Elwin Soto has defended his WBO junior flyweight title for the third time with a ninth-round TKO of Katsunari Takayama. A bit of a strange, premature stoppage by referee Laurence Cole: not only was Takayama not hurt, but he seemed to moving forward and throwing punches when Cole intervened. Nevertheless, it’s in the books and the final countdown to the main event is on.
Matchroom Boxing says it is expecting about 70,000 spectators for tonight’s show at AT&T Stadium, the 100,000-seat home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. Sales were already up to 65,000 by Thursday, according to the promoter, with a healthy walk-up crowd expected.
That would be the largest ever indoor audience for a fight on US soil, eclipsing the record of 63,352 that attended the 1978 rematch between Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks at the New Orleans Superdome. The overall American attendance record was set at the first Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney fight in 1926, which drew a crowd of 120,557 at the old Sesquicentennial Stadium in Philadelphia.
Both Álvarez (167.4lbs) and Saunders (167.8lbs) came in under the division limit at Friday’s weigh-in outside AT&T Stadium. It was a mostly uneventful affair with not much in the way of theatrics during the traditional staredown that followed.
“I’ve been in big fights before, I have the experience to deal with it,” Álvarez said afterward in Spanish through an interpreter. “He’s a difficult fighter and a southpaw, but at this level you have to adjust to anything and everything. I’m ready for anything. I expect a hard fight, especially in the beginning rounds.”
Said Saunders, who’s been brimming with confidence throughout the run-up: “I have the belief, I have the spirit … I have the winning mentality. I don’t come here to lay down, I come here to win. I don’t think Álvarez has faced a man with as much heart and determination to win as me. It’s gonna be a good fight. He’s a great champion, but to be honest with you, I’ve come here to take all of these titles and take them by storm.”
He added: “I haven’t lost since 2008. I’m 30-0 and unbeaten. So therefore, he has to do something differently to beat me, not the other way around. … The key to this fight, obviously everyone’s got to be on their A-game and bring their best to the table. As long as I bring my fighting spirit and my brain, I’ve got it.”
Good evening and welcome to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for tonight’s super middleweight title unification fight between Canelo Álvarez and Billy Joe Saunders. Álvarez, boxing’s biggest star and pound-for-pound No 1, is looking to add Saunders’ WBO title at 168lbs to his own WBA and WBC straps – and the 30-year-old from Guadalajara is a hot favorite to do just that as he returns to the ring for the third time in five months.
Souleymane Cissokho has just won a split decision over Kieron Conway in their 10-round junior middleweight bout, meaning we have one undercard fight to go before the main event: as Elwin Soto defends his WBO junior flyweight strap against Katsunari Takayama in a scheduled 12-rounder. That one should be under way any moment now with Álvarez and Saunders due to make their ringwalks shortly after.
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