|Date: 8 May (9 May UK) Venue: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas|
|Belts: WBC & WBA world super-middleweight titles (Alvarez), WBO belt (Saunders)|
|Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and live text commentary on BBC Sport website at around 0400 BST|
Billy Joe Saunders says he will need to summon “something inside of me that I haven’t even seen myself” if he is to overcome Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
Saunders takes on boxing’s biggest earner in Texas on Saturday and will need to deliver what the 5 Live Boxing team believe might be the biggest win by a British fighter in America.
When the pair walk to the ring at what will be about 04:00 BST on Sunday in the UK, they will do so in front of about 70,000 fans – the biggest crowd ever at an indoor boxing venue in the US.
It is a fight with needle, featuring contrasting personalities, and one where three of the four world tiles in the 168lbs super-middleweight division are up for grabs. Here are the key points and predictions.
‘I will not be haunted’
The Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium will host the biggest post-pandemic crowd at a sporting event in the US, one that will also surpass the current indoor attendance record for an American boxing event, set when Muhammad Ali fought Leon Spinks in New Orleans in 1978.
Saunders will be in hostile territory given Mexican fans are expected to flock to watch their country’s biggest sports star on the nation’s Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend. Some 5,000 fans can even attend Friday’s weigh-in.
The fight week has so far seen Saunders’ team demand a bigger ring for the bout – which has been granted – and world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury arrive on site to cheer on his friend and compatriot.
Saunders, a significant underdog, is expected to hit and move against a rival who has proven himself skilled, powerful, durable and adaptable in a remarkable career that has seen him lose just once in 58 outings.
“I have dreamed about this and had it play over an over in my head since I was six years old,” said 31-year-old Saunders, who risks his WBO super-middleweight world title.
“I know I have something inside of me that I haven’t even seen myself and I know I’ll have to bring that out on Saturday night.
“I will never forget the moment I got beat in the Olympic Games in 2008. That haunted me all the way until I became world champion in 2015.
“This is another moment where I know if I don’t bring everything I have inside me, I could be thinking like that for a long, long time.”
‘This is a different level’
Saunders has sought to goad Alvarez in fight week. At Thursday’s news conference he offered a handshake before pulling away just as his rival committed.
Such tactics have been seen at high-profile events before and while Alvarez has remained calm, he was quick to respond “no” when asked if he liked Saunders.
“This fight is different because we have had four years of him talking about me,” said 30-year-old Alvarez, who will risk the WBC and WBA world titles.
“My mind is calm. He is in a different level fight now. He’s going to see what’s going to happen.”
A common view in the fight game is that Saunders will need to use his obvious evasive skillset to upset a hard-hitting boxing juggernaut. It is evident, however, that Alvarez has not won 55 times by slugging away at opponents.
In recent times he has seen off taller men, naturally heavier men and destructive punchers. Each time he has shown poise and confidence, despite the obvious pressure.
“In boxing there are hard fights and difficult fights,” he added. “This will be a difficult fight for me because of his style. I have more experience in the ring so I am going to show him on Saturday night.”
BBC Sport boxing correspondent Mike Costello: “I think the level of opposition in recent times could be a factor in how their tools are sharpened. Given the level of Canelo’s cluster of fights there is just no comparison in terms of who will be the sharpest and what you need at the very highest level. Can Billy Joe Saunders make that climb, between the two?”
BBC Radio 5 Live boxing analyst Steve Bunce: “It doesn’t cancel the great names on Alvarez’s record out but Billy is going in very fresh. Billy gets a lot of criticism, rightly so for his out of the ring activities, but when he knows the opposition is there, people behind the scenes will tell you no one commits and trains like he does.”
‘Monster, perfection, special’ – predictions
Costello: “I think Canelo will have enough success and enough hurtful success at super-middleweight to make Saunders pay and to get through on points. I’m tempted to say it would be the best win ever by a Brit in the United States if Saunders prevails. This is monster because of Canelo’s status in the sport.”
Bunce: “I think these two might serve something special up. I think at some points it will be ugly and dirty. I can see Canelo winning but I can see Billy pushing every single round and there being arguments at the end about the scores.”
British heavyweight Dillian Whyte: “Sometimes there is one fight where everything comes together. I think this could be the fight for Saunders. I think he may win on points.”
Tyson Fury: “If Billy beats Canelo he is elevated to be among the best British middleweights in the history of boxing. Billy Joe needs a partner like Canelo to bring the best of him out. I am quite confident he is going to win.”
Former world heavyweight champion David Haye: “Canelo is number one in my eyes. When Saunders is up for it he’s a problem for anyone. If anyone has a style to cause this near-perfect boxer problems it’s someone like Billy Joe. I can’t bet against Canelo, he’s as good as it gets.”