Canelo Alvarez stops Billy Joe Saunders in eight rounds to unify three 168-pound titles

ARLINGTON, Texas – Canelo Alvarez laughed when Billy Joe Saunders demanded for a larger ring. The unified super middleweight world champion got the last laugh.

Alvarez and Saunders engaged in a tactical, competitive fight, until the Mexican superstar beat up Saunders and forced the previously undefeated Englishman to quit in his corner to secure an eighth-round stoppage before a U.S. indoor boxing record of 73,126 screaming fans. The feat surpassed the Muhammad Ali-Leon Spinks rematch, which drew 63,352 to the New Orleans Superdome in 1978.

The 30-year-old Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) defended his WBA and WBC super middleweight titles for the second time and took the WBO belt from the 31-year-old Saunders (31-1, 14 KOs).

Leading up to the fight, it was Saunders who did much of the talking and the absenteeism. He skipped Tuesday's scheduled face-off with Alvarez and refused to fight in anything less than a 24-foot ring. Alvarez then agreed to face Saunders in a 22-foot ring.

It made no difference.

Alvarez, who fought for the third time in 140 days, was fresh off a third-round knockout of overmatched mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim in Miami that was nowhere close to being competitive.

That was not the case on Saturday.

The first round saw both fighters take a cautious approach. Saunders flicked the jab, though not many found the target. Canelo connected with a pair of body punches.

Alvarez, who is only the fifth fighter and the first Mexican in boxing history to win Ring world titles in three weight classes, had a solid third round. He landed several right uppercuts to the body that kept Saunders on his bicycle. Then with about a minute left in the round, he caught the Englishman with a short right hand upstairs that got his attention.

But the Mexican wasn't done yet. With just seconds remaining in the round, Saunders threw a combination that felt nothing but air as Alvarez used his signature head movement to evade danger.

Saunders, who made three defenses of the WBO middleweight title before moving up to 168 pounds to win the vacant WBO title in 2016, had his best round of the night in round five. The 31-year-old snapped Canelo's head back with a sharp right jab and followed up with a short left hook.

Saunders frustrated the champion with his movement in round six, forcing Alvarez to come forward. After missing with a left hand, Saunders countered him with a two-punch combination that clearly caught him by surprise.

But the momentum quickly shifted back into Canelo's favor in round six. He battered Saunders throughout the frame and finished the round with a crisp right uppercut that caused immediate swelling under his right eye.

Compubox exemplified the competitiveness of the fight. Alvarez landed 73 of 206 punches (35 percent), and Saunders connected on 60 of 284 punches. 35 of Canelo's 73 connects were body punches.

In the chief support fight, Elwin Soto (19-1, 13 KOs) defended his WBO junior flyweight title for the first time with a ninth-round stoppage of former strawweight world champion Katsunari Takayama.

Soto landed the harder punches for the entire fight and staggered Takayama several times during the bout, but he never seemed in danger of getting stopped. That was until referee Laurence Cole stopped the action for seemingly no reason in round nine. The time of the TKO was 2:44

To wrap the undercard, 154-pound contender Souleymane Cissokho defeated Kieron Conway by split decision over 10 rounds to claim a secondary title. Heavyweight Frank Sanchez (18-0, 13 KOs) won via sixth-round technical decision after an accidental foul rendered Nagy Aguilera (21-10, 14 KOs) unable to continue. Marc Castro (3-0, 3 KOs) bloodied and pummeled Irving Macias Castillo (7-5, 2 KOs) en route to a fourth-round stoppage in a scheduled six-round lightweight affair. 140-pound prospect Keyshawn Davis (3-0, 2 KOs) went the distance for the first time as a professional as he won a six-round unanimous decision over Jose Antonio Meza (7-5, 2 KOs). Welterweight contender Christian Alan Gomez Duran (20-2-1, 18 KOs) knocked out Xavier Wilson with a short left hook in the second round of a slated eight-round contest. Kelvin Davis (2-0, 1 KO), the older brother of Keyshawn, survived a fourth-round knockdown to outpoint Jam Marsalek (8-3, 7 KOs).

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