Canelo pounds beefy, drops him three times
ARLINGTON, Texas – Canelo Alvarez may not be universally loved. But he sure has a flair for the dramatic.
His matchup with WBO junior middleweight champion Liam Smith was widely panned as unnecessary. Canelo was labeled a ducker for vacating his middleweight title in May rather than face Gennady Golovkin.
But against that negative backdrop, Canelo drew 51,240 crazed fans to the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium — more than Manny Pacquiao ever attracted — and put forth a glittery, compelling performance that exposed his vulnerabilities and also his growing maturity as a fighter. Canelo started fast but seemed to slow and tire in the middle rounds before coming alive. He dropped Liverpool’s Smith three times in the later rounds, stopping him with a thudding left body shot at 2:28 of the ninth round to wrest away the 154-pound title on HBO PPV, proving once again that he may not be everyone’s cup of tea but he is a performer, a showman of the highest order.
Canelo (48-1-1, 34 knockouts) said in the ring afterward he hurt his right hand in the second round and had to focus on his left. The 26-year-old also answered the obligatory questions about facing Golovkin, saying he doesn’t blame promoter Oscar De La Hoya from holding him back. De La Hoya claims an oral agreement is in place to face the Kazakh in the fall of 2017.
“I fear no one,” Alvarez said. “I was born for this.” He added, “I won’t blame my promoter or anyone else” for not facing Golovkin. “About a month ago, we offered him twice or three times as much to make the fight. I didn’t want to say anything because I respect all my rivals, but about a month ago, we offered him twice or three times, so we’re ready. We’re ready for him. He just didn’t want to accept.”
Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler has repeatedly tried to lure Canelo into the ring and disputed Canelo’s claim. “GGG would fight Canelo as soon as possible,” Loeffler told RingTV.com in a text after the fight. “If the fight were tonight the stadium would have been sold out. There were some preliminary discussions with (Golden Boy), but nothing of substance” and it was “turned down. He would have fought Canelo last May if that would have been possible.”
The ending came suddenly and violently as a game Smith (23-1-1, 13 KOs) waded in and absorbed another hellacious body shot in the ninth after he had been dropped in the two previous rounds. Smith immediately crumpled to the canvas and rolled around in pain, giving Alvarez a knockout victory as the crowd, which was more than Manny Pacquiao ever drew in his two fights here, squealed in delight. Canelo led by scores of 80-72 (Oren Shellenberger), 79-72 (Levi Martinez) and 79-71 (Nelson Vasquez) at the time of the stoppage.
“I was actually only using my left hand for the most part, making sure my left hand was connecting with power,” he said. “I hurt my right hand in the second round when I hit him in the head. The body shot was what I focused on, making sure I worked his body down, and that is what secured the victory today.”
Smith did the best he could but was simply out-gunned. After he did nothing in the first round, Smith went on the offensive, on occasion pinning Alvarez on the ropes and landing chopping right hands. But Canelo didn’t seem bothered by anything that Smith tossed his way. After a few rounds, the fight took on the texture of a sparring session with Canelo working on his defense off the ropes and trying to land a wicked uppercut as Smith barreled in, his hands high and his torso hunched over.
Canelo dropped Smith with a right behind the ear with around 1:45 left in the seventh. Smith fell and crumpled in the corner as if he was sliding down a pole. He rose and actually backed Alvarez up as the round ended. However, Canelo pounced again in the eighth, landing two right uppercuts and dropping Smith again with a thudding left to the body. Again, Smith, who had been cut over his right eye earlier, survived the round. Canelo went to the body again in the ninth, nearly folding Smith over with another left. This time, Smith didn’t get up.
“If I would have waited a little longer and gotten more experience I would have been able to fight a guy like that better,” Smith said of his first fight in the U.S. “I am very disappointed. Canelo was too good today. I needed better timing, my timing was off tonight.”