Billy Joe Saunders entered the ring to face Canelo Alvarez brimming with confidence, but ended the night in an ambulance as he was transported to hospital after suffering the first loss of his professional boxing career.
Saunders went toe to toe with boxing’s pound-for-pound star as he showcased the boxing skills that took him to a perfect 30-0 record heading into Saturday night’s clash with Canelo.
Working behind his southpaw jab, Saunders caused plenty of problems for Canelo as he proved to be a tricky, elusive opponent for the former five-weight world champion.
But, with some boxing pundits, and our own Express Sport round-by-round scoring, putting Saunders on level terms with Canelo heading into the second half of the scheduled 12-round bout.
But the Mexican’s punch power eventually paid off in Round 8 as a huge uppercut connected flush with Saunders’ right eye, immediately causing it to swell badly.
Canelo Alvarez stops Billy Joe Saunders as Brit retires with injury
Saunders made it to the end of the round but, after his corner assessed the Brit’s injury, they waved off the fight to give Alvarez the 56th win of his stellar career.
Saunders had acquitted himself well during the contest, and while his punches didn’t carry the same knockout threat as Canelo’s, his slick jab and constant movement made life tricky for the Mexican as the Brit appeared to shade the middle rounds.
But Canelo upped the intensity in Round 8 and landed the crucial uppercut that caused the fight-ending injury.
DAZN play-by-play commentator Todd Grisham announced on the broadcast that Saunders was being transported to hospital after sustaining a suspected fractured orbital bone.
Canelo’s TKO victory will have particularly pleased his head coach Eddy Reynoso, who called on his man to stop Saunders for showing disrespect during the pre-fight build-up in Texas.
Saunders’ team complained pre-fight about the lack of a British judge on the three-man panel, and also negotiated hard to secure a larger ring than Canelo’s team had initially wanted, with the teams eventually agreeing to the fight taking place inside a 22-foot ring, as opposed to the 20-foot ring the Mexican boxer preferred.
And after Saunders was caught on camera saying that Canelo’s breath smelled after their faceoff, Reynoso sounded off on the Brit and revealed his wish for Canelo to knock out Saunders on fight night.
“It annoys me,” he told Little Giant Boxing.
“Not only about us, but the trash talk to Mexican reporters, with people of Mexico.
“I never want to say we are going to do it by KO. I say we are going to win.
“But this time around I do want Canelo to win by KO.”
Speaking to Chris Mannix in the ring after the fight, promoter Eddie Hearn revealed Saunders’ trainer Mark Tibbs pulled him out of the fight, saying Canelo “busted his eye socket.”
“He couldn’t see,” he explained.
“I spoke to Mark Tibbs. He said he couldn’t see, and he wouldn’t let him go out.
“I thought Billy boxed beautifully. Canelo’s so strong, he took his time, Billy’s so tricky. He busted his eye socket. As you can see going back now, his eye.
“Canelo coming on strong in the back end of the fight. Too good. Too good.
“But it was a great performance by Billy Joe Saunders. He came to win.”