Mexican hero Canelo Alvarez proved his multi-dimensional star power on Saturday night at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, drawing more than 50,000 fans for a title-winning effort against unheralded 154-pound champion Liam Smith.
Alvarez scored knockdowns with a right hand to the head in the seventh and a left hand to the body in the eighth, then ended the fight in the ninth when Smith was dropped by another left to the body and saw the fight waved off by referee Luis Pabon when the count reached five.
The official end came at 2:28 of the ninth.
CBS Sports had Alvarez ahead, 79-71 -- or seven rounds to one -- at the time of the stoppage.
"I started controlling him, but in the second round I hurt my (right) hand and I had to use my left more often," Alvarez said. "He was very strong in the beginning and I had to put the body work in. I felt he would dwindle."
The win earned Alvarez the WBO's championship at 154 pounds, which Smith had won in 2015 and defended twice by knockout. It's the Mexican's third title belt in the weight class, following reigns as the WBA and WBC champion that were ended with a loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2013.
He subsequently moved to middleweight and won a WBC belt there in 2015, defending once before voluntarily relinquishing the title when ordered to open negotiations for a match with mandatory challenger Gennady Golovkin.
Golovkin has subsequently been elevated to the WBC's champion at middleweight, and Alvarez was again asked after Saturday's fight if he's got interest in returning to 160 to face the unbeaten Kazakhstan native.
"I fear no one. I was born for this. And even though many people may not like it, I am the best fighter right now," he said. "About a month ago, we offered him three times as much to make a fight.
"I didn't want to say anything because I respect all my opponents. We're ready. Were ready for him. He didn't want to accept."
HBO's Roy Jones Jr. suggested that Saturday's performance was the best of Alvarez's career, which started in 2005, when he was just 15 years old.
"I've never seen him no better than that," said Jones, a former champion in four weight classes. "It was a very professionally fought fight tonight. I'm very proud of him."
Often times a slow starter, Alvarez charged out with an aggressive posture at the opening bell and landed a hard right to the body at the end of the first round that drew a smile from Smith.
He landed 30 power shots in the round compared to the just sixth for Smith.
The fight settled into a recurring pattern in rounds two through five, with Alvarez landing successful body shots while Smith acquitted himself well offensively with shots that landed, but didn't do significant damage. He earned the fifth round on the CBS Sports scorecard with a better work rate that was punctuated by a hard overhand right to Alvarez's head just before the bell.
Smith started well in Round 6, too, but was tattooed in the latter part of the session and was bleeding from a cut over the right eye when he returned to his corner. He was floored for the first time in his professional career with a right hand off the ropes about a minute into the seventh, and was dropped to a knee for an 8-count in the eighth by a hard shot to the belly.
Perhaps sensing the end, Alvarez was busier to begin the ninth and drove Smith to the ropes with a flurry, then dipped down for a left to the body before continuing with two uppercuts to the head.
A final left hook to the body was the final blow of the fight, prompting HBO's Jim Lampley to label the fight "an all-encompassing display of skill from Canelo Alvarez," while exclaiming that his perfectly timed liver shot was like "an electrocution to the body."
Smith, who lost for the first time in 25 fights, said Alvarez was "too cute" and too skilled.
"I was slow," he said. "He took the body shots well and he landed his own."
Alvarez landed 157 overall punches to Smith's 115, including a 113-68 edge in power shots on a connect rate of 51 percent.
He connected on 37 percent of his overall blows compared to Smith's 29 percent.
Elsewhere on the card: Upstate New York native Willie Monroe Jr. downed Philadelphia slugger Gabriel Rosado by unanimous decision in a desultory 12-round encounter of former failed middleweight title challengers.
Monroe swept the scorecards by tallies of 116-112, 117-111 and 118-110.
CBS Sports agreed, giving Monroe the nod by a 116-112 count as well.
Monroe never landed any shots that did significant damage, but he was clearly quicker while landing 120 overall punches to Rosado's 63. Rosado was cut on the back of the head by an accidental foul early in the fight and suffered a more serious cut and noticeable swelling above his left eye later on.
Rosado's lone moment of success was fleeting, coming an instant after the ninth round ended when he connected on a right hand that dumped Monroe to the floor. The knockdown didn't officially count, however, and Rosado was unable to follow up in any meaningful way for the remainder of the fight.
Monroe, who won the vacant WBO intercontinental belt, is now 21-2 and has won two straight since a TKO loss to Golovkin in 2015.
Rosado, meanwhile, fell to 23-10 as a pro and lost for the fourth time in six fights since being stopped by Golovkin in 2013.
Former U.S. Olympian Joseph Diaz Jr. remained unbeaten as a pro and retained a regional featherweight title with a ninth-round TKO of rugged Californian Andrew Cancio.
Diaz, who appeared at the 2012 Summer Games in London, won his 22nd consecutive fight since beginning his for-pay career in December 2012.
He made the third defense of the North American 126-pound title he's held since 2015.
He opened a cut on the bridge of Cancio's nose with a shot in the third round and spent many of the remaining rounds widening the gash while splattering blood across Cancio's face and onto the trunks of both men.
Cancio's handlers discussed stopping the fight in the corner after the seventh and eighth rounds, but allowed it to continue. His lead trainer had seen enough in the ninth round, however, instigating the surrender at 2:27 of the session.
Diaz landed 230 overall punches to Cancio's 52, maintaining a connect rate of 47 percent.
Cancio is 17-4-2 and has now lost three of his last six.
Mexican-born prospect Diego De La Hoya, the 22-year-old cousin of former world champion Oscar De La Hoya, opened the pay-per-view card and improved to 16-0 as a pro with a workmanlike 10-round decision of former 122-pound prospect Luis Orlando Del Valle.
De La Hoya won all 10 rounds on one scorecard and nine of 10 on two others while landing 109 power punches to Del Valle's 73. He actually threw fewer overall punches than his opponent, but significantly bettered Del Valle's connection rate.
CBS Sports agreed with the shutout tally, also scoring it 100-90 for De La Hoya.
Del Valle is 6-3 since starting his career with 16 consecutive wins.
|Canelo Alvarez||Liam Smith||9th-round TKO|
|Willie Monroe Jr.||Gabriel Rosado||Unanimous decision|
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