LOS ANGELES: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez knocked out previously unbeaten Liam “Beefy” Smith in the ninth round on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to regain a share of the super welterweight world title before more than 51,000 at AT&T Stadium in Texas.
With most of the crowd behind him at the cavernous home of the Dallas Cowboys NFL team, Alvarez was in control from round one against the gritty Smith.
Britain’s World Boxing Organization champion couldn’t match the speed or power of the Mexican star, a former World Boxing Council super welterweight champ who was returning to the 154-pound division after claiming the WBC middleweight crown last November with a unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto.
“I told you I was going to give you a great fight and bring you the championship and here it is,” said Alvaro, who put Smith on the canvas in both the seventh and eighth rounds before ending it at 2:28 of the ninth with another big left hook to Smith’s right side.
“I felt he was very strong in the beginning, so I felt I had to put that bodywork in so that slowly he would dwindle and I did my job,” said Alvarez, who connected with a left to the body and a right to the side of Smith’s head that knocked the champion down in the seventh.
Smith, blood streaming from a cut near his right eye, kept coming, but even his best shots weren’t enough to slow Alvarez, and he went down again in the eighth after a crunching left hook to his midriff.
Smith fell to 23-1 with one drawn and 13 knockouts. The Merseysider had won 18 fights in a row over six years, winning eight in a row inside the distance over the past three years.
But Alvarez, 26, was the star of the show and he lived up to his billing, improving to 48-1-1 with 34 knockouts.
He’s won six fights in a row since suffering his lone defeat — a 12-round majority decision loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2013.
The announced attendance of 51,240 bettered the 50,994 that turned out for Manny Pacquiao against Joshua Clottey in 2010, the first of two world title fights featuring the Filipino star at the venue.
Although Alvarez stepped down in weight to take on Smith, fight fans still crave a clash between him and Kazakhstan’s unbeaten Gennady Golovkin, the undisputed middleweight world champion.