Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez halts Liam Smith in ninth to win WBO world super-welterweight title
By Isaac Robinson
Last Updated: 18/09/16 10:02pm
Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez seized the WBO world super-welterweight title with a spectacular ninth-round stoppage of the valiant Liam Smith.
The Liverpudlian (23-1-1-KO13) was knocked down three times on his way to a first career loss as Alvarez (48-1-1-KO34) shone in his first world title fight at 154lbs since the points defeat to Floyd Mayweather almost exactly three years ago.
In front of a crowd of over 50,000 at the AT&T Arena in Texas, Smith entered the ring first despite his status as the incumbent. Alvarez's huge popularity was evident as the huge crowd rose to salute his arrival to blaring mariachi music.
The red-headed Mexican looked much the sharper in the opener; immediately adding swift straight rights to his superior jab and making the champion fall short with the minimal counter punches coming back.
Smith began the second tucked up tightly and his attempts to emerge from his shell were discouraged by some flowing combinations from the challenger - but a small cut by Alvarez's left eye provided the first glimmer of hope for 'Beefy'.
The visitor looked unsettled by some vicious body work from Alvarez early in the third, bringing the Alvarez uppercut into play as Smith looked to compensate with more protection downstairs. By the end of the round, he was landing shots of his own but they were not enough to redress the balance.
The fourth was more of the same as Smith enjoyed another encouraging late-round resurgence and Alvarez spent several periods on the ropes in the following session. The hint of success came at the cost of two cuts above the right eye but Smith may have felt he'd done enough to belatedly get on the scoreboard.
The crowd were ignited by a brief face-off between the pair sparked by a Smith shot after the bell and the subsequent sixth yielded some great action before Smith was warned for hitting on the break.
A breakthrough came in the seventh with Smith looking to impose himself and press Alvarez against the ropes. The ambition was punished by a solid overhand right behind the ear that sent Smith crumbling to the canvas, although he was soon up and registering a decent riposte of his own.
Alvarez was happy to edge ahead in the eighth before again retreating to the ropes and when Smith's activity briefly dipped, he scored a second knockdown; winging in a left to the solar plexus that prompted the champion to sink to his haunches and gasp for air.
Smith refused to go quietly but found himself on the ropes for the first time in the fight in the ninth with Alvarez targeting the body. The finish was emphatic. Having lured Smith in again, Alvarez clipped in a left hook upstairs to set up a thunderous shot to Smith's kidney area, collapsing his man before the referee waved it off.
There was a high-profile victory for Willie Monroe Jr (21-2-KO6) on the undercard as he outpointed Gabriel Rosado (23-10-KO13) 116-112 118-110 117-111 with some slick boxing from the outside.
Earlier on in the evening, London light-heavyweight Anthony Yarde (8-0-KO7) introduced himself to American audiences with a first-round stoppage of Rayford Johnson.