Heavily favored challenger Canelo Alvarez did as expected late Saturday night in overwhelming an overmatched Liam Smith with superior speed, footwork and power, but it was Oscar De La Hoya who threw the surprise haymaker.
Shortly after Canelo won the WBO junior middleweight championship with a vicious knockout body blow in the ninth round at AT&T Stadium, De La Hoya, his promoter, turned the tables on his fighter’s chief rival by saying it was now middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin’s camp that was dodging perhaps the best fighter pound-for-pound in the world.
“Thirty days ago we made an eight-figure offer” to Golovkin’s people, said De La Hoya, who added that he is looking for the fight to be staged a year from now in September. “It was an offer that was two, three or four times more than he’s ever made. I haven’t heard back. I want to make this fight. Sign the contract, let’s stop this nonsense.”
Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler, was reportedly caught off-guard, telling Ring TV that though there had been some preliminary discussions with De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions it was “nothing of substance” and was “turned down.”
If that’s indeed the case, De Lay Hoya said, at least “call me back … let’s talk about it.”
Canelo (48-1-1, 34 knockouts), the favorite son of Guadalajara, Mexico, did his part in the negotiations by winning, declaring afterward that “I’m the best boxer on the planet now.”
Canelo, Spanish for “cinnamon” and a common nickname for redheads in the Mexican culture, knocked Smith down in each of the seventh and eighth rounds before landing a vicious left to the body that sent the British fighter to the canvas in a crumpled heap a final time in the ninth.
Alvarez instantly knew that was the final blow, walking to a neutral corner and jumping up on the corner turnbuckle and raising his arms in triumph as his adoring fans feted him with adulation.
The outcome was a delight for an electric stadium-record crowd of 51,240, who showered cascades of boos as the champion Smith stepped between the ropes and then went into hysterics, granting its approval with a deafening, prolonged roar as the national hero of Mexico entered the ring and was repeated as he was formally introduced on the weekend of Mexican Independence Day.
“I’m so proud for all the people of Mexican and this big victory for Mexico,” said Canelo, who also received a congratulatory message from Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. “I’m very thankful. I get the best support here in Texas.”
Smith (23-1-1) entered undefeated but with his own doubters, who judged the credentials of his opponents as light at best and paper tigers at worst. Yet, in the register were eight consecutive knockouts, the most consequential a seventh-round TKO over David Romero in April of 2015 to win the title in England.
Before Canelo, Smith had successfully defended his title three times, most recently in June by knocking out Pedrag Radosevic of Montenegro in the second round.
Smith crossed the Atlantic for his first fight outside the UK to prove his critics wrong and with hopes of opening up doors for even bigger paydays with the exposure a victory over Canelo would bring. Smith team’s entered with confidence, his trainer issuing typical boxing bluster, telling reporters this week that the best man would win the fight and the loser would go back to Mexico.
But nowhere on Smith’s resume was a boxer of Canelo’s ability and the boxer admitted the lack of good experience hurt him, saying afterward, “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. Canelo was too good today.”
Smith’s camp also acknowledged afterward that its fighter’s training was hampered by a cut over his eye that he sustained while sparring. Because of the injury, Smith hadn’t sparred since Aug. 12, he said.
Canelo found the cut in the sixth, opening it up after setting up shots to the head with body shot after body shot on Smith, who kept his hands up high and tight in playing defense leaving his body exposed.
Despite it all, the Brit lived up to his reputation as fearless and tough. He pressed the fight in the early going and though knocked down in the sixth he continued to do so.
“I knew he was going to be a tough fighter,” said Canelo, whose only loss was to Floyd Mayweather in 2013. Since that loss he has six consecutive knockouts. “I prepared for a tough fighter.”
In the eighth, Canelo countered two good shots by Smith before delivering two successive lefts that knocked the champion down a second time.
Smith survived the eight-count, but he was obviously hurt.
“There are world champions, and there are elite fighters. I think that was the case today,” a gracious Smith said. “Every shot was flush. He punches well. He was very accurate with his shots and well placed. Especially the last one.
“I’ll be back.”
While Smith dealt with the cut and bruising body blows, Canelo, too, was dealing with a knuckle injury on his right hand sustained in the second round. The hand was wrapped during the post-fight news conference.
The plan for Canelo, if he’s healthy, is to fight again in December and again in May before the possible showdown with Golovkin, nicknamed “Triple G,” next September, De La Hoya said.
Saturday’s bout could be Canelo’s last at 154. He said would sit down with his team and talk about it, though he’ll probably move up to 160 in getting ready for the middleweight Triple G.
The fight with Smith had been overshadowed by accusations that Canelo was dodging Triple G, the mandatory challenger for his WBC middleweight title, even after issuing his rival a challenge using the choicest words of impassioned language following Canelo’s knockout of Amir Khan in Las Vegas. But instead of taking the fight, Canelo relinquished his belt to fight Smith.
For its part, AT&T Stadium and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did its part in making a case to host a Canelo-Triple G fight with a dynamic setting that helped attract the largest crowd ever for a boxing match at the venue.
“Jerry and I were talking for several minutes and he said how he would love that fight here,” De La Hoya said. “I had to use one of his lines. I said ‘Jerry, you have to show me the money.’ That’s the bottom line.”
Like Canelo has been insisting for several months, he’s afraid of no one, especially Golovkin.
And be assured, Jones isn’t scared either.