Boxing's pound for pound king overcomes a brilliant performance from Plant to become the first ever undisputed super middleweight champion Saturday night on SHOWTIME PPV.
Canelo Álvarez is king of the 168-pound division.
In front of a sellout crowd of 16,586, Álvarez overcame a fantastic performance from IBF Super Middleweight Champion Caleb “Sweethands” Plant to stop Plant in the 11th round Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, live on SHOWTIME PPV.
Boxing’s consensus No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, Álvarez (57-1-2, 39 KOs) has now unified the WBA/WBO/WBC and IBF belts as the true 168-pound world champion. Plant (21-1, 12 KOs) suffered the first loss of his pro career.
“It hasn’t been easy to get to this point,” Álvarez said. “This is for everybody, especially for Mexico and another one for our team. It signifies so much for the history of Mexico to be an undisputed champion. We’re only (seven), and it makes me happy to be one of the (seven).
“My respect for Caleb Plant. He’s a difficult fighter with a lot of ability. I do respect the fighter. We’re men at the end, and still wanted to still fight me.”
After the fight, Plant was taken to a local hospital for routine observations.
In the opening minute, Plant was the aggressor, pecking away with the jab as Alvarez bided his time and stalked. Both fighters were patient, and Plant used a tactic that made you wonder if he would go back to, when he grabbed one of Canelo’s arms, forcing referee Russell Mora to come over and break the fighters up.
Álvarez used a counter tactic in the second to the arm, backing up and swinging an uppercut that missed. One element was evident: Plant had faster hands. Whether or not he would be able to sustain that speed advantage for an entire 12 rounds was a question.
In the third, Plant kept moving, forcing Álvarez to chase. Sometimes, Álvarez landed a shot to the body, but it was basically Plant jabbing, finding openings, and Álvarez trying to slow him down with body shots.
With 1:49 left in the fourth, Álvarez finally had Plant against the ropes and landed his best shots, to that point, of the fight.
Throughout the fight, Plant successfully used the shoulder roll to catch and shoot. As the midway point of the fight approached, it was tough to decipher who had to edge, than midway through the sixth, Álvarez put the heat on Plant.
Álvarez spent the last 10 seconds of the sixth walking down Plant with his hands down.
In the seventh, Álvarez opened up more. With 1:20 left, he nailed Plant with sweeping lefts. The left side of Plant’s head was turning red. Yet both fighters had their moments.
Plant came out more aggressive in the eighth. As the crowd began chanting “Canelo, Canelo, Canelo,” Álvarez once again closed in on Plant against the ropes and a left and a right with :30 left.
It was evident Plant did not fear Álvarez, but Canelo never stopped coming forward. In the ninth, Plant was back on his toes, tapping Álvarez, whereas Canelo was landing the heavier, thudding punches. In the last 10 seconds, Plant popped a right off Canelo’s face.
By the 10th, both fighters were exhausted. But it was Álvarez that kept plowing away at the body. With :38 left, Canelo ripped a right to the face and a left to the body.
Then it happened—with 2:23 left in the 11th, Álvarez blasted Plant with a left hook to the chin, followed by a left uppercut that dropped Plant into the ropes. Plant got up on wobbly legs, only to have Álvarez finish him with a right to the head.
“He was making the fight pretty difficult, but Eddy told me to just stick to the gameplan in the last two rounds,” Canelo said. “In the end, I got him. That’s the way it had to finish. He was already hurt and I went for the kill.”
Once Plant went down again, Mora quickly waved it over with Plant lying supine on the canvas.
Canelo connected on 53 of his 117 landed punches to the body and landed 40.6% of his power shots. The 168-pound king says he plans to return to the ring in May. The world awaits.
Anthony Dirrell makes a point
It’s been two years since Anthony Dirrell (34-2-2, 25 KOs) last won a fight. The former two-time world super middleweight champion may be 37, but “The Dog” was out to prove he was still elite.
Turns out he’s better than ever.
Against an upset-minded Marcos Hernandez (15-5-2, 3 KOs), Hernandez made his point, stopping the 28-year-old at :22 of the fourth round of a scheduled 10-rounder with a textbook right uppercut to Hernandez’s jaw.
“It was a spectacular knockout,” Dirrell said. “It was a punch we were working on. It wasn’t that wide. I used to use that punch way back when. I came up with the shot and he never saw it coming.
“I expected to stop him, I did. I thought I was going to catch him with a right hand over the top, honestly. I knew he thought I was going to throw that so I just came up with the uppercut.”
Hernandez, who was coming off an impressive upset victory over Jose Armando Resendiz, was game but Dirrell controlled the action throughout, landing hard shots to the head and body.
Then he closed the show with a shot that nearly stole the show. When Hernandez fell, referee Celestino Ruiz didn’t have to see anymore—he justifiably stopped it.
“I lost,” Hernandez said. “He hit me with a punch. I don’t know what’s in store for the future. I’ll get some sleep and regroup tomorrow.”
Rey Vargas makes a triumphant return after a two-year hiatus
Fighting for the first time in two years, due in part to the COVID pandemic and a fractured left leg, former WBC super bantamweight world champion Rey Vargas saw action in a scheduled 10-round featherweight bout against Leonardo Baez.
Vargas showed some ring rust, although overall, he improved as the fight progressed enough to win a 10-round unanimous decision.
“We knew what we were in for,” Vargas said. “We were prepared for a strong fighter. And we planned to outbox him. We had a lot of good exchanges and there were moments when I stood in front of him and landed my punches.
“I’m more of a technical fighter and not a brawler. The plan was to fight and to box and punch without getting punched. I had to stand there and throw big punches. But that’s part of the game.”
The rangy 5-foot-10½ Vargas started patiently. Baez seemed to be very obliging. In the second, Baez chased Vargas back to the ropes, but did little to follow up. The pace picked up considerably in the third. Vargas was able to put together combinations, though had timing issues finishing them.
“I just should have been more aggressive and thrown more punches, to be honest with you. Vargas is a great champion and proved his worth,” Baez said. “I feel like we came here well prepared, in good physical shape. Now I need even more experience, because I’m craving a rematch with a great champion like Vargas on a big stage such as this one.”
In the fourth, the pieces of the vintage Vargas (35-0, 22 KOs) began to surface. He began going to the body and his punches had more accuracy.
Vargas kept Baez (21-5, 12 KOs) at a comfortable distance through the middle rounds. When Baez attempted to reach, Vargas snapped clean punches off his head and chin. By the seventh, Baez’s right was swelling shut. Vargas seemed to be getting stronger and more accurate with each passing round.
With less than two minutes left in the seventh, the two fighters stood there and exchanged right hands.
The last few rounds, Vargas kept the shorter, fatigued Baez at a safe, comfortable distance to ride out the unanimous decision.
“I was surprised he went the entire distance,” Vargas said. “He’s a good fighter and I don’t take anything away from him. I’m looking forward to my next fight being for a world title.”
Elvis Rodriguez gets back on the winning track
Elvis Rodriguez needed this. The 25-year-old southpaw super lightweight from the Dominican Republic was rebounding from the only loss of his career. After a slow start, Rodriguez knocked out previously undefeated Juan Pablo Romero at 2:59 of the fifth round of a scheduled 10-rounder.
At the outset, Romero played the role of stalker. Things began picking up in the second, when Romero pressed Rodriguez (12-1-1, 11 KOs) in a corner. Romero pushed Rodriguez back with a right to the body, then came up with a right to the head.
“I am fully aware that I started out slow in the first two rounds, but then I saw signs of wear and tear on his face and I gained the upper hand,” Rodriguez said. “Romero is a fast starter by nature, but I’m the other way around. Then I was able to straighten out.”
In the fourth, Romero (14-1, 9 KOs) opened the round with a brisk combination to the head. But with around 1:50 left in the round, maybe urged on by the feeling he was down, Rodriguez opened up. With around 1:50 left in the fourth, Rodriguez nailed Romero with a straight left, followed by a left uppercut, and a right, which sent Romero down.
“I've got to give my opponent credit, it’s never just about you.” Romero said. “I decided to not put my health on the line anymore in order to come back and fight again in the future. Tonight, just wasn’t my night.
“Rodriguez landed some good punches, and it’s not worth it to risk your life for a fight. Right now, we are focused on getting healthy in order to come back with twice the effort and discipline.”
In the fifth, an overhand left ended it. Rodriguez splashed the left off Romero’s face, sending him down a second time. Romero sat there dazed as referee Robert Hoyle reached a count of 10.
“The division already knows who I am after having seen most of my fights,” Rodriguez said. “I suffered a little setback, but I think that everyone knows that Elvis Rodríguez brings powerful, quality punches in each fight.”
On the undercard, 25-year-old Mexican super featherweight Jose Antonio Meza (8-6, 2 KOs) pulled off a major upset with an eight-round unanimous decision over previously undefeated Jose Gomez (12-1, 5 KOs). Also on the undercard, super lightweight Rances Barthelemy (29-1-1, 15 KOs) stopped Argentinean Gustavo Vittori (25-10-1, 12 KOs) at 1:54 of the second in a scheduled eight-rounder. It was Barthelemy’s first victory within the distance since 2018. Flyweight Joselito Velazquez (14-0-1, 9 KOs) remained undefeated with a unanimous eight-round decision over Gilberto Mendoza (19-11-3, 10 KOs). In a scheduled six-round super flyweight surprise, Fernando Diaz (10-1-1, 2 KOs) handed Jan Salvatierra (7-1, 3 KOs) his first loss with a fifth-round knockout.
For a closer look at Canelo vs Plant, check out our fight night page.