Heavily favored challenger Canelo Alvarez knocked out Liam Smith in the ninth round to claim the WBO junior middleweight title late Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
Alvarez, pound-for-pound one of the best fighters in the world, knocked Smith down in each of the seventh and eighth rounds before landing an overpowering left to the body that sent the British fighter to the canvas in a crumpled heap a final time in the ninth.
Alvarez jumped up on the corner buckle and raised his arms in triumph as his adoring fans feted him with adulation.
The 26-year-old Alvarez improved his record to 48-1-1 with 34 knockouts, while Smith, who entered with eight consecutive knockouts, took his first professional loss and dropped to 23-1-1.
“If I would have waited a little longer and gotten more experience I would have been able to fight a guy like that better,” Smith said. “I am very disappointed. Canelo was too good today, I needed better timing, my timing was off tonight.”
The outcome was a delight for an electric crowd of 51,240, who showered cascades of boos as the champion 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.
By the crowd’s reception it was hard to see that this wasn’t the fight fans wanted. Canelo forfeited his middleweight title rather than fight mandatory challenger Gennady Golovkin next, though his promoter Oscar De La Hoya said that fight is on a to-do list.
Smith entered 23-0-1, but critics have 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.
The battle with Canelo also represented his first outside of the UK. And nowhere on his resume is a boxer of Canelo’s ability. Still Smith entered having fought seven or more rounds eight times in his career.
But indeed Canelo was the better fighter by every measure on Saturday, bigger, faster and stronger, though he encountered a dogged effort from Smith.
Smith was fairly successful playing defense in the first few rounds, while also getting in his shots.
In the third round, he landed a right upper cut and followed with a strong left that bent Alvarez’s head back. In the fourth, he aggressively pursued Alvarez to the ropes and scored.
Smith, though, ultimately had no answer for Alvarez’s power. Smith developed a cut over his right eye in the sixth in the first sign of trouble.
In the seventh, Alvarez knocked Smith down for the first time with a hard right to the left side of Smith head.
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.