CANELO ALVAREZ has been installed as the mandatory challenger for the WBO world middleweight title currently held by Billy Joe Saunders.

ESPN are reporting that the WBO made the decision this week after Golden Boy Promotions requested Alvarez be made the No 1 challenger.

The Mexican superstar is the WBO super-welterweight champion – having beaten Liam Smith in September – but is expected to move to 160lbs ahead of a potential superfight with division leader Gennady Golovkin.

Canelo previously held the WBC middleweight title, though only ever contested it at 155lbs, and vacated it before moving back down to 154lbs.

His next move has not been confirmed as he continues to recover from a hand injury he picked up during his knockout win over Smith. It looks as though he will return in May with talks for a fight with compatriot Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr still ongoing.

Saunders last fought on December 3 when he edged past an unfancied Artur Akavov in the maiden defence of his title. It was the first time he had fought since defeating Andy Lee for the belt in December 2015.

The WBO’s decision is a blatant snub of Avtandil Khurtsidze, who is ranked No 1 by the organisation and had requested mandatory status a few days before Canelo’s team had. The New York-based Georgian scored a knockout over unbeaten Antoine Douglas in March. His team have 10 days to appeal the WBO’s decision.

Saunders has not had a mandatory challenge ordered since he won the title.