ARLINGTON, TX – Last Saturday boxing carried on one of it’s most sacred traditions. Cinco de Mayo weekend always means a big fight with the best Mexican boxer taking on his toughest opponent. 73,000 crowded into AT&T Stadium, formerly Cowboys Stadium, to watch the ginger genius of Guadalajara, Saul “Canelo” Alavarez. Canelo is the number one pound for pound fighter in the world having won titles in three weight classes. His opponent was the slick British southpaw Billy Joe Saunders. Earlier in the week Saunders demanded a bigger ring than the standard 20 footer.
The lefty tried to used every inch of ring space to evade, annoy and land a few good shots on the pound for pound king. The early rounds saw Canelo calmly stalk as Billy Joe worked his way through a Fibonacci spiral of ring space. Jabbing and skirmishing in spots. Some shots get through but Canelo’s defense kept the big bombs off target.
Canelo fought flat footed with determined pressure. Catching and parrying jabs in his palms, countering with digging hooks and uppercuts to the body. Canelo wasted nothing coming forward. His pressure forced Saunders to keep his pace up, just to keep Canelo off him. Billy’s work was flashy and eye catching. Canelo threw one punch at a time, but they landed clean. They made Billy’s body sound like a bass drum. His posture would buckle on impact.
Billy Joe’s fleet feet and hand speed more than had its moments. He landed several straight lefts and caught the champion walking onto some very crisp jabs and combinations. Able to turn the tide a bit as his speed and ever present jab gave Canelo issues. It was clear in the early going that Billy belonged in that ring. But by round four Canelo had picked the lock on Billy Joe’s defense.
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Billy Joe liked to duck under punches. Something Canelo had egged on with his savage bodywork. The uppercut was there as Billy Joe ducked. Canelo had found it and Billy hadn’t seen it coming.
Billy did what he could. He flashed his speed and science. He caught Canelo clean and landed some hard punches of his own. Nothing was going to stop Canelo’s inexorable march forward. Not with a small city of proud, properly hammered fans in the stands to cheer him on. The body work had done it’s job by the mid rounds.
Billy Joe started to breathe a bit heavy. He started to lose that step ahead. His mouth started hanging open. He started to clinch and spoil at every opportunity. He started to realize why the red headed Mexican is the best fighter on the planet right now. He also started to realize there wasn’t much to be done about it.
Sure as Billy knew it wasn’t his night, Canelo felt it too. Played to the crowd, raising his arms between the 7th and 8th, the crowd responded like a roaring tide. Canelo responded like a champion. Cranking the intensity and pressure a notch higher. Billy Joe looked lost and delirious, fighting in vain to keep Canelo off him. Because as he opens up, he got countered all the cleaner. Billy throws a wide lead hook, instinctively ducking after, a pre-emptive defense for the hooks and straight shot most counter with. Canelo had caught on.
As Billy Joe dropped his level Canelo throws an uppercut he got from south of the border. It was one of those sickening head on collisions between two objects pointed directly at each other. The two bullets strike mid-air, Canelo’s right hand proved far more durable than the bone in Billy Joe’s skull. Billy knew it was bad. After a round in survival mode, quickly losing sight in his eye which near instantly swelled shut. Everyone at ringside knew something was wrong. Billy’s corner calls off the fight between rounds.
Early reports on Billy Joe’s injury state he requires surgery for multiple fractures of his orbital socket and cheekbone, as a result of the vicious uppercut. Canelo rejoiced with his people, at the center of biggest Cinco De Mayo party in the world. In his post fight interview he declared his intention to fight fellow 168lb title holder Caleb “Sweet Hands’ Plant in an effort to finally unify and become the undisputed 168lb champion.
That fight sits behind the impenetrable paywall of boxing politics and the unknowable future. Last night, Canelo not only dominated another top opponent, he proved himself the best boxer of the post-Floyd era. The clear number one star who can draw a crowd worthy of it’s own area code.
While people still question the wisdom of having such events in the midst of a pandemic. To feel the electricity of a crowd again was special. While Billy Joe was hurried from the ring to get him help, Canelo was left to celebrate with a small city of people, ready to celebrate.
Canelo is a man of action. He spoke like he fought. His every word and punch was designed to land with maximum impact, with maximum efficiency. Canelo chose both well. As the post fight interview concludes, he was asked if he had anything more to say.
”!VIVA MEXICO CABRONES!”
The tide of Mexican patriotism roars once more in response. The proud Champion had landed his final haymaker of the night.