ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Liam Smith kept things respectful in the traditional stare down with Canelo Alvarez, ending it with a handshake in less than 10 seconds.
How long their fight will last Saturday night is another question altogether.
Smith (23-0-1) is defending his WBO junior middleweight title against the hard-hitting Alvarez, who is moving back to the 154-pound class where he has plenty of experience and never lost. But a third fighter's shadow hangs over this bout: Gennady Golovkin, the middleweight champion that some contend Alvarez is avoiding.
Last May, the popular Mexican champion vacated his WBC middleweight title rather than be pressured into fighting Golovkin, who now has the full WBC belt along with his IBF and WBA belts. Many had expected the blockbuster title unification fight to be staged Saturday at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
"I will fight GGG and I will beat GGG, but I will not be forced into the ring," Alvarez said then. "I am hopeful that by putting aside this ticking clock, the two teams can now negotiate this fight and GGG and I can get in the ring as soon as possible and give the fans the fight they want."
Golovkin improved to 36-0 earlier this month by beating Kell Brook in a slugfest that ended with a TKO in the fifth round. The 34-year-old Golovkin is now targeting a unification fight with Billy Joe Saunders to claim the minor WBO title while everyone waits to see if he ends up in the ring with Alvarez.
The two powerful punchers have been on a collision course since November, when Alvarez won his title from Miguel Cotto. Golovkin became the mandatory challenger, but Alvarez promoter Oscar De La Hoya wanted to have his biggest attraction fight an interim bout.
So in steps Smith, the 28-year-old Briton who told ESPN that Alvarez has "ducked Golovkin massively."
The 26-year-old Alvarez (47-1-1) is coming off a one-punch knockout of Amir Khan in May.
"We know what Liam brings, it's a very tough fight but that's what we prepare for," Alvarez said at the pre-fight news conference with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones front and center at his showplace stadium where less than a sellout crowd is expected. "Come Saturday night, we can all celebrate together. I can have my hand raised for taking home the title and we'll all say 'Viva Mexico.'"
If that happens, the cheers will likely also include a call for the showdown with Golovkin.