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.
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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."
Elsewhere on the card, Elwin Soto retained his WBO junior flyweight title with a ninth-round TKO victory over Katsunari Takayama. The win itself was not all that surprising given Soto was a massive favorite over the Japanese fighter who came out of retirement to face him. But the shock came when the two were exchanging well late in the fight and referee Laurence Cole stepped in and waved it off. Takayama was never dropped or seemingly badly hurt in the fight, showing off his moves after the stoppages for the cameras. Soto moves to 19-1 in his career with 13 TKOs.
CBS Sports was with you throughout the entire way on Saturday, so be sure to follow along with the live results and highlights below.
Fight card, results
- Canelo Alvarez (c) def. Billy Joe Saunders via eighth-round TKO (corner stoppage)
- Elwin Soto (c) def. Katsunari Takayama via ninth-round TKO (referee stoppage)
- Souleymane Cissokho def. Kieron Conway via split decision (92-97, 96-93, 95-94)
- Frank Sanchez def. Nagy Aguilera via technical decision (60-54, 60-54, 60-54)