Just the second current unified world champion in men’s boxing was crowned on Saturday night in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas. In a spectacular 11th round finish Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez knocked out American Caleb Plant to win the IBF version, thus adding to his WBC, WBA and WBO titles.
Alvarez joins a select band of six unified champions since all four sanctioning bodies came into being and sits alongside Scotland’s Josh Taylor as today’s elite, universally accepted champions.
Much was expected of a contest that pitted the previously undefeated Plant against the widely considered pound-for-pound #1. Although the Mexican entered it a big favorite, ‘Sweethands’ Plant was expected to give him trouble with his slick boxing ability. This proved to be the case and the contest was competitive throughout with Plant taking his share of the completed rounds.
The outcome was on a knife-edge right up until Plant got nailed by a big left hook high on the side of the face, followed by a devastating right uppercut 35 secs into the eleventh. Plant hit the canvas for the first time propping himself up by his gloves and after taking an eight count was allowed to continue. Alvarez, well known as a devastating finisher, then went to town and chased his opponent around the ring, ala Mike Tyson v Trevor Berbick, registering a further knockdown with sledgehammer rights before referee Russell Mora waved it off after 1:05 of the round.
‘Canelo’ although ahead on all cards was tiring a bit at the end of the eighth and after receiving a strong talking to by cornerman Eddy Reynoso managed to stamp his authority from then on in. The official cards had him ahead 97-93, 96-94, and a wide 98-92 at the time of the stoppage. The Undisputed card read 96-94, a truer reflection of the competitiveness of the bout.
It was Alvarez’ 20th world title appearance and in the end his big fight experience and brute force curtailed a brave defence of Plant’s IBF title. ‘Canelo’ improved his record to 57-1-2 (39 KO’s) and Plant dropped to 21-1 (1 KO’s).
At the stoppage, the ring was swamped with the inevitable entourages and sanctioning chiefs and in the post-fight interview Alvarez acknowledged the bravery of his opponent and his journey to unification. “It hasn’t been easy to get to this point…we did it tonight”. He explained “I respect Caleb Plant, he was very difficult, he has a lot of ability…we had a great fight today”.
On asked by Showtime’s Jim Gray what was next, in reference to a potential move back up to 175lbs (light-heavy) Alavarez responded “We don’t know, we need to rest”. The stoppage had been impressive, sealing the deal, but there had been moments in the fight where Canelo seemed to lack ideas and noticeably flat footed and tiring. The ‘elephant in the room’ remains the unfinished business with Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin, certainly in the eyes of boxing fans, and that fight needs to be made for the Alvarez legacy to be sealed.
In Liverpool, England an excellent BOXXER elimination tournament at super-lightweight (10st/140lbs) saw Cori Gibbs (16-0, 3 KO’s) from Birmingham, England win a £40,000 winner-takes-all purse by defeating three fighters including local man Tom Farrell (20-5, 5 KO’s) in the final.
The pre-competition favourite going in, Gibbs defeated Sean ‘Masher’ Dodd on a split decision and Lee Appleyard unanimously en-route with an excellent combination of switch hitting and smooth boxing skills. His final win was always competitive but scores of 29-28, 29-28 and a more accurate 30-27 sealed his dominance on the night.
Pick of the evening was probably the second quarter final between Farrell and Ben Fields. A classic boxer v brawler bout. Throughout the evening of 3×3 minute rounds the eight fighters competing provided a great night of entertainment shown live on Sky Sports in the UK. We await with interest the next weight class to be showcased in this well presented fan-friendly format.