Saturday, July 20, 2024  |


Canelo Alvarez provides the payoff once again against Liam Smith

Canelo on the attack against Liam Smith. Photo courtesy of Hogansphotos
Fighters Network

ARLINGTON, Texas – One of Canelo Alvarez’s most underrated qualities might be his patience.

For five or six rounds, strong, sturdy Liam Smith of Liverpool seemed to hold up fairly well under the weight of Alvarez’s powerful punches on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium. And he fought back bravely, even pushing the action at times during an interesting fight.

The thudding punches were doing damage, though. Body. Body. Head. Body. Again and again. Every round. Although it wasn’t obvious for a while, Smith’s body was breaking down. And Canelo waited – punched and waited, punched and waited – until, initially in the seventh round, all the work began to pay off.

Round 7: A three-punch combination – punctuated by a right to the side of the head – put Smith down for the first time. I thought at that moment, “OK, here we go.” Almost all of us believed that Alvarez would wear Smith down and knock him out in the later rounds. And, on cue, it was starting to happen.

Round 8: The first of two horrible left hooks to the body. Smith went down in agony but, a credit to his determination, he got up and continued throwing punches as best he could. His time on the grand stage and his feet was running out, though.

Round 9: The end was brutal, the result of a punch to the side of the Englishman’s battered stomach that all 51,240 spectators crammed into the stadium could feel. Smith simply could take no more, prompting referee Luis Pabon to wave off the fight and crown a new WBO junior middleweight champion.

A knowledgeable observer compared his style – not his accomplishments – to that of fellow Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez, who built a Hall of Fame career by viciously hacking away at his opponents until they could no longer fight back. It was an apt comparison.

That’s Canelo: Powerful and patient. It’s a deadly combination, as Smith learned in the hardest of ways.

And the story gets better. Alvarez said in the ring immediately after the fight that he injured his hand when he landed a punch to the top of Smith’s head in the second round, meaning he broke down a world titleholder with only one healthy hand.

Think about that.

And it gets even better than that. That attendance figure exceeded the number of fans Manny Pacquiao drew in either of two fights at the magnificent stadium where the Cowboys play. And that’s saying something.

Remember: In 2010, when Pacquiao’s two fights at AT&T took place, Pacquiao was at the peak of his popularity. And the opponent in his second fight in the Dallas area was a high-profile, Mexican, Antonio Margarito, who helped draw fans to Arlington.

Very few people in the U.S. were familiar with Smith. Indeed, I’m confident when I say that the vast majority of those who attended the fight would’ve looked at you with blank stares had you asked them anything about Smith before they walked inside.

That means Alvarez outperformed a worldwide icon in Pacquiao even though he shared the ring with a relative nobody; he did it on his own.

“That’s unbelievable,” another knowledgeable observer said when that feat became evident.

How was it possible? It goes back to that power and patience.

Alvarez has been criticized by many fans because he put off an inevitable showdown with Gennady Golovkin but, quite obviously, there are many more who aren’t focused on what might or might not happen in the future. They care about Canelo, who gives them exactly what they want almost every time he steps into the ring. Punching and waiting, punching and waiting, until the payoff.

The spectators on Saturday gasped collectively when that final left hook to the body landed and a moment later, when Pabon waved his arms and Canelo jumped triumphantly onto the ropes, they went absolutely nuts. The payoff.

That’s what they came to see. And it’s why they will continue to come when he fights.