Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders will fight in front of 65,000-plus fans at AT&T Stadium — home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys — in Arlington, Texas on Saturday, with three of the four major super middleweight world titles on the line. Alvarez, who owns the WBC and WBA belts, and Saunders, the WBO champion, were scheduled to fight in 2020. But the coronavirus pandemic, and a controversial video Saunders posted to social media that saw his boxing license suspended, forced the fight to be delayed.
Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs), 30, of Mexico, won the WBA title with a third-round TKO of Rocky Fielding in December 2018. He added the then-vacant WBC belt with a dominant unanimous decision over Callum Smith this past December.
If Alvarez defeats Saunders on Saturday, the next step is already in motion.
“We have always been open about what are short- and long-term plans have been,” said Alvarez the day he arrived in Dallas for the fight. “I want to unify the 168-pound division, and Caleb Plant would be next in line to secure that short term goal if successful against Billy Joe Saunders.”
Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs), 31, of England, won his WBO belt in a decision victory over Shefat Isufi in May 2019 and has defended the belt successfully twice — in a KO victory over Marcelo Coceres six months later, and a decision win over Martin Murray in December.
Saunders praised Alvarez during a news conference on Thursday, but said this is his time, and he’s ready to seize the opportunity.
“I can’t talk what he’s done down, he’s done brilliant things for boxing,” Saunders said of Alvarez. “He’s a good champion, but like I said, there’s a time in life where you get tested, sometimes when you forget where come from and forget all those hard things that’s brought you to where you’re at sometimes that can make it difficult on yourself. I think he’s going to be bumping into the wrong man Saturday night to be going home with titles. I’m looking forward to a very good fight but most definitely the win.”
In the co-main event, WBO junior flyweight world titlist Elwin Soto (18-1, 12 KOs), 24, of Mexico, faces Katsunari Takayama (32-8, 12 KOs), 37, of Japan, in a 12-round battle.
Stay here for live undercard results and analysis.
Fight in progress: Kieron Conway vs. Souleymane Cissokho, 10 rounds, junior middleweights
Sanchez defeats Aguilera in controversial ending
The Frank Sanchez-Nagy Aguilera fight showed why boxing needed its fans back.
In the sixth round, Sanchez missed on a right hook that grazed the back of Aguilera’s neck. Aguilera thought it was an illegal punch and immediately clutched his neck, dropped to his knees and rolled around on the canvas. Earlier in the fight, Sanchez clipped Aguilera with a right hook and Aguilera had also complained about an illegal blow in that moment. The referee didn’t think so, and Sanchez, the heavyweight from Cuba, hit him with a straight right hand for good measure.
The glancing blow in the sixth was apparently too much for Aguilera, who decided he couldn’t continue. The fans at AT&T Stadium rightfully thought Aguilera was looking for a way out against the undefeated Sanchez (18-0, 13 KOs). Every time the stadium’s mammoth big screen showed Aguilera (21-11, 14 KOs), they booed with a passion boxing fans haven’t seen at a fight since before the COVID-19 pandemic. When Sanchez was on the screen, the crowd roared, with the cheers hitting a crescendo when Sanchez was declared the winner with all the judges scoring the fight 60-54 for Sanchez.
Castro stops Castillo, stays unbeaten
The most trouble Marc Castro had all night was the brief struggle he had as he jumped on the turnbuckle in the corner to celebrate his victory over Irving Macias Castillo.
Castro bloodied Castillo, who is from Mexico, and eventually forced the referee to stop the fight in the final minute of the fourth round. It’s a credit to Castillo (8-2, 5 KOs) that he lasted so long against Castro, who has been one of the prospects highlighted most by DAZN and Team Canelo since he turned pro.
Castro (3-0, 3 KOs) had Castillo gushing red from his nose in the first round after a barrage of straight shots. Then the Fresno, California-based fighter used an array of hooks to batter Castillo. What Castillo lacked for in head movement, he made up for with heart. However, referee Anthony Moss wisely spared Castillo from any further punishment as Castro, blood speckled across his chest, earned the stoppage win.
Davis dominates Meza for one-sided win
Rising prospect Keyshawn Davis didn’t have many missteps in a dominant victory over Jose Antonio Meza. Davis (3-0, 2 KOs) hurt Meza early and often in picking up a 60-54 win on all three scorecards.
Davis, the younger brother of Kelvin Davis, showed why he is considered one of boxing’s rising prospects. He wasn’t shy about displaying his quick hands or his sense of bravado. After Meza hit the canvas in what was ruled a slip, Davis clapped his gloves over Meza (7-5, 2 KO) while he was still down.
Davis landed a particularly solid right hand at the end of the fourth round that earned some boos from the predominantly pro-Mexico crowd. (Meza hails from the Mexican state of Durango.) Even though Davis didn’t earn an official knockdown and couldn’t get a knockout, it was an overall solid performance.
Gomez Duran stops Wilson in Round 2
Those watching the Canelo-Saunders undercard didn’t have long to wait for the first knockout of the night. Christian Gomez Duran picked up a second-round TKO win over San Antonio’s Xavier Wilson in the second fight on the card.
Gomez Duran (19-2-1, 17 KOs) caught Wilson on the ropes and unleashed a big left hook that immediately dropped Wilson. Wilson got to his feet for the count, but after referee Rosario Solis evaluated the hurt fighter, Solis waived off the fight.
Wilson (11-3-1, 1 KO) was in complete disbelief. The welterweight pleaded with Solis then walked across the canvas with his gloves gripping his face while he came to terms with the outcome. Wilson’s corner, however, had no qualms with the stoppage.
Davis survives knockdown to defeat Marsalek
Kelvin Davis avoided a pretty significant upset with a narrow unanimous decision over Jan Marsalek. Davis (2-0, 1 KO) was knocked down in the last minute of the four-round bout. Marsalek caught Davis, who fights out of Norfolk, Virginia, with a big right hook that put him on the canvas. Davis’ straight punches won him the first three rounds, which kept him undefeated as he squeaked out the victory.
Marsalek produced the biggest moment of the super lightweight bout with brilliant boxing. Right before the knockdown, the shorter fighter from the Czech Republic kept winging left hooks that Davis dodged. Marsalek’s decision to unleash the right nearly won him the fight. But by the time Davis got off the deck, there wasn’t enough time for Marsalek to truly pounce on Davis, who was still hurt.
Still to come:
Title fight: Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders, 12 rounds, for Alvarez’s WBC and WBA super middleweight titles and Saunders’ WBO super middleweight title
Title fight: Elwin Soto vs. Katsunari Takayama, 12 rounds, for Soto’s WBO junior flyweight title