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Canelo Alvarez turned things around on Saturday against the perfect opponent in Alfredo Angulo, stopping his Mexican compatriot in the 10th round of a brutally one-sided fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Facing pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr in their record-breaking fight in September, Alvarez was was taken to school in their light-middleweight unification fight. Alvarez could not land a thing that time.
But Mayweather is the best fighter on the planet with speed and one of the best defences in boxing history. Angulo, however, is the opposite - a tough brawler lacking in defence and speed.
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Alvarez took advantage, big time, dishing out a brutal beating to Angulo, as the fight was stopped by the referee with 47 seconds left in the 10th round before a raucous crowd of 14,610.
"Tonight I was the best fighter," Alvarez said. "I definitely rebounded from the Mayweather fight with a strong performance. I'm very happy. I came here and did my job."
It was an impressive performance from Alvarez and certainly set him up for more big business. At the time of the stoppage, Alvarez was ahead 89-82 on two scorecards and 88-83 on the third. ESPN.com had him winning by shutout, 90-91.
Alvarez came out extremely fast and hammered Angulo - also looking to rebound from a defeat - throughout the opening round. He immediately landed a clean left hook and then a right hand. He landed 37 of 62 punches to the head and body as the crowd quickly broke out into chants of "Canelo! Canelo! Canelo!"
Angulo looked so slow and Alvarez could not miss. Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 KOs) continued to thrash Angulo (22-4, 18 KOs) in the second round, splitting his guard with hard uppercuts and lashing him to the head with hooks.
Angulo could not get out of the way of anything and what he managed to throw, Alvarez was picking off with his gloves. He rocked Angulo with a left hook at the end of the round.
The abuse continued in the third round as Alvarez landed long right hands and left hooks, not to mention three-punch combinations and Angulo offered nothing in return.
By the fifth round, Angulo's left eye was swelling - the same eye that was damaged in his 10th-round knockout loss to Erislandy Lara in June. The bad swelling around his eye was why Angulo retired during the 10th round.
Angulo finally found some offence in the eighth round, luring Alvarez into a toe-to-toe battle. He landed his best punches of the fight to that point, but Alvarez answered everything as the crowd rose to its feet, finally getting the two-way action many expected, especially since Golden Boy had named the fight "Toe To Toe."
"I fought his way of fighting in his territory and I was happy fighting toe to toe with him," Alvarez said.
Alvarez snapped Angulo's head back with a clean left hook in the centre of the ring in the ninth round, after which referee Tony Weeks and the ringside doctor had an intense discussion near Angulo's corner.
Sure enough, as soon as Alvarez began to land against Angulo again in the 10th round, including landing a hard left uppercut, Weeks stepped in and waved off the fight at 47 seconds. The crowd heavily booed the stoppage.
"The referee stopped the fight. He's the law of the ring. I could have fought another 10 rounds, but referee stopped the fight," Alvarez said. "It's not my problem." Angulo was not happy with the stoppage.
"I told Tony he did the wrong job tonight," Angulo said. "The referee tells us to take care of ourselves at all times. I can take care of myself. My plan was to work harder in the final four or three rounds. I had good preparation for this fight."
Angulo's trainer, Virgil Hunter, said: "I'm very upset. I told the referee and the doctor that if Canelo put two or three shots together that I would stop the fight. He landed one punch. Everyone knows Alfredo was coming on strong, everyone knows that."
Alvarez came into the fight under a cloud of come controversy. Knowing he would be unable to make the 154-pound contract weight at Friday's weigh-in, he negotiated the limit up to 155 pounds. He made the weight, paid Angulo $100,000 and agreed to a Saturday weight check at 3 pm PT, at which he was not permitted to weight more than 168 pounds.
The weight check was closed but according to a Golden Boy Promotions official, Alvarez, who earned a minimum of $1.15 million, was 166 pounds. Angulo, who made $850,000 (including the additional $100,000) did not have to weigh in again.
By fight night, Alvarez weighed 174 pounds on Showtime's scale and Angulo was 170 - light-heavyweights. But Alvarez looked sharp, fast and powerful as he abused Angulo, even though the crowd was not happy with the stoppage and booed throughout Alvarez's post-fight in-ring interview.
The fight was the first of what is supposed to be three pay-per-view fights for Alvarez this year with the next one targeted for July 26 and another on November 22, although there are no set opponents. But based on Alvarez's drawing power, it might not matter who he faces . "That's the medicine the doctor ordered," Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer said. "I think it was a great performance. He threw great combinations, he fought a very smart fight and he dominated the fight. It was a beautiful display of talent."