Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez did exactly what he was supposed to against an overmatched opponent: he closed the show.
The 28-year-old superstar dropped Liverpool’s Rocky Fielding four times in a little over eight minutes on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden to win the WBA super middleweight championship and join an elite group of Mexican fighters to capture world titles in three different weight classes before a sold-out crowd of 20,112.For Álvarez, the unified middleweight champion fresh off a signature win in an epic sequel with Gennady Golovkin less than three months ago, it was a note-perfect kickoff for the blockbuster 11-fight, $365m contract he signed with DAZN, the upstart subscription streaming service which broadcast Saturday’s card. And surely that was by design: while Fielding did bring a secondary title belt to Saturday’s table, the Liverpudlian was clearly handpicked as a soft touch to make boxing’s biggest star look good.Álvarez threw crisp, patient combinations with menace from the opening bell as Fielding, who enjoyed five-inch advantages in height and reach, attempted to leverage his physical assets by doubling and tripling up the jab in the center of the ring. But the redheaded puncher from Guadalajara had no respect for Fielding’s power and charged right into the pocket, unloading with textbook shots to the body and sending Fielding to the canvas with about a minute left in the round on a left hook. Fielding beat the count and made it to the bell, but the unmistakable look of concern on his face spoke volumes.The constellation of factors conducive to a Fielding upset was always going to include Álvarez having an off night, but it was clear that wasn’t in the offing from early in the second when the Mexican began pouring on the punishment and rearranging Fielding’s insides with exquisite body work. A massive left-right combo upstairs by Álvarez caught a lot of leather but still appeared to hurt the bigger man. Then another left sent Fielding to the canvas with about 20 seconds left in the round. He beat the count and the bell once more, but the end was near.That was the plan, to attack to the body,” said Álvarez, who targeted 35 of his 73 landed shots downstairs. “He committed the error by continuing to exchange with me.”The worst of it, predictably, came in the abbreviated third as Álvarez picked Fielding off with one body shot after another. Fielding did his best to fire back and landed his best combinations of the fight in those final minutes, but Álvarez walked right through them. The brave Fielding made it to his feet after the third knockdown from another left to the body, but referee Ricky Gonzalez correctly waved it off at the 2:38 mark after he was sent down a fourth time with a right hand upstairs.