Two years ago, Avni Yildirim traveled to Los Angeles to help Canelo Alvarez prepare for the second fight against Gennady Golovkin. Now the former sparring partners are days away from fighting for the unified super middleweight championship.
Hard Rock Stadium will be the site of the first title defense for Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KOs) as he will honor the WBC mandatory obligation by facing Yildirim (21-2, 12 KOs) on Saturday night. Alvarez is coming off his victory over Callum Smith in San Antonio and there have been rumblings around the boxing world that he wants to not only be very active this year, but also try to become the undisputed champion at super middleweight. First on the schedule is the battle against the contender from Turkey who has been out of the ring since fighting Anthony Dirrell in 2019. Canelo enjoyed the spotlight in his last fight against Smith, but he is excited to have this world title fight take place in Miami.
“I feel very motivated to be in Miami and have this fight,” said Canelo. “I want to put on a great show for the people there because I don’t just represent Mexico, I represent all Latinos. I like everything about Miami and I am very happy to be here, it is an honor to fight at Hard Rock Stadium.”
He plans to make history this year as he has the chance to become the first Mexican to become an undisputed champion at 168 pounds. While he has collected world titles in four divisions, he has never been an undisputed champion. For someone that has been a professional for 15 years, that is something that he wants to add to his legacy.
“I think it’s important, not just for me, but for all fighters. To make history in boxing is very important, I think. It’s very important to me to leave behind a legacy in this sport. And that’s why we’re doing this. To keep making history and so when people talk about boxing, they always remember me.”
Yildirim is likely facing his biggest challenge to date, and the inactivity that he has been going through might be something that boxing fans will point to leading into this fight. While he has not had a fight since facing Dirrell, during that time he requested the services of Joel Diaz. Diaz has been in the corner of Timothy Bradley, Lucas Matthysse, Julio Diaz, and Ruslan Provodnikov among many other fighters that are currently active and he has worked with Yildirim to get him prepared for the Canelo fight.
“Avni is a smart fighter, he loves learning,” Diaz said. “A lot of the things he never learned in his career, he’s learned them now, and he loves the work I put in, and it doesn’t matter how hard the work is, he never complains.”
The alias that Yildirim goes by is “Mr. Robot” and Diaz wants to change that. He saw what Yildirim did in his previous fights and felt that his student has to be better with ring generalship. After being with Yildirim for over a year, Diaz is confident that his man will be a better boxer against Canelo.
“He’s a completely different fighter from when he fought Dirrell and Chris Eubank Jr. I said to him, you are a physically stronger guy than Dirrell but you had no defense. That’s why they called him ‘Mr Robot’, but there’s no robot in him now, I can tell you. I made a complete transformation because I dedicated time to him.”
Boxing fans will be able to witness that transformation Saturday night in Miami as Yildirim aims to become a world champion for the first time in his career. It headlines a fight card that has seven additional bouts including Julio Cesar Martinez against McWilliams Arroyo for the WBC flyweight title, undefeated heavyweight Zhilei Zhang against Jerry Forrest, and Diego Pacheco against Rodolfo Gomez Jr.
Cover photo by Ed Mulholland of Matchroom Boxing