By: Hans Themistode
For years now, Billy Joe Saunders watched as unified super middleweight champion, Canelo Alvarez, destroyed the competition. Yet, no matter who he defeated, Saunders claimed that he knew exactly what to do to defeat the Mexican star. Tonight, at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, Saunders (30-1, 14 KOs) was given his opportunity. However, he quickly learned that defeating Saunders is more difficult than he realized.
From the moment the opening bell rang, Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) walked towards his man and kept a high guard. At no point did the Mexican native throw a punch. Instead, he simply gauged his opponent and got a feel for his range. Saunders, in no mood to allow Alvarez to push him back, flicked out a persistent jab that seemingly had no effect. With only a few seconds remaining in the round, Alvarez began letting his hands go.
As round two rolled by, Alvarez got more and more comfortable. Still, he kept his punch output low and focused more on accuracy. His game plan worked flawlessly as Alvarez tagged his man repeatedly.
Although Alvarez appeared to be edging ahead, Saunders began finding his rhythm and timing. On several occasions, Alvarez found himself hitting nothing but air as Saunders came back with several hard shots of his own.
In what became a theme, Alvarez picked up on the tendencies of Saunders. The slick southpaw would repeatedly duck low in an attempt to avoid the punches coming in his direction. While it may have worked early on, Alvarez began adjusting. As the former two-division star would dip low, Alvarez would throw a well-placed uppercut that left his man on weak legs.
With what appeared to be a closing right eye, Saunders fought more aggressively in the middle rounds. He ditched his box first approach and instead, opted to engage with Alvarez in the center of the ring. At times, the former WBO super middleweight belt holder found success. However, more times than not, he was on the wrong end of several well-placed shots.
Round seven saw Alvarez come out as aggressive as ever. He punished Saunders and attacked his midsection throughout the round. While that appeared to be his shining moment, Alvarez took things up a notch in round eight.
Under normal circumstances, Alvarez is composed and refuses to engage in trash talk. This time around, that simply wasn’t the case. Throughout the entirety of their fight buildup, Saunders insulted Alvarez at every turn. While Alvarez would say little in return, he warned Saunders that he would pay dearly for it with the price of a knockout win and the forfeiture of his world title.
Alvarez stayed true to his word as he toyed with Saunders. With each deleterious shot that landed, Alvarez would stand back and place his hands in the air in an attempt to implore the crowd to rise to their feet. On numerous occasions, Saunders attempted to hold but Alvarez refused to be entangled with his man and continued his offensive onslaught.
As round eight came to a close, Saunders appeared to wince in pain. He slumped into his corner, seemingly a defeated man as his corner tried desperately to relieve the pressure of his closed eye. Despite their efforts, the right eye of Saunders was closed shut. With the bell ringing to signal the start of the ninth, Alvarez jumped to his feet as if to say he was ready to dish out more punishment to Saunders and force him to eat his words.
With that said, Saunders remained in his corner, hands on the ropes and feet spread out. Within seconds, his corner waved the white flag and officially called the end of their showdown. A normally reserved Alvarez jumped onto the shoulders of his trainer, Eddy Reynoso, and pounded his chest as his shoulders were draped in gold.
Now, with three of the four super middleweight world titles wrapped safely around his waist, Alvarez set his sights on the last remaining champion, IBF titlist, Caleb Plant.
“That’s the plan,” said Alvarez. “Caleb Plant.”
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