Canelo Alvarez stops Billy Joe Saunders as Brit pulled out with orbital bone injury
express– Canelo Alvarez moved a step closer to becoming the undisputed king of the super-middleweight division after Billy Joe Saunders was forced to retire on his stool with a suspected broken orbital bone. There were shades of Kell Brook’s serious eye injuries from his wars with Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence Jr when Saunders’ trainer Mark Tibbs waved off the fight in the corner after the right round.
Saunders had played his part in a closely-contested chess match up until the turning point and was arguably ahead on the scorecards when Canelo really turned on the style and pushed hard for the knockout that his team and the people of Mexico so desperately craved.
It was a thunderous uppercut that changed the complexion of the bout as Saunders staggered around the ring preparing for an onslaught that never followed as the matador Canelo taunted his rival, waving around his arms and revelling in the suffering of his opponent.
Despite the savagely persistent work to the body from Canelo, it was that one very punch that sucked all life out of Saunders as he struggled to regain momentum and throw any punches of his own as he bobbed and weaved to buy some precious time.
And the damage to Saunders’ eye was evident as soon as the camera panned to his corner when it soon became clear that this fight would not be going the distance.
Seconds later, the contest was waved off as Canelo climbed onto his trainer Eddy Reynoso’s shoulders to celebrate yet another victory on Cinco de Mayo weekend in front of a sell-out crowd at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Now the pound-for-pound king, who successfully navigated the mind games and tremendous skill of Saunders, will have all eyes on Caleb Plant as he looks to collect the final IBF strap and become the first-ever undisputed champion at 168lbs.
For Saunders, this was a fight that proved he belongs at the highest level yet as always, there will be questions asked of his champion spirit after he was pulled out of the fight, particularly after he previously claimed he would not quit as Daniel Dubois did following a similar eye injury against Joe Joyce last November.
Saunders took the fight to Canelo from the sound of the first bell as he looked to claim the centre of the ring, flicking his jab while moving his feet.
The Mexican was clear he would not be bullied, cracking in several thunderous body shots as he backed Saunders up onto ropes. Saunders hastily manoeuvred himself out of the firing line.
Canelo really started to assert himself in the second round and a series of thumping right hands were met by a thunderous roar from the 73,000 spectators inside the AT&T Stadium. The Mexican crowd wanted blood.
A pattern was quickly emerging in this fight and there appeared to be a stark contrast in punch power, something that was laid bare in the third round when a right hook from Canelo – that would have knocked most off their feet – found the target. Saunders shook his head and smiled.
After his gum shield was nearly blown out by an uppercut in the fourth, Saunders began to find his rhythm as he let his hands go.
The confidence was oozing from the fluid Saunders in the fifth, as he began to up the tempo, landing a double jab and overhand left on the break, in his best round of the fight so far.
Saunders now felt in control as he revved up the crowd at the start of round six before waving on Canelo and dangling his tongue at his opponent, who was looking to claw back momentum amid the power shift.
The 31-year-old was continuing to replicate the movement and elements of Erislandy Lara’s game plan in one of Canelo’s closest fights to date, as Saunders continued to use his jab and move around the 22ft ring that he’d campaigned so desperately for.
Canelo, who predicted a knockout in round eight or nine was now going for the throat as the crowd demanded punishment.
Following a series of successful right hands, it was Canelo’s electric uppercut that buzzed Saunders, leaving him with a suspected fractured orbital bone.
His legs remained strong but Saunders was evidently hurt as he looked to clear his head and refind his mojo but it was clear the Mexican was not going to let him off the hook as he looked to close the show in devastating fashion.
But, the swelling was so significant that Saunders’ corner felt there was no other option but to pull him out of the fight to prevent further and potentially life-changing damage.
Saunders was visibly distraught a short while after as he was captured with a towel over his head as he waited to climb into the back of an ambulance to a local hospital, as his team pushed away the cameras. This was sadly not his night despite moments of huge promise.