yildirim is 21-2 but has not fought since 2019 when he lost a technical decision to Anthony Dirrell. Yildirim is a sizable underdog in this fight at DraftKings Sportsbook, installed at +1200 while Alvarez is -10000.

So why exactly is this fight happening? It comes down to the politics of boxing. The WBC installed Yildirim as the mandatory challenger for Alvarez’s super middleweight title. It is not entirely clear what transpired to move Yildirim into this mandatory slot, but I’m sure we could make some guesses given Yildirim’s lack of fights over the past two years. Sometimes a mandatory challenger makes perfect sense, but often times a mandatory challenger seems like the product of some kind of shenanigans.

It would appear to be Alvarez accepting this as a favor of some sort. Over at ESPN, analyst Mark Kriegel said, “This is payback for several favors the WBC, in its less than infinite wisdom, has granted [Alvarez]. First, the WBC came up with this “Franchise Champion” designation (which has since corrupted the lightweight division as well), then it made Canelo-Callum Smith for its vacant 168-pound belt.”

Whatever the case, Alvarez is not prepared to give up his WBC belt and is willing to take this fight on a quick turnaround. Alvarez is set to fight WBO champ Billy Joe Saunders on May 8th, according to Cameron Wolfe, with IBF champ Caleb Plant as a secondary option. Barring a major upset on Saturday, Alvarez will return to the business of unifying the super middleweight titles later this spring.