Alvarez stops Yildirim to retain super-middleweight belts

February 28, 2021 GMT

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Saul “Canelo” Alvarez outclassed Avni Yildirim and retained his world super-middleweight titles with a technical knockout after Yildirim failed to answer the bell for the fourth round Saturday night.

Alvarez, of Mexico, dropped the Turkish challenger with a left right combination to the head midway through the third round. Alvarez followed with additional combinations, pinning Yildirim on the ropes. Yildirim survived the round but absorbed sufficient punishment that forced his trainer Joel Diaz to stop the fight.

With the victory, Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) successfully defended his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association belts.

“I came and did what I had to do,” Alvarez said. “I had to win by knockout and I accomplished it.”

The fight headlined the first boxing event at 34-year-old Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins.

In a methodical first round, Alvarez set the pace early with lead left jabs to the head and and lefts and right to the body.

Alvarez landed uppercuts and continued to score with combinations to the body in the second. Yildirim (21-3) rarely threw punches and the few he did, Alvarez blocked or slipped his shots. Alvarez stayed within punching range and increased his output but also was effective from distance and connected with a flush counter right to the head.

“It doesn’t matter if he is stronger or taller,” Alvarez said about Yildirim, who began his career at light-heavyweight before moving down to the 168-pound class. “It doesn’t matter if he has a good trainer. I came to do my job.”

Saturday’s bout was the first of what Alvarez hopes will be a busy year seeking unification fights. Alvarez said there have been preliminary conversations for a bout with Billy Joe Saunders, the World Boxing Organization titleholder, in May. Caleb Plant holds the fourth sanctioning body belt.

“Everybody wants a piece of Canelo but I am not going to let them take anything,” Alvarez said.

As he continues to solidify his spot among the sport’s pound-for-pound elite,, Alvarez also is gaining additional ground for inclusion on the short list of best fighters in boxing rich Mexico’s history.

“I respect history but I also want to make my history,” Alvarez said. “Those that came before me will always have my respect.”

Inactive since February 2019, YIildirim landed the match against Alvarez after the WBC designated him mandatory challenger. In the lead-up to the fight, Yildirim said having previously sparred with Alvarez would help him pull the upset.

Alvarez and Yildirim both weighed 167 pounds, a pound under the super-middleweight limit.

Earlier, Puerto Rico’s McWilliams Arroyo won a second-tier world flyweight title with a fifth-round technical knockout over late replacement Abraham Rodriguez. Arroyo originally was scheduled to challenge WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez but Martinez withdrew from the bout Thursday because of a hand injury.