Canelo Alvarez, the WBO light middleweight champion, is now going to get his chance at regaining middleweight gold, according to the governing body.
Alvarez was selected to be the organization's mandatory challenger to its middleweight champion, Billy Joe Saunders, whose 2016 has been an interesting one after passing up a fight against Gennady Golovkin. The organization chose Canelo over top-ranked Avtandil Khurtsidze, who is the WBO International middleweight champion. Khurtsidze has 10 days to appeal the decision.
The governing body said in a ruling Canelo's popularity and impressive resume were the driving force in making him the mandatory challenger.
"[Canelo is a] crowd favorite, with more than 52,000 fans present in his recent bout against Liam Smith in Dallas," the organization said. "He is the top pay-per-view fighter on HBO, [and] his presence has given that category a renewed interest in boxing. At this moment, [he] will give boxing the maximum required exposure. In view of the facts presented above, in accordance with the WBO regulations, and weighing the merits to be considered, the championship committee has decided that, in the best interest of boxing, Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez should be the mandatory challenger."
It is the latest step for Canelo in possibly securing a fight with Golovkin, who is currently scheduled to fight Daniel Jacobs at Madison Square Garden on March 18, 2017 for Golovkin's unified middleweight title. During negotiations between Canelo and Golovkin's camps earlier this year, it was agreed the fight would be held off until possibly September 2017.
After a fight against Canelo would not be possible in 2016, his sights were set on unifying all the middleweight world titles and after that is done, Golovkin would then try to fight Canelo. Canelo defeating Saunders for the WBO would further push a mega fight between the two into reality as Golovkin would kill two birds with one stone by winning the final middleweight world title and beating Canelo in the same fight.
Saunders fought Artur Akavov in his lone fight of 2016. Despite a spirited effort from Akavov, Saunders won against an overmatched Akavov via unanimous decision on December 3.
Alvarez's camp will try and negotiate a fight, now most likely against Saunders, for May 6, which is Cinco De Mayo weekend, an extremely popular time for Mexican boxers to have fights with other big boxing names. Canelo fought and headlined on Cinco De Mayo boxing cards against Shane Mosley in 2012, James Kirkland in 2015 and Amir Khan this past May.