Canelo Alvarez made Billy Joe Saunders do something Saturday night Saunders swore he’d never do.
The previously unbeaten British southpaw declined to continue after the eighth round of their super middleweight title unification fight, which sent an Alvarez-crazed, record crowd of 73,126 at AT&T Stadium into a frenzy. Alvarez hurt Saunders during the eighth round and caused significant swelling beneath the former WBO champion’s right eye.
Once he returned to his corner, Saunders’ trainer, Mark Tibbs, informed referee Mark Calo-oy that his fighter wouldn’t answer the bell for the ninth round. Saunders said he couldn’t see out of his right eye once he sat on his stool.
Mexico’s Alvarez was ahead on the scorecards of judges Tim Cheatham (77-75), Max De Luca (78-74) and Glenn Feldman (78-74) after eight rounds.
The 30-year-old Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs), who went off as an 8-1 favorite, defended his WBA and WBC super middleweight titles for the second time and won the WBO belt from Saunders. The 31-year-old Saunders, a two-division champion from Hatfield, England, lost for the first time in his 12-year pro career (31-1, 14 KOs).
“As I said beforehand, the fight was going to develop by the seventh, eighth round,” Alvarez told DAZN’s Chris Mannix in his post-fight interview. “And that’s what happened. But [it was] not as difficult as I expected. And that’s where I take notice that my preparation is good, and that I improve day by day.”
Alvarez didn’t think Saunders was winning rounds before the stoppage. He wasn’t surprised that Saunders didn’t answer the bell for the ninth round, either.
“I knew it,” Alvarez said. “The truth is, I knew it. I think I broke his cheek, and I knew he wasn’t gonna come out. [When I got] to the corner, I told [trainer] Eddy [Reynoso], ‘He’s not coming out. He’s not coming out to fight because broke his cheek.’ And that was it.”
Alvarez has not lost a fight in 7½ years, not since retired, undefeated pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather beat him by 12-round majority decision in September 2013 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. He has since won world titles in three more weight classes and by beating Saunders on Saturday night is one super middleweight title away from becoming a fully unified champion in the 168-pound division.
Now that he has beaten Saunders for the WBO belt, Alvarez confirmed that he will focus on making a fight against IBF champ Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) for some time in September. Promoter Eddie Hearn’s contract with Alvarez expired after the Saunders bout, but they expect to continue working together for at least the Plant fight.
The Mexican icon’s victory over Saunders sent an enormous crowd home happy from the home stadium of the Dallas Cowboys.
The announced attendance of 73,126 is an indoor record for boxing in the United States. The attendance Saturday night eclipsed an indoor record that stood for 42 years, since a crowd of 63,352 attended the heavyweight championship rematch between Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks in September 1978 at The Superdome in New Orleans.
The huge crowd Saturday night also was the biggest for a single sporting event in the U.S. since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
Saunders was reasonably competitive versus Alvarez for eight rounds.
He landed only 13 fewer punches than Alvarez, according to CompuBox’s unofficial statistics. CompuBox counted 73-of-206 punches overall for Alvarez, slightly more than Saunders (60-of-284).
Alvarez produced a significant edge in power punches (58-of-110 to 30-of-116), but Saunders landed more jabs (30-of-168 to 15-of-96).
Ultimately, though, Saunders couldn’t keep the aggressive, stronger Alvarez off of him.
A short right hand on the inside buzzed Saunders at the midway mark of the eighth round. That shot seemed to do the damage to Saunders’ right eye.
Saunders tried his best to hold Alvarez at that point, but once he was free, Alvarez attacked him. Alvarez played to the crowd after hurting Saunders during the eighth round, when he sensed that he was on the verge of taking Saunders out.
Alvarez connected with a right hand as Saunders backpedaled almost a minute into the seventh round. Saunders kept his hands moving in that round, but he didn’t land many effective punches.
Alvarez hit Saunders with a jab as Saunders moved away from him with 1:50 to go in the sixth round. Saunders landed a left to Alvarez’s body and quickly followed with another left up top at the midway mark of the sixth round.
Alvarez landed a right to Saunders’ body during the middle minute of the fifth round. Saunders landed a left hand as Alvarez pressed forward later in the fifth round.
Saunders was more elusive in the fourth round, but he didn’t do much offensively other than flick jabs toward his opponent. Alvarez landed his most effective punch of the fourth round, a right uppercut, with about 40 seconds to go in it.
Alvarez landed a right hand to the side of Saunders’ head with just over a minute to go in the third round, but Saunders shook his head to indicate that shot didn’t hurt him. Saunders mostly moved away from Alvarez and missed with occasional attempts in that third round.
A straight right hand by Alvarez landed a minute into the second round. Saunders engaged with Alvarez just before the midway mark of the second round, but he quickly backed off when Alvarez fired back.
Another straight right by Alvarez moved Saunders backward with just over 40 seconds to go in the second round.
Alvarez snuck a right hand around Saunders’ guard with about 1:20 to go in the opening round. Saunders was wary of Alvarez’s power in those opening three minutes and mostly pumped his jab while trying to stay out of Alvarez’s punching range.