It was swift, brutal and merciless. As most observers expected, unified super-middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez had far too much in his locker for outgunned and overmatched WBC mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim, halting the Turkish contender in three rounds at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Saturday night.
After a cautious opening round, the masterful Canelo (55-1-2, 37 KOs) belaboured Yildirim to the body and rocked the challenger with a right uppercut in the second as he steadily cranked up the pressure.
The Mexican dropped Yildirim with a hard right hand in the third round and the challenger staggered up for more punishment. Cool and measured, Canelo dissected his inferior foe with his full repertoire of punches for the remainder of a one-sided third before the beleaguered Yildirim (21-3, 12 KOs) was wisely retired on his stool by trainer Joel Diaz.
After taking care of mandatory business, WBA ‘Super’ and WBC 168lbs champion Canelo will now turn his attentions to WBO title holder Billy Joe Saunders who he meets next in a unification bout on May 8.
“It’s great to be active,” Alvarez told DAZN’s Chris Mannix afterwards. “It’s wonderful to be here in Miami. And I wanted to have a great fight here. I needed to knock out [Yildirim] and that’s what I did. I did what I had to do.”
It was as simple as that for boxing’s pound-for-pound number one. The crafty Saunders should pose far more of a conundrum.
In significant undercard action, Puerto Rican McWilliams Arroyo rebounded from the disappointment of WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez withdrawing from their title fight on Thursday to batter late replacement Abraham Rodriguez in five rounds and win the consolation prize of the WBC ‘Interim’ belt.
Mexican Rodriguez was never at the races as Arroyo (21-4, 16 KOs) took out his frustrations with a dominant display. Rodriguez (27-3, 13 KOs) was dropped in the fourth by a steady stream of body shots and the towel was thrown in during the following round as Arroyo continued to administer a one-sided beating.
After two previous postponements, Arroyo will fight Martinez next for the full WBC championship at 112lbs, once the hard-hitting Mexican champion has recovered from a hand injury.
Meanwhile, the ‘Big Bang’ fizzled out after a dynamite opening as Chinese heavyweight hope Zhang Zhilei scored knockdowns in each of the opening three rounds but squandered a high-profile undercard opportunity by eventually settling for a draw against a resurgent Jerry Forrest.
Scores were 93-93 (twice), overruling a 95-93 nod for capable American Forrest, who would be a solid test for most heavyweight fringe contenders.
The 37-year-old Zhang (22-0-1, 17 KOs) simply ran out of gas after unleashing an early onslaught. From the fifth round, he had punched himself out as the dogged Forrest took full advantage of the lapse.
Crucially, Zhang was deducted a point for holding in the ninth, which cost him the fight on the cards. Virginia southpaw Forrest (26-4-1, 20 KOs) even had the temerity to have the fading Zhang hurt by a right hook and clinging on for survival in the final round.
Main image and all photos: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA.