Billy Joe Saunders stops Marcelo Coceres in Round 11, retains WBO 168-pound title
LOS ANGELES – The first 10 rounds of Billy Joe Saunders’ WBO super middleweight title defense against Marcelo Coceres lulled the young YouTube fans that assembled inside Staples Center to witness the KSI-Logan Paul rematch into an eerie library silence. But the 30-year-old Englishman woke them up with three knockdowns in Round 11 that led to a stoppage victory.
Saunders admitted his performance was flat during his post-fight interview.
“No excuses, that performance was not worthy of the Canelo or (Danny) Jacobs,” said Saunders, who did not appear to be in top condition. “My timing was off, my movement was off, everything was off, it was just one of those fights.
“I hope you enjoyed the knockout,” he told the crowd, “because that’s all I gave you.”
Saunders game them (and a U.S. audience watching on DAZN) a little more than that. He showed what made him an elite middleweight and current 168-pound beltholder en route to closing the show in style: a world-class jab, crafty feints and footwork, and savvy upper-body movement.
But he also displayed what makes him a frustrating boxer to watch and follow. The southpaw did just enough to win the majority of rounds, punching in spots, dropping his left hand just a few times each round.
Even though his unbeaten but unheralded opponent didn’t get much work done himself, Saunders (29-0, 13 KOs) knew he needed to make something happen in order to hold onto his world title and keep hope alive for big-money showdowns vs. the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Gennadiy Golovkin and countryman Callum Smith in 2020.
“As a champion, I knew I needed to step it up,” said Saunders, who was down 96-94 on one of the official scorecard and up by the same score on the other two. “by the ninth round, I knew I needed a knockout.”
Saunders, who had a clear edge in jabs (46-8, according to CompuBox stats) but was outlanded in power punches (91-64), finally let his hands go in Round 11, dropping Coceres (28-1-1, 15 KOs) with a three-punch combo. Coceres beat referee Ray Corona’s count but was soon sent to the canvas again with a sweeping right uppercut. The rangy challenger got up again on very unsteady legs and it didn’t take much to send him down for a third time. Corona waved the bout off at 1:59 of the round.
Saunders is cagey. The man can box, but fans want more than flashes of Sweet Science and ring generalship. To his credit, he acknowledges this.
Next time he fights — especially if it’s in the U.S. — he needs to be at his best.
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and watch him on Periscope every Sunday from SMC track.