Saul "Canelo" Alvarez made his official return to a legitimate weight class on Saturday night in Arlington, TX in front of a crowd of 51,240 attendees at AT&T Stadium as he took on England's Liam Smith for Smith's WBO junior middleweight title. There were some murmurs throughout the week about Alvarez struggling to make the 154 pound weight limit but those rumors were put to rest at the weigh-in on Friday. However, Smith had no reluctance in a pre-fight interview when stating, "I will bring it out of him if he has struggled to make weight".
Canelo came out firing in round 1, working off his left jab as Smith watched on without throwing much back. Canelo showed an educated left hand, as he was able to shoot his jab to the body and head of his opponent. Alvarez was also able to mount a body attack on Smith, hitting him with several right hooks to the body in the closing stages of round 1. Alvarez continued his attack in round 2 landing combinations. Smith finally began to open up on offense, as he was able to close distance on Canelo a few times. Alvarez's work rate was considerably higher than Smith's early on but you could sense Smith gaining some confidence as he was able to pressure Canelo back into the ropes and land a straight left that left a small abrasion on the eye of Alvarez. In round 3, Alvarez began to put Smith on his back foot and land combinations highlighted by thunderous uppercuts. The two combatants fought in the pocket in the center of the ring and Smith was able to land a right hook of his own as Canelo missed widely with a shot.
Round 4 began with Alvarez continuing to demonstrate his offensive repertoire. He looked to be the more powerful puncher of the two, as his hooks to the body of Smith could be heard ringside. A cut Smith suffered during training camp reopened in the round. Smith was the aggressor in round 5. Smith had Canelo against the ropes and unleashed combinations of his own. Alvarez looked to be taking his foot off the gas somewhat in the round, possibly trying to save himself for later rounds. Smith landed a powerful right hook to close the round in what was his best round of the fight. Round 6 saw Alvarez open back up on offense, landing several uppercuts and hooks to the head of Smith. The series of punches looked to open up Smith's cut even more as blood was now streaming down his face. In round 7, Canelo's power began to wear more on Smith. The body punches of Canelo definitely slowed Smith down and Canelo was able to put Smith down on the canvas for the first time in his career from a left hook to the body followed by a right hook over top. The knockdown did not deter Smith as he closed the round by pressuring Alvarez against the ropes and unleashing a combo of his own to close the round.
Alvarez was able to control distance in round 8 by using a jab to the body of Smith. Smith tried to respond by pressuring Alvarez against the ropes but Canelo was able put Smith on the canvas again with a left hook to the liver after landing 3 successive left uppercuts. Smith proved to be a very game competitor but just did not have enough power to stunt Canelo's offensive prowess. Smith simply had no answer even when pressing the action against Canelo on the ropes. Alvarez knocked Smith down again in round 9 by setting him up with a left hook to the head and following it up with a left hook to the rib cage of Smith. Smith was unable to get up causing referee Luis Pabon to call for a halt to the bout with 32 seconds remaining in the ninth round.
Alvarez's offensive output was astonishing, as he landed 113/220 power punches at a 51% connect rate. With the knockout victory, Canelo improves his record to 48-1 (34 KOs) and claims the WBO junior middleweight strap. In his post-fight interview with Max Kellerman, Alvarez claimed he injured his right hand in the bout, which was the reason for him relying on his left hand so much throughout the fight. He was also asked about fighting reigning middleweight king Gennady Golovkin. Canelo stated, "I fear no one. I was born for this". He also mentioned that they (Golden Boy) offered Golovkin the fight twice within the past month.