Saul Alvarez enters as a 9-1 on bookies favourite to add a fourth UK scalp to his daunting 47-1-1 CV this Saturday when he confronts Liverpool’s unbeaten WBO Super Welter king Liam Smith at the AT&T football stadium in Arlington, Texas. BoxNation screen live.
Glynn Evans delivers a history lesson on ‘Canelo’s past battles with Britain’s finest and, ominously for ‘Beefy’, notices that the marauding Mexican has improved significantly on each encounter!
Matthew Hatton, 5th March 2011, Anaheim, California, USA
Unbeaten in 36 and already profiting from a rockstar following in his native Mexico, 20 year old ‘Canelo’ made history as the youngest ever champion in the 154lb division by leathering Ricky Hatton’s kid brother over 12 painfully one sided rounds for the vacant WBC belt, in front of 11,674 fans at the Honda Center.
In truth, it was something of a ‘set-up’. Though nine years senior, ‘Magic Matt’ was ranked only fifth by the WBC down at 147lbs and didn’t make too many dents in the lighter category. Though he connected with plenty, he lacked the poke to repel the bull strong young tyro and consequently took a shellacking.
Disadvantaged by size, location and talent, Hatton’s nose was bloodied in round two and his eye cut from round four. However, his anvil chin allowed him to cross the finish line, still upright.
His pain will have been partly soothed by the surplus $37,500 he trousered in compensation for ‘Canelo’ scaling 1lb 6oz over the 150lb catchweight cut-off (Saul was ‘at it’, even back then!)
Nevertheless, in his world championship debut, Alvarez exhibited the composure, variety and precision of a true pedigree and the 1.4million HBO viewers must have sensed a superstar was born.
Hatton recalled: ‘He was the best fighter I’ve ever been in the ring with. He lacks speed but he’s freakishly strong and very accurate; didn’t waste many. He didn’t look huge at the weigh –in but, by fight night, he was like Popeye after he’d eaten his spinach! My shots just bounced off him.’
Ryan Rhodes, 18th June 2011, Jalisco, Mexico
Just 15 weeks later, Alvarez faced a far stiffer test against Sheffield stalwart Rhodes...and he positively ‘smashed it’!
The 34 year old ‘Spice Boy’, starting for the 50th time in a 45-4 16 year career was something of a ‘child star’ himself, winning the British title at 20 and challenging for the WBO middleweight strap at just 21. But boxing is about levels and ‘Canelo’ was simply a grade above.
The Sheffield switcher’s portfolio listed a highly credible 31 stoppage wins but ‘Canelo’ , still 20, gave first evidence of his iron jaw. Dropped in round four, it wasn’t long before Rhodes had joined Hatton in the self-preservation society.
Performing before 12,000 frothing Aztecas at the Arena VFG in his home state – 5,000 feet above sea level - Alvarez showed slicker defensive smarts than against Hatton and tortured the Tyke trickster with spiteful yet intelligent combos.
After cruising through 11 rounds, ‘Canelo’ flew out of the traps at the start of the finale and left Rhodes rocking on his heels with a barrage of short arm hooks and uppercuts. After 48 seconds of the session, the Panamanian referee and towel waving cornerman Dave Coldwell simultaneously provided sanctuary. Alvarez’s savage finish served as garnish to a glittering performance.
Rhodes recalled: ‘Saul were counterpunching me, keeping me on the end of the jab, the opposite of what I expected. It was a small ring and his body punches took their toll. Each round I grew a little more disheartened. I couldn’t keep him away. It’s the thickness of him.
He could box, counter, fight inside, punch...everything. I lost to a superstar.’
Amir Khan, 7th May 2016, Las Vegas, USA
For 15 minutes the Bolton wonder delivered a blueprint on how to conquer ‘Canelo’. Alas the fight at the brand new $375m T-Mobile Arena was scheduled for 36 minutes.
A sizeable portion of the 11 stone 1lb that Khan scaled the day before, will have been packed neatly into his scrotum. However, for all his blistering hand speed and balletic footwork, ‘King Khan’, a one-time world light-welter king, simply lacked the bulk to compete over the world championship trip with the Mexican bulldozer, in a WBC middleweight match at a manipulated 155lbs.
A teenage Olympic medallist who turned pro at lightweight, Khan swatted successfully for five rounds but simply couldn’t stagger. Given that he’d been dumped several times previously by smaller men with lighter hands, there was a certain inevitability about the outcome...and thus it proved.
In round six Amir loitered in range for a fraction too long and, with the clock showing 2;37, he copped a single right hand missile that left him motionless for several minutes. A seven figure purse will hopefully have served as some source of comfort. Once again, the adage that a good big man beats a good little man rang true.
Khan recalled: ‘I showed courage to get in the ring with Canelo but stepped up too far. I didn’t expect him to be that big. I’m a natural 147lb fighter. I tried my best but I’ve never really been hit that hard before. That shot would’ve hurt a lot of people.’
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Image credit: LA Times & HBO