By Jeff Zimmerman at ringside
WBA/WBC super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) scored an eighth round TKO over WBO super middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (30-1, 14 KOs) on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The reigning pound-for-pound king Canelo out of Guadalajara, Mexico, clocked into work once again in his third fight since December 2020, proved too strong for the Brit Saunders and stopped him on his stool between the eighth and ninth rounds and leaves the Lone Star State as the super middleweight unified world champion.
With the win, Canelo snatched the WBO belt from Saunders to go along with his WBC and WBA straps and now set his sights on IBF champ Caleb Plant this September for the undisputed title, which has been his stated goal.
Canelo told DAZN Chris Mannix immediately after the fight in the ring as such, “That’s the plan to go for the belt. I’m coming, I’m coming my friend. I hope that fight can be made.”
For that fight to become a reality, Canelo had to first go through the undefeated Saunders, who proved he was more than game for the best fighter in boxing today.
In the first two rounds, Canelo slowly walked Saunders down and unleashed his power left hands to the body and once he had Saunders against the ropes, he blasted him with a big right hand. The southpaw Saunders flicked out his right jab from time to time, but not enough to slow Canelo down early on. Canelo began to find his range in round three as he landed a beautiful combination that got Saunders’ attention and followed up with another solid right hand.
Saunders did his best work in round five, as Canelo continued to look for openings, however, Saunders snapped Canelo’s head back with a solid jab as he was coming in. Canelo continued to plow forward, but Saunders caught him again to the face as Saunders was starting to find his footing. The fight then began to heat up in round six as both guys traded blows in the center of the ring as Saunders used his legs more effectively to avoid Canelo’s big shots.
Saunders opened round seven with several jabs at Canelo’s head and appeared to gain confidence as the fight moved to the middle rounds. The pro-Canelo crowd chanted his name to provide a boost, but Saunders continued to box his way into a competitive fight. In round eight, Canelo now requested the crowd to provide some energy and the noise rapidly increased in Jerry World as Canelo threw every punch with bad intentions.
Saunders showed swelling and cut under his right eye between rounds. And seconds later, the fight was waved off by referee Mark Calo-oy as Canelo jumped onto the ropes to celebrate with the record-setting pro-Mexican crowd that also primarily supports Jerry Jones beloved Dallas Cowboys. Jones brought two Manny Pacquiao fights to his stadium previously and Canelo in 2016 against another Brit in Liam Smith.
The official score was a TKO at the end round eight as Saunders suffered a damaged right eye from a massive uppercut according to the replay shown on the giant screen at the stadium. All three judges had Canelo in the lead at the time of the stoppage 78-74 twice and 77-75.
Eddie Hearn told Chris Mannix in the ring afterward, “It’s the only fight to make. Canelo Alvarez will fight absolutely anybody, and Caleb Plant is the fight for the undisputed championship. Canelo is the pound-for-pound star in the sport along with AJ.”
Hearn added, “Saunders couldn’t see, and he wouldn’t let him come out.” (referring to trainer Mark Tibbs)
This was Matchroom Boxing Eddie Hearn’s third fight with Canelo since he split with Golden Boy and set an indoor U.S. boxing attendance record of 73,126, easily surpassing the previous mark at the Superdome in New Orleans for Ali-Spinks 2 of 63,352.
Saunders did everything he could to take Canelo off his game leading up to the fight and get under the skin of the stoic, seasoned redhead from Guadalajara, Mexico and used fight week to do so with Ring-Gate. Saunders threatened to pull out of the fight over two feet around the ring.
Saunders requested a ring size of 24 feet-by-24 feet inside the ropes but ended up at 22 feet instead of the 20 Canelo has used before.
Whether it was truly a ploy to rattle Canelo or a true demand from Saunders who is known as more of a mover in the ring, it did not rattle Canelo at all. He quickly squashed the nonsense and told Hearn “no problem” and would fight him in the spacious and massive Cowboy Stadium. No one truly believed Saunders would walk away from his lottery ticket especially over two feet around the squared circle, certainly not Canelo.
And tonight Canelo showed once again that he is truly the biggest star in boxing and after collecting another belt to add to his collection, he can clock out until he is back to work in September likely against the IBF belt holder Caleb Plant as he hopes to fulfill his dream and become undisputed super middleweight champion.