Canelo vs Saunders: Brief Recap

Canelo Stops Saunders after 8 rounds

Billy Joe Saunders was competitive all the way with Saul Alvarez for the first seven rounds before succumbing to an eye injury in the eighth round of their twelve round super middleweight unification fight. At the midway point in the fight analyst Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated and DAZN’s commentary team had Saunders slightly ahead while former champion Carl Froch had Alvarez slightly ahead. The fight was very close and was an interesting clash of styles as Saunders provided quantity in the face of Alvarez’s quality. Saunders used every bit of the large twenty-two foot ring to maneuver and set up up straight punches to pick at Alvarez. Alvarez was not as busy but was throwing hard uppercuts and hooks as he targeted the body frequently. Alvarez had a close lead of 77-75 or 5-3 in rounds but had a commanding lead on the other two scorecards with a 78-74 lead or 6-2 and had essentially done enough to retain his title if Saunders had managed to win the remaining rounds. Reports show multiple fractures and damage to Saunders’ orbital bone which is a horrible injury but in the ring it was tough to tell as the swelling had only begun to form. While Saunders was in total distress at the end of the round I had not realized the state of his eye and expected his corner to send him out for another three minutes to open up with a few bombs to create a miracle before pulling him if it got worse.

For Alvarez the win was expected and he closed the show in statement making fashion as he rose his fist to enliven the 73,000 on hand as Saunders wilted in the ring and then in the corner. It was a very flashy taunted from a normally reserved Alvarez, perhaps in response to the prefight antics of Saunders. The record crowd beat out Ali vs Spinks II for the largest indoor US attendance for a fight at the massive AT&T Stadium in Texas which normally hosts the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The massive crowd is testament to the popularity of Alvarez and the hunger for live sports amid the COVID-19 shutdowns. With the victory Alvarez is one step closer to total unification at super middleweight with only Caleb Plant holding another title as the IBF’s representative. Canelo’s team is already targeting a September date for the meeting with Plant which had basically been put forth as Alvarez’s 2021 roadmap for total unification in the division. While it would make Alvarez just the fifth person to accomplish the feat (or sixth depending on who you ask) Plant is not viewed as a serious threat. Like Saunders, Plant is a mover, a boxer, a counterpuncher, and a speedster, and like Saunders is not known for his punch. He is also a fairly untested fighter with only one really good win over Jose Uzcategui who himself is not seen as elite either but was good enough to hold a title.

At this point in time I think Alvarez is at his best and has no obvious threat outside of Artur Beterbiev and Canelo has stated he has no plans to return to light heavyweight anytime soon. While no fighter is invincible, Alvarez is the definition of professionalism in the same vein of Floyd Mayweather Jr. in that he is always in shape, thoroughly prepared, focused, and does not underestimate his opponents. As far as I can tell he is not a party animal, drinker, addict etc and does not have all the bad habits that many fighters who flamed out early have. If he continues to follow his formula and avoid breaking his body down he is going to be undefeated for a while. In my opinion he is going to be a significant favorite against Plant in September and will win the fight clearly. Dimitry Bivol is another fighter that I think is a threat and he has indicated his desire to move down to 168 but he did not look great in his last fight and is not experienced at the elite level. Demetrius Andrade does things well that give Canelo issues but I think he has the same issues Saunders has. Andrade crashed the post fight press conference but it is clear he will not be next. I would have Alvarez a serious favorite here. Jermall Charlo is another one, I think he proved a lot in his last fight but he is also not experienced at the elite level despite his titles. I think he can develop into a threat given his boxing ability and power but I think he is still able to be countered and I don’t fully trust his ability to take a big punch. There is Golovkin who he has already faced twice going 1-0-1 while I have them at 1-1 with many having Golovkin 2-0 I think Alvarez wins this fight clearly in a third encounter. I think Golovkin would put up a better fight than any of Alvarez’s recent fights and most of his available options but he is clearly aging and slowing down. The loss in the speed department will see him tagged more and I think he will breakdown later in the fight and Alvarez will take over if they fight again. David Benavidez is another threat though I still have Alvarez the favorite. Many felt a Jose Luis Castillo clone was the recipe to beating Floyd and many feel finding a Floyd/Lara/Trout clone is the key to beating Alvarez. Benavidez does not embody that mold like Andrade, Plant and Saunders but his size and brute force may be a problem for Alvarez. While coming to Canelo works to his counterpunching strengths he also has a punch volume and power than many of these slick fighters lack. If Benavidez can press on and take the punches he may be able to wear Alvarez down and win a mauling type of a fight.

Undercard Controversies

Souleymane Cissokho born in Senegal and fighting out of France won 8 or 9 rounds of a ten rounder against Kieron Conway of the UK and was nearly robbed in plain sight. Cissokho dominated behind a crafty jab and right hand that was as straight as an arrow while a bewildered Conway struggled to do much of anything. Conway bled from the nose as early as the fourth round and did next to nothing throughout the first eight rounds where I had him getting shut out. To his credit a double left uppercut created an issue for Cissokho’s eye which resulted in him disengaging before taking a knee. Conway stood there as Cissokho looked distressed and turned away and hesitated to capitalize, had he struck there and then he may have forced a TKO. When Cissokho rose after a possible long count, Conway mustered a few punches before Cissokho recovered and won the last minute of the round. Cissokho fought the tenth round like he needed it and it turned out he did because when the scores were read one had Conway up 97-92 and another had Cissokho only prevail 95-94! I hesitate to scream robbery and find it to be an extremely overused phrase among boxing fans but this would have fit the bill for sure. It was not exciting but it was dominant as the plodding Conway was way too slow to get in position to score and was out throw and out landed in every round. Just because Cissokho only really jabbed and crossed and scored a few more punches in every round he did out score Conway in every round and was the only one to land damaging punches. Conway scored a knockdown by connecting on the eye but never had Cissokho in danger outside of a possible eye injury. Elwin Soto defended his WBO title by TKO on a bizarre stoppage as Takayama was defending himself and standing up to Soto’s power when he was stopped during a break in the action. Nagy Aguilera sold a glancing shot to the shoulder and back of the head against Frank Sanchez in one of the worst acting jobs in recent memory. Only rivaled by Ivan Redkach who was much worse Aguilera looked for a way out and got it. He lost by technical decision as Sanchez won a less than satisfying victory but a win none the less. This level of opposition does seem well beneath him at this point though.

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