By Rob Smith, Boxing247.com: WBA/WBC super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) took out WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders (30-1, 14 KOs) with an 8th round injury stoppage on Saturday night in their headliner on DAZN at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The attendance was 73,126 fans.
At the time of the stoppage, Canelo was ahead by the scores 77-75, 78-74, 78-74. Boxing 247 had Canelo up narrowly by a 77-75 score.
Saunders was giving Canelo his toughest fight for years up until the 8th. In some ways, it was an even more difficult fight for Canelo than his match with Erislandy Lara in 2014.
Canelo took advantage of Saunders bending forward in front of him, and he nailed him with a right uppercut that injured his right eye. Saunders immediately recoiled in pain, his eye already reddened and closing.
Bravely, Saunders lasted out the remaining seconds of the eighth, taking a handful of hard punches from Canelo, who was going for the coup de grace.
After the round ended, Saunders called it quits, shaking his head when asked questions by his corner. He was clearly in distress about his injured right eye, which had closed completely by the time he got back to his corner.
Saunders, 31, has a suspected fractured right orbital bone, and that’s not something that you want to mess around with.
Even if Saunders had continued fighting, he would have been easy pickings for Canelo, who looked menacing during the eighth round. For Saunders to have fought with an injured eye, he would have been at the mercy of Canelo’s power punches.
Before the injury occurred, Saunders fought surprisingly well, landing jabs and sneaking left hands through the first seven rounds. Once the nerves wore off for Saunders, he was fighting Canelo at close to an even pace.
This wasn’t one of Canelo’s better performances tonight, as he was throwing mostly single shots and not attacking the light-hitting Saunders aggressively as boxing fans thought he would. Canelo was showing too much caution, and he made the fight tougher than it would have been.
If Gennadiy Golovkin had fought Saunders tonight, he likely would have made it a more entertaining fight because he would have let his hands go more than Canelo.
Canelo’s victory earned him the WBO title from Saunders, and he now holds three titles in the weight class. His next target is IBF 168-lb champion Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) in September for the undisputed championship. That match still needs to be negotiated, though, as Plant is with PBC, and it’ll be tricky putting the fight together.
If Plant prices himself out, Canelo could potentially face David Benavidez or Gennadiy Golovkin. Those are two possible Plan-B options for Alvarez if Plant starts asking for too much.