The right eye was closed. The worst of the beating was to come. So Billy Joe Saunders went out of the biggest fight he will ever have in his life on his stool, not his shield.
Canelo Alvarez thought he might also have fractured Saunders’ right cheek but he knew one thing for certain: ‘The way it was going I knew he wasn’t coming out again.’
Saunders stayed on his stool after the conclusion to the eighth round in which, blurred vision or not, it was as clear to him as to the record indoor crowd of 73,000 that this fight with the No 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world was going to end badly for him.
It was another super win for Saul Canelo Alvarez, who handed Billy Joe Saunders the first defeat of his boxing career
An uppercut during round four had left Saunders with a swollen and puffy eye and he was unable to come back out to fight on
There was a crowd of 73,000 fans inside the AT&T stadium in Texas to cheer Alvarez after his latest emphatic victory
The manner of the defeat will be particularly jarring for Saunders, who had shown plenty of promise against the Mexican
As word came that he was on his way to hospital, promoter Eddie Hearn said: ‘His team refused to let him fight on and it seems his eye socket is broken.’
If so, Saunders has made the same exit for which heavyweight prospect Daniel Dubois was pilloried when he fought against Joe Joyce.
The Tex-Mex public were similarly unimpressed. Having jeered him into the ring as he came to meet their idol and his fate, they mocked him as he sat cowed with his head covered by a towel while the sad finish was announced as official.
A Saunders effort which had included some clever boxing and quick punching disintegrated as Alvarez, having worked him out and confirmed he did not have the power to fend him off, went for the eighth to ninth round stoppage he had predicted.
Thus he added Billy Joe’s WBO title to his WBC, WBA and Ring magazine belts as he relentlessly pursues the history he craves as the first undisputed world super-middleweight champion. That journey will go on against the holder of the IBF title held by Caleb Plant who, like Saunders until this night, is unbeaten.
Saunders endured an onslaught from Canelo in round eight after being struck by the uppercut but made it to the bell
Once Saunders didn’t make it back out to fight in the ninth round, Canelo was awarded a victory recorded as a TKO
Saunders had shown promise in the encounter and Canelo took his time to properly work the British fighter out
But immediately after being struck by the uppercut, Saunders changed and his eye was immediately puffy and swollen
For the moment he will relish not only defeating Saunders but securing the KO with which he was hell-bent on punishing the gypsy prince for his disruptive protests in fight week and what he perceived as disrespect in that build up.
The party began in the surrounding streets and acres of car parks hours before the fight. A fiesta ablaze with the red white and green colours of Mexico and blaring with the sounds of mariachis. A spectacle undeterred by near-90 degree Texas heat and high winds.
Not a Union Jack to be seen fluttering at this stage, as a consequence of America’s current covid prohibition against British entrants to this country.
Gradually the most stunning sports Colosseum on earth began filling with the mostly Hispanic 70,000 fans who, under the closed roof of the home of the Dallas Cowboys, would surpass Muhammad Ali’s all time record for an indoor boxing crowd in the US.
The temperature in the AT&T Stadium was cooled by light air conditioning but the atmosphere was no less steamy.
This is the weekend of Mexico’s patriotic Cinco de Mayo celebrations. The thousands who had flown across the southern border to reinforce their resident countrymen and an ever-growing American appreciation of Alvarez were confident that Canelo would deliver another victory to commemorate the battle which began the end of Spanish occupation.
Such were the voluminous odds set against Saunders, which the excitable and voluble Tyson Fury did his loudest to offset as he boosted the team in the gypsy corner.
Canelo had questioned whether Billy Joe would cope with the enormity of the occasion. To which the undefeated Englishman said: ‘I don’t care about any of this. I’m here to beat him. To claim the biggest upset in the history of British boxers abroad.’
To enhance his elusive moment Saunders had threatened to pull out of the fight of his life unless the ring was expanded from 18 feet to 20. To which Canelo said: ‘I don’t care about the size of the ring. I will knock him out.’
Canelo had a big following inside the stadium in Texas and played up to the crowd during the middleweight fight
The Mexican repeatedly looked to unload some big, powerful shots on Saunders in a bid to inflict a first defeat upon him
Canelo pictured praying in his corner of the ring moments before the beginning of his fight against rival Saunders
The jeers rang out as the first pictures of Saunders’ arrival in the arena went up on the world’s biggest television screens, which stretch almost half the length of the Cowboys football field. He looked charged up, striding rapidly towards his dressing room with an hour-and- three quarters to go before his ring entrance, swigging water and waving the plastic bottles in the air.
Canelo strolled in 15 minutes later, smiling as he heard the roars from the ‘57,000 Latinos’ already announced as being deep inside the auditorium and chatting to his long-time trainer Eddie Reynoso.
There was a stir of interest as Alvarez was seen lacing up his own blue and white boxing boots, although that is a practice to which he has adhered throughout his career.
As the arena darkened before the big moment myriads of cell phones twinkled down from the upper tiers of seats.. Then a massive Mexican wave surged around all ten spectator ramparts.
Saunders came out dancing to the sound of police sirens, Winston Churchill’s ‘never surrender’ exhortation and cacophony of hostility.
Canelo’s advent was preceded by a torrent of rousing Mexican songs including ‘Guadalajara,’ the anthem of his home state. His emergence was serenaded by two of the most famous mariachi singers, a troupe of dancers and an explosion of fireworks and rapture.
It was a stunning performance but a protracted one which kept a pacing Saunders waiting in the ring.
Finally, Michael Buffer got us Ready to Rumble.
JEFF POWELL’S SCORECARD
1 – As predicted by Tyson Fury, Saunders began by working his southpaw jab. Canelo landed a couple of beefier shots to the midriff but Billy Joe was off to an encouraging start. Canelo 9-10 Saunders
2 – The jab was more out of range in the second as Canelo gauged the distance. Caenlo opened up with rights to the head and lefts to the body to take this one. 10-9
3 – With the Sauders jab more tentative Alvarez went to work on the body and as Billy Joe dropped his hands he was caught with a vicious right hook to the head. 10-9
4 – A quiet start to the round by Alvarez allowed Saunders to find his feet again but he shipped some heavy rights in the final minute. 10-9
5 – A much better round from Saunders as he went back more into his old slip and slide mode and dodged the heavier shots. 9-10
6 – A swift, slick start to this one from Saunders but Canelo powered back to steal the round in the final minute. 10-9
7 – Saunders giving Canelo the problems in the middle rounds he had expected at the start. Smooth movement and quick hands win this one. 9-10
8 – Saunders takes a pounding to head and body and is jeered for holding on. Big powerful effort from Canelo. And its over. Saunders sinks into his corner. And as his seconds crowd around him there is no sign of him coming back out for the ninth. Be it serious injury or surrender this is a dreadful ending to a briefly promising effort. 10-9
Canelo 77 – 75 Saunders