Canelo Alvarez was made to work by Caleb Plant before eventually scoring a brutal eleventh round knockout to become undisputed super middleweight champion in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Plant troubled Canelo early on with his slick boxing and elusiveness, however the Mexican great made the crucial breakthrough in the eleventh round, knocking down his rival twice in a ruthless assault, before referee Russell Mora mercifully waved the fight off to crown Alvarez the first undisputed super middleweight champion in history at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The 31-year-old cemented his position as the consensus pound-for-pound number one and extended his undefeated streak to 16 without defeat since a sole loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2013.
Alvarez, who headed into the showdown as the WBA ‘super, WBO and WBC titlist and the overwhelming favourite with the bookies, quite clearly lost the opener in a round he looked to study Plant’s style with the underdog popping out his jab effectively.
Canelo (57-1-2, 39 KOs) looked to close the gap in the second round and despite Plant, who was the IBF champion, landing some solid left hands to head and body the powerful work was coming from the favourite, who connected with a sharp right hand towards the end.
By the fourth round, the contest appeared close with ‘Sweethands’ countering accurately and landing with his razor-sharp jab, although his rival sent a warning with a hard left hook in the closing stages of the round.
Canelo, who halted Billy Joe Saunders in May, established his rhythm by the halfway mark and the elusive head movement he has demonstrated throughout his recent career begun to cause Plant problems, who was struggling to find the target as frequently as he found it in the opening few rounds.
The blueprint that Mayweather Jr showed was seemingly being used to a degree by the Tennessee native, who was using his shoulder to roll away from Canelo’s menacing right hands.
Alvarez had an intimidating spring in his step by the seventh and continued to march forward, although spent a large portion of the last minute of the eighth round encouraging Plant to attack whilst he stayed vigilantly on the ropes.
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The 29-year-old’s confidence which seemed to have wained during spells of Canelo dominance returned by the eighth and he again managed to evade attacks and frustrate his rival.
Plant (21-1, 12 KOs) was able to unload off combinations in the ninth with success that had been few and far between in Canelo’s previous challenges and the pair traded more leather in a close tenth round.
However, Canelo who promised a knockout victory in throughout the fight week build-up delivered on his vow in emphatic fashion in the eleventh round, albeit a few rounds rounds later than his original prediction, just as the bout looked destined to be determined by the judges.
The left hook which Alvarez had thrown in anger throughout landed viciously and had Plant stumbling, before a follow-up uppercut and a left hook made certain Plant fell to the canvas.
‘Sweethands’ rose quickly and bravely, but Canelo sensed his moment to finish proceedings and fired another left hook, which staggered Plant onto the ropes and then across the ring onto the ropes on the other side.
With his legs buckled and the end in sight, Alvarez forced the stoppage with further rapid combinations which dumped him onto the canvas and for good this time, with Russell Mora stepping in and sparking wild scenes amongst Canelo’s raucous fanbase, whilst ending Plant’s reign as champion, following three defences.
All three judges had Canelo ahead at the time of the stoppage by margins of 96-94, 97-93 and 98-92.
A 57th professional victory and a 39th knockout, one which was reminiscent of his stunning finish over Sergey Kovalev two years prior, where he faced similar adversity before producing a similar devastating ending to win the WBO light heavyweight title, a division he could be soon headed to again.
A fiery build-up which will be remembered for a first press conference where the pair came to blows can now fortunately be a distant memory in a fight which delivered with everything at stake.
Both men embraced and showed plenty of respect at the end, having an in-depth conversation before Plant left the arena and Canelo basked in his glory, becoming only the fifth man in history to collect all four major belts and just the second reigning male world champion, alongside Josh Taylor who is undisputed champion at 140lbs.
Alvarez is an almost certain Hall of Famer and victory has furthered his claims as arguably the greatest Mexican fighter of all-time, although at only 31-years-old there are bound to be many more challenges on the horizon.
On the undercard, former two-time super middleweight world champion, Anthony Dirrell (34-2-2, 25 KOs) stopped Marcos Hernandez (15-5-2, 3 KOs) with a devastating uppercut in the fourth round.
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Former super bantamweight world champion, Rey Vargas (35-0, 22 KOs) secured an almost shutout over Leonardo Baez (21-5, 12 KOs) to extend his undefeated streak, whilst Elvis Rodriguez (12-1-1, 11 KOs) returned to winning ways with a fifth round knockout of Juan Pablo Romero (14-1, 9 KOs) in their welterweight showdown.