Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez did exactly as expected, as he easily defended his WBC, WBA ‘Super’ and Ring Magazine Super Middleweight titles at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, forcing mandatory challenger, Avni Yildirim, to retire from battle after three one-sided rounds.
Canelo (55-1-2, 37 KOs) was last seen as recently as December 2020, dominating Callum Smith to reign supreme at the weight, while Yildirim (21-3, 12 KOs) was fortuitous to be in his lofty position having not fought in over two years, since defeat to Anthony Dirrell in a challenge for the WBC belt. A mismatch was expected, and that’s exactly what happened.
After some impressive ring walks and pyrotechnics, it was down to business. A left hook within the first 20 seconds from the four-weight world champion, moved the challenger, and the Mexican was in complete control as Yildirim made a slow start.
The 30-year-old landed a hard uppercut to begin the second, with the Turk looking like a rabbit in headlights as the champion fired almost at will, with several power shots finding the mark.
Yildirim was offering little, and this was only ever likely to play even more into Canelo’s hands, and a straight left-right combination in round three dropped him.
He survived the count, but was hurt to the body on the resumption as Alvarez poured on the pressure. It turned out that the pressure was way too much, as in the break between rounds three and four, Yildirim’s corner pulled their man out of the contest.
Thoughts swiftly turned to the future, and next up for the pound for pound superstar will be Britain’s WBO champion, Billy Joe Saunders on May 8, with a venue to be confirmed.
“I needed the knockout, and I did what I had to do,” said Alvarez to DAZN post-fight.
“I come to win and I come to make history. I feel strong and fast at Super Middleweight, I’ll fight the best at 168, I had to fight Yildirim to keep my championships.”
“He’s a very difficult fighter [Saunders] and he’s a good world champion, but we want to unify titles. I’m a very mature fighter. All I have to do is go into the ring, win, and make history”.
— Eddie Hearn (@EddieHearn) February 28, 2021
Eddie Hearn announced: “Last year we missed out on Cinco de Mayo, but this year, it’s going to be very special. On May 8th, Canelo will continue to make history trying to unify the division again against Billy Joe Saunders.”
Arroyo stops late replacement Rodriguez
The undercard was disrupted just two days from fight night, as WBC Flyweight champion, Julio Cesar Martinez, was unable to defend his title due to a hand injury.
His original opponent, McWilliams Arroyo, was still able to contest for an interim version of the belt, and he duly grabbed this opportunity with a fifth round stoppage of late notice opponent, Abraham Rodriguez (27-3, 13 KOs).
Arroyo (21-4, 16 KOs) was in no mood for complacency, and a thudding body shot dropped the Mexican to a knee in the fourth. The end was only a round in coming, and with Arroyo on the attack with hurtful punches, his corner motioned to the referee to halt the contest.
Forrest rallies back to earn draw against Zhang
Much was expected of Chinese Heavyweight Zhilei Zhang, but he suffered a big setback, as he was held to a majority draw against Jerry Forrest over ten rounds.
Zhang (22-0-1, 17 KOs) scored knockdowns in each of the first three rounds, but he faded terribly over the course of the fight, allowing Forrest (26-4-1, 20 KOs) to repeatedly bank rounds.
‘Big Bang’ was docked a point in the ninth for excessive holding, and he can only be thankful that the fight wasn’t over the championship distance, because the last round had him out on his feet and barely able to stand, as he turned his back on the action through sheer exhaustion.
In the end, only the knockdowns cost Forrest the win, as two scores of 93-93 were enough to rule a 95-93 verdict for the American redundant.
In the two Super Middleweight attractions on the bill, Diego Pacheco (11-0, 8 KOs) took an eight round decision win over Rodolfo Gomez Jr (14-5-1, 10 KOs) by three scores of 79-73, while Alexis Espino (7-0, 5 KOs) stopped Ashton Sykes (5-4, 1 KO) in the fifth of their six rounder.
Hot prospect Marc Castro moved to 2-0 (2 KOs) as the Californian Super Featherweight stopped John Moraga (1-3, 1 KO) in two rounds.
Super Lightweight Aaron Aponte (2-0, 1 KO) took a lopsided 40-34 win for all three judges over four against Harry Gigliotti (6-2, 3 KOs) who was down in the last round and also docked a point for a headbutt.
Keyshawn Davis (1-0, 1 KO) made his professional debut, and he impressed in stopping Lester Brown (4-3-3, 1 KO) in two rounds of their Lightweight bout.