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Eleider Alvarez and Joe Smith Jr ready to go to war in light heavyweight eliminator on Saturday

Anthony Cocks

Australian-based boxing journalist Anthony Cocks has been covering the sport for over 15 years for various print and online publications. He refuses to believe that Roberto Duran ever lost to Tommy Hearns and says that Jeff Fenech would destroy Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali on the same night.

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Light heavyweight contender Eleider ‘Storm’ Alvarez 25-1 (13) says he is focused on becoming a two-time world champion ahead of his WBO world title eliminator against Joe Smith Jr 25-3 (20) at ‘The Bubble’ at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday night.

The 36-year-old Colombian, who fights out of Montreal, Canada, claimed the WBO 175-pound title with a seventh-round knockout of Sergey Kovalev two years ago. He would return the belt to the Russian in their immediate rematch, going down by unanimous decision.

“I want to be champion of the world for a second time,” Alvarez said at a media conference on Thursday afternoon. “Whether it’s by knockout or decision, I know Joe Smith comes to fight. I’m going to do the best I can to win this because I want to be champion of the world for a second time.”

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Alvarez spent almost a year out of the ring following his loss to Kovalev due to a shoulder injury but says he is now fully recovered.

“I feel 100 percent. I feel no pain since the recovery, so I feel great,” he said.

“[The Michael Seals knockout] was my first fight in 11 months, so I’m happy to be back. I want to put on a good performance. I felt that with the performance against Seals, I tried. I would’ve been happy with a decision. I was trying different things, but I got the knockout.

“When Oscar Rivas and I first came to Montreal, we didn’t speak English. We didn’t speak French. I knew a little bit of English, but over 10 years, I’ve learned to speak French. I’m even better in French than English. It’s been a special experience for me and here we are talking in French.

“It was hard for all the boxers, especially in the first two months to train, because everything was closed. We had to adapt to that. Now, things seem to be getting a little more back to normal. The gym is open. It’s not what it was. Hopefully, the pandemic can be over, and we can get back to normal. There were challenges, but we had them like every other fighter.

Long Island’s Smith Jr, 30, outpointed fellow contender Jesse Hart in his last outing in January following his 12-round decision loss to undefeated WBA champion Dmitry Bivol in March last year.

The underdog status he brings to the fight is something he embraces.

“Being the underdog, I always feel like I have something to prove. I don’t mind it. I like getting in there and proving the world that I belong at the top and should be a champion,” Smith Jr said.

“The [first-round knockout] over Fonfara, I was like a 20-1 underdog in that fight. I came out and definitely shocked the world with that knockout. It got me here. It got me all the fights and the opportunities that I’ve gotten since.

“It all led up to this, and this one’s the big one. I’m really excited to be here and looking forward to getting another shot at a title.

“Same thing with Jesse Hart. I was pretty much the underdog in that fight. He was talking a lot, and I just kept it cool. I went in there and did what I had to do, and I got the win. That’s what I gotta keep doing.

“This is the number one priority right now for me. I’m just focused on getting this win Saturday night, so I trained very hard. I’m well prepared.

“The only thing, this guy over here is trying to stop me from accomplishing the goal that I have set for myself.

“I’m just going to get in there and give it my all. I plan on coming out on top. I just want to put on a great show for everybody and have a great night.”

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