In front of over 73,000 fans at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez added Billy Joe Saunders’ WBO title to his WBC, WBA ‘Super’ and Ring Magazine Super Middleweight crowns with an absorbing win.
The gallant Saunders (30-1, 14 KOs) was forced to retire in his corner at the end of eight rounds after he was caught with an uppercut from Canelo (56-1-2, 38 KOs) towards the end of the round.
It was officially recorded as a TKO victory and Saunders was taken to hospital with a suspected broken orbital bone.
Alvarez came into the fight as the mythical pound-for-pound number one, and the four-weight world champion was looking to clean out the Super Middleweight division, with only IBF champion, Caleb Plant, holding the other belt in the weight class.
He was last in action in February, hammering his hapless mandatory challenger, Avni Yildirim, in three rounds in Miami.
Saunders entered the ring in Texas unbeaten in 30 contests, and as a two-weight world champion, previously reigning as the WBO boss at Middleweight, before taking the vacant WBO 168 pound title in May 2019.
He was last out in December 2020, taking a landslide points win against Martin Murray at Wembley Arena.
There was a dispute over the ring size, and various barbs exchanged during fight week, and, after the National Anthems and ring walks, it was down to business.
Saunders began tentatively and off the jab in his wide stance, southpaw style, while Canelo landed mainly to the body in a tense opening round.
Alvarez upped the gears in the second, timing Saunders well and beating him to the punch to head and especially body, as Billy Joe stayed on his jab. A right hand pushed the WBO champion back towards the end of the frame.
Saunders boxed much better in round three, but was still very wary of what was coming back as he took a stiff right hand from the Mexican, as well as more thudding body shots.
The Brit landed a nice combination to begin the fourth, but was beckoning Canelo in as he was caught with razor-sharp shots from the four-weight champion, and a huge uppercut nearly removed the WBO champion’s mouth piece.
A lovely double jab found the mark for Saunders in the fifth, as he was settling into a decent rhythm, and a left hook also landed as he was growing in confidence, and this continued into the sixth too, as he was timing and countering his opponent well, on the inside in particular.
The seventh was a quieter affair, and Saunders was outfoxing his man, while Canelo was relying on his power punches to wear his opponent down, and he had the crowd on their feet in round eight, as he burst into life and he had Saunders in all sorts of trouble with a repertoire of hurtful punches.
A slashing right uppercut in particular badly damaged the 31-year-old’s right eye. In a stunning move between rounds, Saunders was removed from battle, presumably with his eye seriously damaged and he could no longer continue.
Saunders became the sixth British victim of Canelo’s 59-fight career, and after summarising the contest, talk moved to completing the Super Middleweight title collection.
“As I said before, the fight would develop in the seventh or eighth, and that’s exactly what happened,” Canelo said to DAZN post-fight.
“I was winning every round, and my fight was always going develop from the sixth. I think I broke his cheek, and I knew he wasn’t going to continue at the end of the round.
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I have the best trainer (Eddy Reynoso), he tells me what to do, and I do it.
— CalebPlant (@SweetHandsPlant) May 9, 2021
“I want Caleb Plant for the (IBF) belt. I’m coming for him. I hope the fight is made quickly and we can make history.”
Soto stops Takayama to retain world title
Elwin Soto made a third successful defence of his WBO Light Flyweight title, as he tore into former IBF and WBO Minimumweight world champion, Katsunari Takayama in the early going, before the Japanese was controversially stopped in the ninth round.
A massive right hand from Soto (19-1, 13 KOs) buckled the legs of Takayama (32-9, 12 KOs) less than halfway through the opening round, and several heavy blows detonated off the challenger as he bravely saw out the session.
Thee 24-year-old was timing Takayama to perfection, and the man from the Far East had to eat more big rights from the Mexican in the second.
Soto was loading up at every opportunity, and Takayama was boxing well enough, but his punches were having little effect on the champion.
The pattern was set, with Soto winging in power punches, while the challenger was happy to stay in the pocket and throw punches in bunches.
The 37-year-old from Osaka was close to unravelling at the end of round six as spiteful punches rained in, but he had more than proved his heart and toughness as he continued to throw decent combinations while under heavy fire.
Soto’s pace understandably slowed after halfway, and it allowed Takayama to inch his way into things, but, towards the end of the ninth, when under the usual fire, the referee unexpectedly stepped in to halt the contest. Takayama was punching back when the fight was stopped, and deserved to go out of the fight on his terms.
Cissokho edges past Conway
Souleymane Cissokho took the WBA Inter-Continental Super Welterweight title from Kieron Conway, but he had to get off the canvas in the penultimate round before taking a split decision win to remain unbeaten.
Their original meeting was set for the undercard of Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev clash in December 2020, but Cissokho (13-0, 8 KOs) was withdrawn on fight week due to administrative issues meaning the bout was pushed back.
It was a technical contest for the majority, with Cissokho’s jab a potent weapon in the first half of the fight as Conway took time to inch his way into the argument, with the middle rounds his best.
Cissokho boxed excellently, and Northampton’s Conway (16-2-1, 3 KOs) struggled to close the range as the slippery Frenchman moved in and out of range with relative ease off a textbook jab.
Try as he might, ‘Too Class’ Conway just couldn’t get close enough to his opponent to cause damage, and with only three knockout wins on his slate, a late stoppage seemed unlikely.
But, in a thrilling twist of events, the 25-year-old landed with a big uppercut that seemingly landed right on the eye of Cissokho, and he was forced to drop to the canvas in pain right at the start of the ninth round.
It seemed a slow count from the referee, and the 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist survived, with the Brit unable to hammer home his advantage.
Conway didn’t seem to grasp the urgency of the situation, and allowed Cissokho to take the final round as the fight went to the scorecards.
A way too wide verdict of 97-92 for Conway was trumped by verdicts of 96-93 and 95-94 for Cissokho, who became the new champion.
Sanchez claims bizarre win over Aguilera
Opening the DAZN broadcast was Heavyweight contender, Frank Sanchez and ‘The Cuban Flash’ defended his WBC Continental Americas title in a bizarre unanimous decision win against Nagy Aguilera (21-11, 14 KOs), with the fight stopped midway through the sixth round as Aguilera was unable to continue.
The fight came to life in the third round, when Aguilera complained to the referee about a shot behind the head, and while he was protesting, he was nailed with a flush right hand that stiffened his legs.
The 34-year-old seemed content to survive, and after taking a cuffing right hand that looked to skim behind his head in the sixth, he turned away, and in a delayed reaction, he comically dropped to the floor, and then fell again while trying to rise.
The shot itself didn’t look like it connected in any case, and, when Aguilera rose, he was looking for a disqualification when furiously pleading his case to the referee.
The official decided to take the contest to the scorecards, as the Dominican wasn’t interested in potentially taking his allocated five minutes recovery time.
Sanchez had dominated up to that point anyway, and three scores of 60-54 confirmed his win, moving the WBO top ten ranked to 18-0 (13 KOs).
Castro, Davis secure victories
Heading the preliminaries before the DAZN broadcast was Marc Castro (3-0, 3 KOs) and the 21-year-old Lightweight dealt out a beating to Irving Macias Castillo (9-2, 6 KOs) before the referee mercilessly stopped the contest during the fourth of their scheduled six rounder.
The crossroads clash at Welterweight went the way of Christian Alan Gomez Duran, who stopped Xavier Wilson in two rounds.
Duran (20-2-1, 18 KOs) connected with a huge left hook that dropped Wilson (11-3-1, 1 KO) heavily, and he rose groggily, giving the referee an invitation to stop the contest, to much protestation from Wilson.
Lightweight hot prospect, Keyshawn Davis (3-0, 2 KOs) made it a hattrick of professional wins, dominating Mexico’s Jose Antonio Meza (7-5, 2 KOs) over six rounds.
All three judges made ‘The Businessman’ Davis a 60-54 victor.
The show opened at 10:30pm UK time, where Davis’ brother, Kelvin, moved to 2-0 (1 KO) as a professional with a fun four round points win over tough Czech, Jan Marsalek (8-3, 7 KOs)
‘Night Night’ Davis was comfortably winning the contest, but then walked into a massive overhand right with half a minute of the final round remaining that dropped him heavily.
He survived the count and the round to secure a win by three scores of 38-37.