As the reigning, defending WBA/WBC champion, Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez is at the top of the food chain for super middleweights and arguably the boxing world overall.
His flattening of Avni Yildirim on Saturday night just adds to that feeling. However, there's a solid group of other 168-pounders who feel like they're the best the division has to offer right now as well. Some are fellow super middleweight world champions, others former titleholders.
Here, DAZN News takes a closer look at the top tier of super middleweights that the sweet science has to offer — outside of Canelo, who may very well be boxing's pound-for-pound best.
Billy Joe Saunders
Canelo defeated his mandatory challenger, Yildirim, with ease and immediately announced a May 8 clash with Saunders. And what a matchup that should be, as Saunders has long established being one of the most technically-sound and slick boxers at 168. It's how he scaled being the WBO middleweight champion into being the WBO super middleweight titleholder. Add that to the fact that he conducts the sweet science as a southpaw and it'd be intriguing to see how Canelo goes about solving the boxing complexities that the Briton is capable of presenting in the ring. After all, no other boxer has been able to figure Saunders' style out, as he stands a perfect 30-0 with 14 KOs on his ledger.
Pure boxing skills, speed and a high sweet science IQ. Those are the attributes that helped crown "Sweethands" the IBF super middleweight champion, having snatched the title via a memorable unanimous decision over José Uzcátegui in January 2019, before going on to defend the strap three times — most recently with a dominant unanimous decision win against Caleb Truax late last month. The 28-year-old Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) seems to be getting better with every fight and figures to present a legit challenge to Canelo or anyone else in the division until proven otherwise. Plant figures to get a crack at Canelo or can always try to make that bout with David Benavidez that has been stewing in bad blood for a few years now.
He's big, nasty and one of boxing's best switch-hitters with the kind of mean streak that allows him to relish beating opponents up with his thudding punches. At 24-years-old, "El Bandera Roja" is already a two-time WBC super middleweight champion, who may very well be able to claim being the cream of the crop at 168. At 23-0, including 20 knockouts, he might also be the most feared at super middleweight as well. The one person who has been able to defeat Benavidez, though, is himself.
The boxer has proven to be his own worst enemy on more than one occasion. There was the positive drug test that he produced in August 2018 and then came Benavidez tipping the scales 2.8 pounds overweight prior to his slated title defense against Roamer Alexis Angulo in August 2020. He was forced to vacate the WBC title, although he took out his frustration on Angulo anyway, pummeling him toward another stoppage. Benavidez is back in action March 13 against Ronald Ellis. If he can stay out of his own way, Benavidez figures to threaten any super middleweight champ, including Canelo.
Suffering your first pro loss against Canelo isn't something to be ashamed about. But Smith wasn't just beat up by the face of boxing this past December — he got ran over. The bulldozing at the hands of Canelo will take some time to bounce back from, but when Smith does return to the ring, there isn't any reason that the former WBA world super middleweight champion shouldn't be able to work his way back into title contention. He's still in the top tier of the division.
An unforgiving ninth-round TKO loss to David Benavidez in September 2019 not only had Dirrell relinquishing his WBC super middleweight strap, but also lowered his fighting window, coming close to shuttering it altogether. Dirrell returned to action Saturday night and battled Kyrone Davis to a split-decision draw.
The "Miracle Man" hasn't quite been able to make a dent in the super middleweight division just yet, but then again, he's only two fights in at 168. So, let's give the veteran some time to build up some steam here. Though his last outing — a split decision over Gabriel Rosado in November — was lackluster, Jacobs, a former two-time middleweight world champion, clearly shouldn't be slept on.