Boxing fans already knew they would not get the fight they wanted this fall: a middleweight title fight between lineal champion Canelo Alvarez and unified titleholder Gennady Golovkin.
What they'll get is a fight that nobody asked for.
Alvarez will drop down to junior middleweight and challenge titleholder Liam Smith on Sept. 17 in the main event on an HBO PPV card, Alvarez promoter Golden Boy and Smith promoter Frank Warren announced Friday.
The site of the fight has not been finalized, but Golden Boy is in talks with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about having the fight at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has already made a strong bid to host the fight.
"I am very pleased to announce my next fight against Liam Smith, a tremendous fighter with real knockout power, and the WBO junior middleweight world title owner," Alvarez said. "I have no doubt that this fight will be give and take, which will fill the expectations of the fans, and I will work with all the enthusiasm as I always do to get the upper hand on Sept. 17."
Mexico's Alvarez, a former unified junior middleweight titleholder, has been fighting at his preferred weight of 155 pounds, one over the junior middleweight division limit. He has fought his last five fights at 155, including when he won the middleweight title from Miguel Cotto in November.
Now he is going to drop the extra pound to challenge England's Smith (23-0-1, 13 KOs), a 27-year-old who will be making his third title defense but who is a complete unknown outside of his home region.
"I am delighted to get the opportunity to defend my world title against the biggest name in world boxing and to headline in the U.S., which is a dream I have had since I started in the sport of boxing," Smith said. "This fight allows me to make my name in the U.S. and show just how good I am, and this is the big stage that will enable me to do that. I am confident of winning this fight and returning to the great city of Liverpool with my belt still around my waist."
Earlier this week, Golden Boy vice president Eric Gomez and K2 Promotions' managing director Tom Loeffler met in Los Angeles to talk about the timing of Alvarez-Golovkin, perhaps the most anticipated fight in boxing.
Besides his world titles, Golovkin (35-0, 32 KOs) also owned an interim title that made him Alvarez's mandatory challenger. Although Golovkin wanted the fight immediately, he agreed that they would each have interim bouts and then meet in the fall, with Alvarez ostensibly building himself up to the 160-pound middleweight limit -- although obviously not right away, because he will fight Smith at 154.
Golovkin knocked out Dominic Wade in the second round on April 23, and Alvarez drilled Amir Khan in the sixth round on May 7. But soon after, Alvarez vacated his sanctioning organization title, thus avoiding the deadline to make the mandatory fight. Golovkin was handed the full title, but the sides continued to talk.
This week, they agreed to wait until the fall of 2017, though Golovkin's side did so grudgingly. Each fighter will have at least two more interim fights, possibly three, and must keep winning.
That leaves Golden Boy the task of trying to sell a marginal matchup for Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs) on pay-per-view in September, on the traditional pay-per-view weekend of Mexican Independence Day, against an unknown opponent and heavy underdog in Smith.
"This fight will be a slugfest between two heavy hitters, and I have little doubt that it will end with a 10-count," said Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya, who many believe does not want to make the Alvarez-Golovkin fight because Alvarez is his company's cash cow. "Canelo is the biggest star in our sport today, and with a victory on Sept. 17, at the age of just 26 [in July] he can add yet another chapter to his already-incredible career."
Smith comes from a fighting family -- his three brothers are also professional fighters. Callum is an undefeated super middleweight contender, Stephen is a former junior lightweight world title challenger and top-10 contender and Paul is a former two-time super middleweight world title challenger.
Liam Smith won a vacant world title by seventh-round knockout of John Thompson in October. He has made two defenses: a seventh-round knockout of Jimmy Kilrain Kelly in December and a second-round stoppage of Predrag Radosevic on June 4. Golden Boy and Warren were already in discussions for the Alvarez fight at that point, so Smith went into the Radosevic bout knowing how important a win was.
"Liam grabbed the opportunity to defend his WBO title against Alvarez," Warren said. "This is a fantastic chance for Liam to showcase his talent in such a high-profile fight. He believes, as do I, that he has the tools to beat Alvarez and stake his own claim to be the world's best."