Alvarez Joins the Pantheon [Updated]

Last night, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez fought Billy Joe Saunders before 73,000 fans (mostly Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, I assume) in the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, the largest crowd ever to watch a boxing match indoors. Saunders is no cupcake: he came into the fight with a 30-0 record, holding the WBO super middleweight belt. Saunders, like Tyson Fury, is “traveler,” or, as he says, a gypsy. He is also naturally a slightly bigger man than Alvarez.

Saunders is a highly skilled boxer, and he more than held his own through the early rounds. The DAZN announcers were excited at his performance, and he could legitimately have been scored ahead 4-3 through seven rounds.

But Alvarez had predicted a knockout somewhere in rounds 8 through 10, and in the 8th round he kicked it up a notch, as a chef might say. Once Alvarez started scoring, Saunders had no answers. The decisive punch was an uppercut that fractured Saunders’ right orbital bone and almost immediately caused the eye to swell shut.

Alvarez said after the fight that he knew the bone was broken and that Saunders would not be able to continue. Between rounds–actually, even during the 8th round itself–he waved to the crowd as though the fight was over. It was, as Saunders’ corner called it quits while Saunders sat dejectedly on his stool.

These are DAZN’s highlights. The 8th round begins at 7:41:

Alvarez is now 56-1-2. That is his official record, anyway; Canelo turned pro when he was 15 and I believe fought a number of times that are not documented. He holds or has held numerous belts in a variety of weight classes, up to light heavyweight.

As a fighter, Alvarez has no weaknesses. He throws all the punches with power with both hands and is a skilled defensive fighter. He can take a punch and possesses a killer instinct in the ring, as we saw last night. He ducks no one, and has fought an all-star cast of opponents. Canelo is constantly in training. He has no known vices; certainly none that affect his conditioning. At 30, he is in his prime and is undoubtedly the most popular person in Mexico.

I think it is time to recognize Alvarez as one of the best middleweights (which means one of the best boxers) in ring history. He deserves to be mentioned along with Ray Robinson, Carlos Monzon, Marvin Hagler and Dick Tiger. Could Alvarez have beaten Robinson in his prime? I don’t know, but it is a fight I would pay to see.

UPDATE: Saunders underwent surgery today to repair multiple fractures in his right eye socket. I assume his future in the ring may be in doubt. It is also reported that going into the 8th round of last night’s fight, Saunders was ahead on all three of the judges’ scorecards.

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