HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney discuss Canelo Alvarez's knockout victory over Liam Smith on Sept. 17 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Liam Smith staggered backward, dropped to his knees and rolled to his back, his face contorted in agony. He lifted his knees as if to squeeze out the pain, but to no avail. His effort had been resolute and determined, but guts and desire proved no match for the strength and skill of Mexico’s Canelo Alvarez, who broke Smith down over the best part of nine rounds with an impressively varied arsenal of punches before ending the contest with a picture-perfect left hook below the ribcage that sent Smith to the canvas for a third and final time in an absorbing junior middleweight battle.
Smith (23-1-1, 13 KOs), from Liverpool, England, arrived in Texas as the defending champion, but this was the Canelo Alvarez show from beginning to end. The great majority of the 51,240 fans who filled AT&T Stadium – surpassing the attendance for either of Manny Pacquiao’s bouts here in 2010 – were cheering for the Mexican; and for virtually the entirety of the fight, the Mexican gave them plenty to cheer about.
From the outset, Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KOs), not normally known as a fast-starting, high-output or especially fleet-fisted fighter, began brightly, throwing combinations that sought to both pierce and bring down Smith’s high guard. His left hook and uppercut in particular found a home in an opening round in which Smith did little except take stock of the situation and settle in.
The Englishman showed some more verve in the second, working behind a stiff jab and right hand and backing Canelo to the ropes. But Alvarez showed a smart defense – parrying and slipping the bulk of what Smith threw at him – as well as a succession of hooks and uppercuts that kept Smith on the back foot. Alvarez later claimed to have hurt his right hand in that second round, and certainly he loaded up on left hands for much of the rest of the fight.
A series of lefts thudded against Smith’s ribcage and head to start the third, and then a rare right snuck behind Smith’s guard to wobble the champion, before Alvarez launched a titanic left uppercut that whistled past Smith’s face.
Slowly but surely, however, Smith was working his way into the contest, standing up to Canelo’s blows and walking forward behind a stiff jab. In the fifth and sixth rounds, Canelo’s punch output dipped and the Mexican began to show signs of fatigue. Smith, bullying Alvarez to the ropes, threw short left hooks of his own and glancing rights that Alvarez mostly slipped but that were starting to land with greater frequency. Alvarez sought to counter off the ropes, but the fight was now being fought on the Briton’s turf, at close range and with a premium on strength over skill. Still, Smith was paying the price for his effort and when he returned to his corner after the sixth, blood was streaming from a cut over his right eye.
It would get worse in the seventh for Smith. Canelo was beginning to time Smith’s mauling attack with greater precision, and as the champion pressed forward, the Mexican landed a pair of body shots and then a right hand that dropped Smith on to his back. He comfortably beat the count and was fighting back hard by the bell, but a corner had been turned.
Smith was down again in the eighth, and this time his visit to the canvas presaged the ultimate conclusion. A close-quarters Smith assault on the ropes was met with a sequence of fast right uppercuts and then a wicked left hook that caused Smith to back up, briefly take stock of the situation, grimace and then drop to one knee. Somehow, he gathered himself to walk forward again, but Alvarez was perfectly comfortable now and merely biding his time, waiting for the right opportunity. It came in the ninth with as good a left hook to the body as a fighter could possibly hope to throw, and with 2:28 gone in the round, referee Luis Pabon looked at the fallen Liverpudlian and, realizing he would not beat the count, waved the contest to a halt.
“Liam Smith was a resilient fighter, he was tough, has a lot of heart,” said Alvarez afterward. “He thinks before he attacks, I could tell in the way he blocked in the way he approached me. The body shot was what I focused on, making sure I worked his body down, and that is what secured the victory today.”
Smith, despite being cast as the underdog, had never accepted the role, and was crestfallen in defeat.
“Canelo was too good today,” he admitted. “I needed better timing, my timing was off tonight. If I would have waited a little longer and gotten more experience I would have been able to fight a guy like that better. I am very disappointed.”
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
ARLINGTON, Texas - For all the sound and fury that had accompanied its build-up, Saturday’s co-main event between middleweights Willie Monroe Jr. and Gabriel Rosado turned out to be something of a damp squib. For reasons not entirely clear to anyone other than himself, Rosado had taken personal exception to Monroe, to the extent that he was unable to restrain himself from shoving his rival at Friday’s weigh-in. But when it came time to put his gloved fists where his mouth was, he was unable to do so, and Rosado (23-10, 13 KOs) dropped a unanimous decision win after huffing and puffing his way ineffectually through 12 rounds.
The big difference in the contest was that one man fought – or, more accurately, boxed – the way he chose to do, while the other was unable to fight the way he wanted to. Monroe, who styles himself “The Mongoose,” crouched and watched and waited for Rosado to make his move, before popping him with southpaw jabs and straight lefts. After a relatively close and uneventful opening few rounds, the bout devolved into nine fairly clear-cut and uneventful rounds, as Rosado displayed endless herky-jerky action to little effect while Monroe (21-2, 6 KOs) took the concept of economy of motion to an extreme. The crowd hated it, and didn’t seem enthralled with the scores of 116-112, 117-111 and 118-110 in Monroe’s favor. But while it was far from entertaining, Monroe’s approach was certainly effective and worthy of the win. Whether it will secure him the bout with Canelo Alvarez that was theoretically on the cards is, however, another matter.
Undefeated featherweight Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. didn’t exactly set the crowd alight at AT&T Stadium – most of them were far more interested in continuing a sustained version of the wave while he was in the ring – and chances are he didn’t make too much of an impression on the audience watching at home, either. But he certainly made an impression on the face of Andrew Cancio, which was bloodied and battered throughout the match until referee Gregorio Alvarez stepped in to call a halt to the contest at 2:27 of the ninth of 10 scheduled rounds. Cancio (17-4-2, 13 KOs) barreled forward for much of the first half of the bout; however, Diaz, a 2012 Olympian, was always in control, even when his back was to the ropes and Cancio was attempting to bludgeon him up close. Even relatively early in his career, Diaz (22-0, 12 KOs) is a masterful boxer, if not an especially explosive one, and he was able to slip and parry much of Cancio’s incoming while countering with sharp shots of his own. As the bout wore on, Cancio wore down, and Diaz stepped forward and began unleashing more punches in succession. Piece by piece, Diaz was taking Cancio apart with surgical precision, and Cancio had no complaints with the stoppage.
Junior featherweight prospect Diego De La Hoya – cousin of Hall-of-Fame boxer Oscar De La Hoya – took a step up in class against Puerto Rico’s Luis Orlando del Valle and passed his test with flying colors, scoring a wide unanimous decision victory to remain undefeated. De La Hoya (16-0, 9 KOs) was consistently quicker with his punches, particularly an effective jab and left hook, and knocked del Valle back into the ropes at the end of the fifth and the beginning of the sixth with short, sharp counters. He eased up over the final few rounds, contenting himself with circling and potshotting as del Valle (22-3, 16 KOs) sought to up the tempo, before finishing with a furious closing flurry at the end of the 10th. The scores of 100-90 and 99-91 (twice) accurately reflected an impressively dominant performance for De La Hoya.
Watch the Canelo vs. Smith untelevised undercards live beginning on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 6:30 pm ET/3:30 pm PT.
Photo: Javon Sandiford
By Kieran Mulvaney
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Who knew that one pound could be such a weighty matter? But, perhaps because of the absence of other storylines leading up to a fight Canelo Alvarez is widely expected to win against Liam Smith on Saturday night, it has been a matter of some discussion in Dallas the past few days, and all the more so following Friday’s weigh-in at AT&T Stadium.
A brief recap, for new readers: In his last two outings, against Miguel Cotto and Amir Khan, respectively, Alvarez fought for and defended the middleweight title, each time at a contracted weight of 155 pounds, one pound above the junior middleweight limit. On both occasions, the arrangement, while irritating to traditionalists who believe that middleweights should fight at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds, made sense: Cotto, barely even a middleweight himself, insisted upon it; while Khan, who had never fought above welterweight before in his career, likely welcomed it. Canelo himself asserted – and continues to assert, despite evidence to the contrary – that like Cotto he isn’t truly a middleweight either. And so instead of remaining in the division, he relinquished his belt and returned to 154 pounds, to challenge for the title held by Britain’s Smith.
As early as Wednesday of fight week, it was clear that Jose “Chepo” Reynoso, Canelo’s manager and co-trainer, was fed up with questions about the weight division in which his fighter truly belonged.
“I think that a lot of the critics haven’t done their homework,” he told HBO this week. “It’s not really going down in weight. The notion of going down in weight is ridiculous. It’s only one pound.”
Even so, losing that pound may have taken a bit more effort than Reynoso cared to admit, judging by the fact that as Alvarez strode to the scale on Friday, his handlers immediately raised a towel and he dropped his underwear, treating Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones -- who was standing at the back of the stage -- to a perfect view of Canelo’s rear end. He hit right on 154 pounds, and immediately re-donned his shorts and stepped as far away from the scale as possible.
To be fair, however, he certainly didn’t look at all drained. And also to be fair, Smith is a naturally bigger and stronger opponent than either Cotto or Khan, whatever the weight division. Indeed, Smith bullishly asserted after weighing in that, should Alvarez indeed be struggling, “We’ll know on Saturday, because I’ll bring it out of him.” He hopes, he said, that Canelo starts fast, “because if he does do that and it doesn’t work as planned, it’s a massive mistake later on in the fight, because I’m confident he’s not going to budge me. I’m going nowhere in this fight.”
Canelo in turn was appropriately respectful to Smith and his qualities – as indeed he has been throughout the build-up to this contest. But he was also focused on the importance of the day at hand, what victory will mean for his countrymen and on the journey he has taken since he first fought on Mexican Independence Day weekend 10 years ago in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“I’m very grateful to my fans,” Canelo said. “I’m very grateful to the love and support they always give me. And all I can tell them is: You’re going to see a beautiful fight on Saturday, and at the end of the night, it will end in victory and we can all yell together, ‘Viva Mexico!’”
Official weights from Arlington:
Canelo Alvarez: 154 pounds / Liam Smith: 154 pounds
Gabriel Rosado: 159.25 pounds / Willie Monroe Jr.: 158 pounds
Joseph Diaz Jr.: 125.5 pounds / Andrew Cancio: 126 pounds
Diego De La Hoya: 121.75 pounds / Luis Orlando del Valle: 121.75 pounds
HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney goes one-on-one with Canelo Alvarez ahead of his fight against Liam Smith on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT live on HBO Pay-Per-View.
HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney goes one-on-one with Liam Smith ahead of his fight against Canelo Alvarez on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT live on HBO Pay-Per-View.
HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney reports from the Canelo Alvarez vs. Liam Smith final press conference at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
Canelo vs. Smith airs live on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT on HBO Pay-Per-View.
Watch the official Canelo-Smith weigh-in live on Friday, Sept. 16 beginning at 3:30 pm ET/12:30 pm PT.
Photo: Will Hart
Looking for info and analysis about the Canelo Alvarez vs. Liam Smith fight on Saturday in Dallas (HBO Pay-Per-View, 9 pm ET/6 pm PT)? Here's a list of HBO preview content as well as a variety of articles from around the boxing media landscape:
HBO & partners
- Confident Smith Faces Big Step Up in Class Against Canelo -- Nat Gottlieb
- Canelo vs. Smith Preview, Key Stats -- Compubox
- Undercard Overview: Prospects, Vets Face Off in Three High-Stakes Bouts -- Eric Raskin
- Watch: Road to Canelo-Smith
- Watch: Harold Lederman Previews Canelo vs. Smith
- Podcast: Kieran Mulvaney and Eric Raskin Break Down Canelo vs. Smith
- Slideshow: Canelo-Smith Final Press Conference
More on Canelo vs. Smith
- Smith Counting on Mental Toughness to Overcome Canelo -- BleacherReport.com
- Q&A with Smith Heading Into Canelo Showdown -- ESPN.com
- Liam Smith Ready to Shock the World -- Sherdog.com
- Canelo No Subestima a Su Próximo Rival (Canelo Not Underestimating Next Opponent) -- FoxDeportes.com
- Enter to Win a Signed Glove From Canelo and Smith -- Sportsgrid.com