THERE is a lesson we learned. Fighting Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is a painful experience. Only the elite of the sport thrive against him. Rocky Fielding is a solid fighter, a big super-middleweight with weight in his punches. But even though Canelo was moving beyond his natural division, he was too good, too fast and without mercy.
He gave Fielding no room to move or breathe. He forced his game on Fielding and he did it all with furious speed.
Rocky began to jab, trying to push out his left lead and push Alvarez away. But very quickly Canelo was on him.
Every time they had gone head to head, right up until the referee’s final instructions before the first bell, the Englishman had towered over Alvarez. Fielding did look gigantic. But it made no difference. Canelo tore through the gap between them, absorbing the space, all the oxygen of the ring and snatched the wind from Rocky’s body. A thumping left hook slammed into Fielding’s side and forced the Liverpudlian to take a knee in the first round.
It was a disastrous start. Fielding needed to begin with confidence, he needed to impose himself on Alvarez, let his size serve a warning and try to inflict at least of sliver of doubt in the Mexican’s mind, that he was an unwelcome guest in the super-middleweight division. Instead it was Canelo who dictated all the terms from the very beginning.
On a knee early on, at this point Fielding could have unravelled. But he didn’t bounce straight back to his feet. He caught his breath, he watched referee Ricky Gonzalez’s count and rose to see out the remainder of the first round. As he settled down on his stool in the first break of the contest his trainer Jamie Moore ordered him to breathe.
Fielding couldn’t afford to lose his composure. He needed to time, time to acclimatise to the rarefied air of elite competition. But Alvarez wasn’t about to give him that. He burned through his defences in the second round too.
Canelo let a right hook loose into Rocky’s body. Fielding was fighting just to ward Alvarez off. The Briton threw his shots quickly. They cuffed into the Mexican without the shape or form of the punches Canelo unleashed. Again a nasty left hook streaked round the outside of Rocky’s elbow, knocking against his ribs. In answer the Briton curved a left hook into Alvarez’s head. But up close, Canelo’s right uppercut was a shot of near beauty. It jolted Rocky’s head back with savage authority.
Fielding needed to drive him back, get him off the inside, where Canelo’s work was so brutally efficient. But comfortable in the pocket, Alvarez had locked on to the target. Yet again his left hook to the body set the Briton down on a knee.
Rocky was brave. He stood up. He fought on into the third round. He began the session with a combination, his right uppercut-left hook tagging Saul. The Mexican tapped his jab high, touching Rocky’s guard, triggering another Canelo right hook to crash into the body. Battling against the pressure, Fielding let his hands go, throwing a straight one-two. He cranked out his jab, stretching his left arm forward, before stepping in, reaching out in an effort to hold Canelo in a clinch.
Fielding hooked in his right, then the left. He continued chucking punches at his tormentor. But Canelo snuffed out the rally. As Rocky backed towards the ropes, Alvarez’s right hook swept through high. It clipped Rocky’s head, the sheer weight of the punch driving Fielding off his feet, back down to the canvas.
Fielding was confounded. His mouth hung open, as if he could cry out in frustration. He was looking for answers. But none were forthcoming.
There is a truth to boxing, that the good big guy will beat the good little guy. Fielding was big but not good enough, at least not for this opponent. There is another lesson too, one that is often repeated but only learned in the doing. That there are levels to this sport. Canelo, even with a deficit in height and reach, was too good for him.
Reality struck. There are no Christmas miracles and Rocky triumphs are for the movies. Alvarez ended the lesson the same punch he started it with. His left flicked out an uppercut only to set up a hook to the body off the same fist. It thundered in and Fielding was down again, for the fourth time in three rounds. That was enough. Referee Gonzalez ended it at 2-38.
Unrequired judges were Eric Marlinski, John McKaie and Kevin Morgan.
“I knew where I was, I knew everything,” Rocky said ruefully. “I tried to fight back but I got caught. I dared to be great. I lived the dream. I’ll come again. I’ll come back.”
“That next level power, he’s got it. The timing, the speed. He puts his shots together well. I think he can mix it with any super-middleweight,” Fielding continued. “I stood there too long. I thought I could try and mix it with him. I shouldn’t have. You’ve seen the height of me compared to him. I should have kept it long. I stood there with someone who’s elite and who’s strong. I gave it everything.”
Canelo was ruthless, as great fighters have to be. “He committed the error by beginning to exchange with me,” the Mexican said with a hint of that cold ferocity. “That’s what we worked on, to work hard to the body and thank God everything went well.”
Alvarez has come through his close controversial fights with Gennady Golovkin to reign as the king of this sport. His year began with him facing a brief suspension once traces of clenbuterol from tainted beef were detected in his system. It’s ended with his first fight in New York selling out Madison Square Garden, to kick off a vast broadcast deal with DAZN that is making him the most highly paid active boxer in the world today. Winning Rocky’s WBA secondaty super-middleweight title means Alvarez will also consider himself a three-weight world champion.
“I’m just happy to be marking history,” Canelo said with a smile.
If Canelo Alvarez is one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the sport today, surely Katie Taylor the best female boxer in the world right now. The five-time amateur World gold medallist and Olympic champion, in only her 12th pro fight, dominated Eva Wahlstrom over the course of 10 two-minute rounds to defend her unified IBF and WBA lightweight titles.
Wahlstrom might have landed the first jab but that was about as good as it got for her. Taylor’s fast hands landed at range. The champion stepped back but smartly lunged back in to land a hard left. When the Finn tried to step in close, Taylor knocked her back. The Irishwoman outboxed Wahlstom from the outside, but even when she held her ground her combination punching was far too quick.
The Finn soon ran out of ideas, trying to rough up Taylor in the closing stages of the bout but picking up two cuts for her trouble. The champion won a shut out, 100-90 for judges Bernard Bruni, Larry Hazzard and Dave Sutherland. Danny Schiavone refereed.
Tevin Farmer defended his IBF super-featherweight world title from the determined challenge of Costa Rica’s Francisco Fonseca. In the opening stages Farmer, a southpaw, picked out openings for his left cross. He attacked the body and used his arms to block Fonseca’s blows. He picked moments to drive forward, trying to grind down the challenger. But Fonseca was never discouraged. He dug in and, holding the centre of the ring, slung right hands down on the champion. It was never an easy fight for Farmer but he still took the decision unanimously, winning 117-111 for Waleska Roldan, Julie Lederman and Don Trella. Referee was Johnny Callas. Farmer will make his next defence in March in his hometown of Philadelphia, most likely against Jono Carroll.
Sadam Ali laboured to a points win over Riverside veteran Mauricio Herrera. Local man Ali had beaten the legendary Miguel Cotto at this same venue a year ago and in this contest he was returning to welterweight after losing the WBO 154lbs title to Jaime Munguia. Herrera clattered into Ali, worrying him with jabs. Sadam fired off his right cross but found it hard to catch Herrera cleanly. Even when going for him in the 10th and last round with wild, wide-armed hooks Ali managed not only to miss but spin himself off balance. The New Yorker took a unanimous decision, 100-90 for Bernard Bruni, 99-91 for Larry Hazzard and 98-92 for David Sutherland. Michael Griffin refereed.
Los Angeles’ Ryan Garcia whipped the crowd into a frenzy of excitement as he marched through foul blows to hammer the Dominican Republic’s Braulio Rodriguez. A left hook in the first round sent Rodriguez tottering backwards to tumble to the deck. In the fifth round a right smacked him into the ropes before another left hook dropped him heavily through them. Rodriguez struggled to crawl out from beneath the bottom strand and referee Ron Lipton stopped him at 1-14.
Washington’s Lamont Roach took a unanimous decision victory over Puerto Rico’s Alberto Mercado. Growing in confidence throughout the 10 rounds Roach began to let bigger shots go as he took the centre of the ring. Robin Taylor scored 99-91, Tony Paolillo 98-92 and Alan Rubenstein 97-93. Mike Ortega was the referee.
Canada’s Yves Ulysse Jnr nimbly outpointed Maximiliano Becerra, moving across the ring but thumping in arrow-straight crosses. He put the Californian down twice in eight rounds winning 79-71 for Allen Nace and 78-72 for both Tony Paolillo and Robert Perez. Steve Willis refereed.
Bilal Akkawy opened the show but had his hands full with Tijuana’s Victor Fonseca. The Australian had to suffer for his win, but in the seventh round managed to pummel Fonseca into the ropes. By 2-53 referee Willis had seen enough.
Former IBF middleweight world champion David Lemieux was due to box on the card but was unable to make weight safely and even had to be taken to hospital on the Friday. Vergil Oriz also couldn’t box, due to having Lasik eye surgery which is not permitted by the New York commission.