Craig Richards insists it is too early to judge whether Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has bitten off more than he can chew competing in the light-heavyweight division as he seeks a rematch against Dmitry Bivol.
After unifying the super-middleweight division in 2021, Canelo sought more glory at light-heavyweight against WBA champion Bivol earlier this month.
While the Mexican superstar tasted success at 175lbs against Sergey Kovalev in 2019, he was picked apart by Bivol in Las Vegas who boxed superbly to become just the second man after the great Floyd Mayweather Jr to beat Canelo.
Crystal Palace fighter Richards took on Bivol in what was his first crack at world title gold last year, giving the Russian a tougher examination than Canelo managed despite falling on the wrong end of a unanimous decision defeat.
Richards has earned overdue credit for his performance that night against the man who comfortably beat Canelo, widely regarded as the pound-for-pound best in the sport.
The 32-year-old is looking to take a huge step back towards another title shot against Olympic medallist and fellow south east Londoner Joshua Buatsi on Saturday at the O2 Arena with that bout also serving as an eliminator for Bivol’s WBA title.
Canelo’s loss has led many to question whether he can replicate his dominant success at light-heavyweight with Richards suggesting the Mexican must quickly learn he cannot bully opposition like he was capable of doing in lower weight classes.
‘It’s still a bit too early to judge [if Canelo can truly compete at light-heavyweight] but I think and it also depends on the fighter he is going to fight,’ Richards told Metro.co.uk.
‘Styles makes fights. Bivol, as well as being defensively very good, he has very fast hands and a good jab and I felt like Canelo might struggle with that because he won’t be able to bully him.
‘Light-heavyweights are hard to bully, everyone can punch. Everyone has got skills, everyone has got speed. You can’t just come in and think you’re going to dominate. Depending on who he fights will dictate whether or not he will struggle.’
Bivol was made to work for his win over ‘Spider’, securing a 118-110, 115-113, 115-114 points win in Manchester last May. While Richards came up short, it proved the Londoner is comfortably at home among the elites of the division. He hopes victory against Buatsi on Saturday will put him back on track for another world title crack before long.
‘I have been getting that good feedback after what we have seen him [Bivol] do to Canelo,’ Richards said.
‘I’m the person who has pushed Bivol the closest, we had a very close fight and there was only one or two rounds in it. I put that down to me staring slowly too, going through the gears a bit too slowly.
‘But that is in the past, I have got to look forward and focus on getting back there so I can dominate the sport.’
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