Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez won his world super-middleweight title unification fight with Billy Joe Saunders on Saturday in Texas with an eighth-round uppercut; Saunders did not re-emerge for the ninth round; the Brit has had surgery on a broken orbital bone
For all of the talk about whether Billy Joe Saunders could be the Kryptonite for Canelo Alvarez's hope of taking one step closer to becoming the undisputed super middleweight champion, Saturday's unification fight was over just as soon as it started to heat up.
After a mid-fight adjustment saw the tricky Saunders (30-1, 14 KOs) work his way back into the fight, Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) finished him off with a right uppercut in Round 8 that swelled and appeared to damage the right eye of Saunders. The native of Great Britain told his corner he could not see out of the eye and the fight was stopped by referee Mark Calo-Oy before the start of Round 9.
Alvarez, the Mexican superstar who unified Saunders' WBO title with his WBA and WBC belts, celebrated the abrupt TKO in front of an adoring crowd of 73,126 inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as the fight set a new global indoor record for boxing attendance.
"I said the fight was going to develop before the 7th or 8th round and that's what happened," Alvarez said. "But it wasn't as difficult as I expected and that proves that my preparation has improved day by day."
The 30-year-old Alvarez, the sport's reigning pound-for-pound king, was leading on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage by scores of 78-74 (twice) and 77-75. He also outlanded the 31-year-old Saunders by a margin of 73 to 60, per CompuBox, including landing 53% of his power shots.
But Saunders, to his credit, had his moments as the southpaw shook off a slow start when Alvarez used his speed and body attack to stifle his offense by making a clear adjustment in Round 5. Not only did Saunders begin standing right in front of Alvarez by landing punches from awkward angles, his increase in swagger seemed to help his defense prevent Alvarez from landing clean.
Saunders began to establish the jab and seemed to control the next three rounds until Alvarez stepped up his output dramatically in Round 8 and the power of his shots sent Saunders into a more cautious posture.
"Not at all, [I was never hurt]. The fight, I was winning round by round," Alvarez said. "I knew my fight would develop after the sixth round yet I started adjusting pretty quick. I knew that this would be the final round."
Alvarez, who gave in to Saunders' demand for a larger ring during fight week amid threats he would quit, didn't seem surprised by Saunders' decision to stay on his stool after Round 8. Alvarez had previously called him out publicly for making a number of excuses leading up to the fight.
"I knew it. The truth is, I knew it," Alvarez said. "I think I broke his cheek and I knew he wasn't going to come out. I got to the corner and told [trainer] Eddy [Reynoso] he wasn't coming out because I broke his cheek and that was it."