Saul “Canelo” Alvarez fever hit Anaheim, CA’s Honda Center like a storm this Saturday night. Droves of fight fans hit the stands long before their new hero arrived. If you needed proof that Alvarez is at least a draw and a curiosity, all you needed to do was be in attendance and check Twitter, which listed a worldwide trending during the 12 brutally one-sided rounds he had against welterweight Matthew Hatton. If that didn’t convince you, then consider that there were 11,674 people in attendance. That is the second largest boxing event at the Honda Center (known then as the Arrowhead Pond) behind Marco Antonio Barrera-Daniel Jimenez.
Before the carnage began, the crowd was treated to a very boring ten round fight between Adrien Broner, 20-0 (16), and Daniel Ponce De Leon, 41-3 (34). Broner, a talented lightweight out of Cincinnati, was making his HBO debut versus the rugged featherweight and hard-hitting Ponce de Leon. The first two rounds were indeed boring with both men circling each other and looking to make the other lead. Ponce let go first, getting a straight left to the body of Broner, who waited and waited.
The fight was a case of what do you like, Ponce’s hard one-two or Broner’s speed and single shots? It was effort vs. athleticism. In the end, the crowd (and this writer who scored it six rounds to four for Ponce) liked Ponce de Leon’s effort, which was a sustained attack that wasn’t always about clean landing punches but volume. The judges liked Broner’s speed and single shot accuracy, scoring it 96-94, twice, and a disgusting 99-91 by Tony Crebs, all for Broner.
“I feel great,” said Broner. “He is a great fighter so I had to respect him. I stayed true to my plan and listened to my coach. I was smart. He had power but everyone can punch with eight-ounce gloves on. I was focused mentally. He had to get it and I gave it to him. I will fight anyone next.”
“There was big difference in weight,” Ponce de Leon said. “I felt it. I didn’t feel his power. I thought I won seven to ten rounds. I want to go back to featherweight because I was 128 yesterday. I can make 126 easy.”
After two years away from the ring, James “Mandingo Warrior” Kirkland, 26-0 (23), bounded into the ring wearing black and red trunks and red sweatshirt. Looking ready to go and in a hurry, Kirkland bounced around while never taking his eyes off his opponent. It was ironic that he was starting off the night of fights, some four years from the first time I saw him as a little-known prospect opening what should have been the Jose Luis Castillo-Diego Corrales III card. Now here he is, rebuilding and hoping to return to the heights he had achieved after beating Joel Julio in 2009.
But first, it was time, as former trainer Ann Wolfe put it, “to feast on some rabbit before he go after bigger game.”
It was over about as soon as it began. Kirkland, starving for warfare but trying to assimilate to the tutelage of new coach Kenny Adams, who is focusing on technique and boxing, began his relentless assault and never let up. Uppercuts, right hooks and left crosses sent Ashandi Gibbs, 10-3 (4), across the ring and reeling.
“He wanted to box,” joked his co-manager Cameron Dunkin.
From the jab Kirkland started the assault with, you could kind of see that. Then instinct took over and he just went off until Gibbs was down on the canvas thinking it was better to stay where he was until the ref counted ten.
Co-manager Michael Miller said that after the 34-second fight, he told Kirkland he could fight again tonight and that they were grabbing another opponent for him.
“Okay, I’m ready,” replied Kirkland, who was informed Miller was joking.
Kirkland even broke the ring causing a long delay at the fight.
Golden Boy Promotions’ Richard Schaefer told us he is going to try and get Kirkland a date sooner than his next fight, which is April 9. Personally, I’d give Kirkland a Tyson pace as long as he wins like this. A fight every week.
Jacobs takes out Kliewer…
Daniel “The Golden Child” Jacobs, 22-1 (19), needed just one round to dispatch Robert Kliewer. Jacobs jabbed his way inside and worked to Kliewer’s body with a left hook. Kliewer, 11-13-2 (5), backed up and stared at Jacobs, who unloaded a left jab and right over the top that dropped him. In the second, Jacobs landed a brutal right hand over the top that put Kliewer down hard on his side. The ref waved it off as Kliewer fell; the time was 1:44.
Seth Mitchell, 21-0-1 (15), needed two rounds and four knockdowns to stop poor Charles Davis, 19-22-3 (4), at 1:02 of the second.
Now it is time to step up for all three of these prospects.
When it came time for the main event, the roof blew off the house. Hatton entered to “You’re the Best Around.” It seemed more like he was the best they could find to feed to “Canelo.”
In the first it was clear that the size and power differential was huge. Hatton simply is not a junior middleweight and Alvarez is.
“Canelo” came out strong, pumping his jab and turning Hatton’s very white face slightly red. Hatton was game, however, but undersized and simply not hard-hitting enough to get anything in of note. By the second, Hatton was bleeding from the nose, the first of many injuries to his head to come. Alvarez, 36-0-1 (26), worked his wide left hook to the body early on and that seemed to take the steam out of Hatton, 41-5-2 (16).
By the middle of the fight, Hatton was beaten up. He was cut above the left eye and bleeding on his cheek. Yet still, Hatton’s will had not left and he gamely went in for some left hooks before being pushed back by “Canelo’s” jab and right hand.
In the fifth, Alvarez landed three straight rights that seemed to hurt Hatton, who flurried and bought time. It was the first of a few times he had Hatton hurt but could not finish. Hatton began to stick and move more which only served to extend the fight. Alvarez slowly tracked him down, worked that hard jab and winged in the left hand.
In the seventh, Alvarez took a rabbit shot from Hatton and then came back with a right off the break that had Hatton walk away and take a long knee, prolonging the inevitable. Alvarez began to let his hands go more and the crowd rose and cheered him on yet it was not to be. Once again, he was unable to put away the smaller, fading Hatton.
Alvarez seemed to tire a lot in the later rounds, probably because he seemed to be doing all the work. Near round’s end, Hatton got in a low blow on Alvarez, who unleashed a left hook that gave Hatton the idea to take another knee and a break. Alvarez came out of that break pissed and they both went to war. Hatton took hard, flush right hands and some left hands, yet still stood at the bell sounding the end of the round.
In the end, it was all Alvarez. Hatton was brave but overmatched and so it was Alvarez, by scores of 119-108 across the board, who came away from the night with a shiny new WBC junior middleweight belt.
Say what you want about him, that he is not a real champ or not a good fighter, the sight of grown men chasing him down and screaming “Canelo” should be all you need to know when questioning what Alvarez is in boxing. I have a feeling between Golden Boy and the WBC, we’re going to have “Canelo” fever running rampant for awhile..