Turn the pages of your calendar to a year from now and circle this date: Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.
That is Mexican Independence Day. It is a weekend that has traditionally hosted some of boxing’s biggest pay-per-views each year. Next year, it may be the day when we get one of boxing’s biggest events — and, perhaps more important, one of boxing’s biggest fights.
That may be the day when Canelo Alvarez finally faces Gennady Golovkin.
That appears to be where Alvarez is headed, so long as a deal can be made. And that was once again the primary topic of conversation both before and after Alvarez headlined on this year’s Mexican Independence Day Weekend, putting Liam Smith down three times and winning with a ninth-round knockout.
Alvarez won Smith’s world title at junior middleweight, but don’t expect Canelo to stick around 154 for much longer, if at all, to defend it.
“We’ve always said all along that if I ever leave the 154-pound division, I’m going to leave as champion,” Alvarez said afterward. “We’re going to decide. Right now, the way I feel, this was probably my last fight at 154.”
Liam Smith was an aggressive opponent, someone Canelo and his team knew would make for a good fight at AT&T Stadium, the massive football arena that is home to the Dallas Cowboys and on Saturday hosted an announced attendance of 51,240 people.
Smith stood in front of Alvarez, working behind a high guard that didn’t wholly protect him from the vicious hooks Canelo threw to his body, the uppercuts that went between his gloves, and the shots that came around the sides. Smith tried to assert himself and landed on occasion, but he couldn’t dent Alvarez’s sturdy chin.
“It took me a while to get into it and my timing was awful. I couldn’t really land any punches. I was smaller and had no time to make him even think twice,” Smith said afterward. “He’s very accurate with his shots. He’s got good speed and good timing.”
All of which worked to Alvarez’s benefit when he put together combinations. With about a minute to go in the seventh, Canelo threw a right cross upstairs, followed with a left to the body and finished with another right that looped around and caught Smith on the ear, disturbing his equilibrium and dropping him.
In the final minute of the eighth, Canelo threw a right uppercut that kept Smith’s attention ahead of him, then laced a left hook around the side. Smith had a delayed reaction as the pain set in before going down to grab a breather.
A fighter who was hurt to the body once can be hurt there again.
Again, a knockdown came in the final minute of a round. And again, it came following a punch meant to serve as a distraction. With about 42 seconds left in the ninth, Alvarez sent a left hook to the head and quickly stepped to the side to follow with a much harder left hook to the body. Smith crumpled to the canvas, writhing in agony.
“We worked hard on going to the body for this fight,” Alvarez said. “When I hit him down there, I knew I hurt him.”
Smith suffered his first pro loss and is now 23-1-1 with 13 knockouts. Alvarez is now 48-1-1 with 34 KOs.
Canelo’s next fight was originally expected to take place before the end of the year. That plan will depend on how badly Alvarez hurt a knuckle on his right hand in the second round against Smith. He didn’t believe it was broken but wanted to get it examined by a doctor first.
Canelo’s promoter wants him to fight in December, then headline his usual May pay-per-view, then do another September extravaganza.
Golden Boy Promotions said it has put out an offer to Golovkin for that September 2017 fight. The two sides still need to negotiate before reaching a deal.
It is a fight that fans have been asking for. It is a fight that Golovkin has been asking for. And it is a fight that Alvarez, for all the criticism he has received about not fighting Golovkin in 2016, says he still wants.
“I’ll fight the best, all the best champions at 160,” he said.
On the pay-per-view undercard:
– Willie Monroe controlled distance and boxed wisely enough to frustrate a hesitant and ineffective Gabriel Rosado. Monroe won a unanimous decision and could be in line for Canelo’s next fight, though that is not at all guaranteed. Monroe is now 21-2 with 6 KOs. Rosado is now 23-10 with 13 KOs. He tweeted afterward that he wants to take some time off.
Gonna take a long break. I been in this for a long time!! I gave everything I had to the sport… Thank you all for the love! — Gabriel Rosado (@KingGabRosado) September 18, 2016
– Featherweight contender Joseph Diaz Jr. bloodied and beat Andrew Cancio, scoring a stoppage in the ninth round after the referee decided enough was enough. Diaz is now 22-0 with 13 KOs. His team believes he is getting closer to a title shot. Cancio is now 17-4-2 with 13 KOs.
– Junior featherweight prospect Diego De La Hoya passed a good test in winning a unanimous decision over Luis Orlando Del Valle, taking a wide victory on the scorecards. De La Hoya is now 16-0 with 9 KOs. Del Valle, whose only losses before Saturday had been to Vic Darchinyan and Luis Rosa, is now 22-3 with 16 KOs.
A photo posted by Diego De La Hoya (@diegodelahoya94) on