By Tom Donelson / Author, Member Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA)
Saul Canelo Alvarez prepared for a unification bout with undefeated Billy Joe Saunders, a slick southpaw boxer. Alvarez has been fighting professionally for 16 years, since he was a teenager . He has had two draws, one of those with Gennady Golovkin, and his only defeat was against Floyd Mayweather whose slick boxing and defensive skills for the Super Welterweight title befuddled the younger Alvarez. Alvarez is one of the best pound-for-pound with 55 wins, only one loss, and two draws and if you want to measure Mayweather’s greatness, his victory over Alvarez was that lone loss.
The first round saw Alvarez go for the body while Saunders jabbed but didn’t connect as Alvarez slipped many of those jabs.
The second round began with Saunders jabbing and missing. Canelo landed body shots with both hooks and uppercuts, then followed up with a big right snapping Saunders’ head back. Throughout the third round Saunders’ jab missed and while he feinted a lot of times, Canelo proved hard to hit. Canelo landed a right hand to the body and then a series of right hands to the head. Hooks nailed Saunders’ side as Canelo’s goal was to weaken his opponent .
The fifth-round saw Saunders connecting more as he landed his jab and even a few body shots. Saunders landed two straight jabs and landed two body shots . And in the sixth round, Saunders flicked his jabs, connecting to Canelo’s head, but this was a close round as Saunders’ jab connected repeatedly while Canelo landed body shots. Halfway through the fight, I had it even 57-57 .
Throughout the seventh round, Canelo pressed the action, but Saunders absorbed the attack and landed his own shots. In the second half of the fight, Canelo landed a right hook to the body along with an uppercut to the body.
Canelo landed straight rights to the body in the opening moments of the eighth round and Saunders tied up Canelo after getting nailed with body shots . Canelo continued the attack as he landed clean lefts to the body. Saunders start to wilt and at the end of the round, Canelo landed an upper cut to the face of Saunders that shut Saunders’ eye. Saunders went back to his corner hurt by that shot and simply could not continue in the ninth.
Saunders went to the hospital to have his orbital bone fracture treated. I had it 77-75 and the judges had it 78-74, 78-75 and 78-74. So while I had Canelo winning 5 rounds, they had Canelo winning 6 rounds.
Canelo landed 73 of his 206 punches for 35% compared to 60 punches connected out of 284 punches for Saunders. Alvarez now holds the WBA, WBC and WBO Super Middleweight titles and now he wants Caleb Plant, and the IBF belt.
The key to the fight was power punches as Canelo landed more than half of his power punches while Saunders only landed 26% of his power punches.
Canelo showed why he could be the best boxer today pound-for-pound as with one punch, he stopped the fight and shut Saunders’ eye.