LAS VEGAS -- Mexican star and WBC junior middleweight titleholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez scored knockdowns off left hands to the body in the second and third rounds and battered his man to the canvas yet again late in the fourth of an eventual fifth-round knockout over Josesito Lopez before a sold out crowd of 14,275 in the Showtime-televised main event at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night.
Lopez (30-5, 18 knockouts) battled gamely against the 22-year-old Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs), attempting to give as much as he had received.
But when Alvarez cornered the profusely bleeding Lopez midway through the fifth, referee Joe Cortez, officiating his final career bout, stepped in to end it at 2:55 of the round.
“I’m really happy about this win, and I felt very good. Josesito has a big heart and is very brave. But I came in and did what I had to do and I handled my business. I don’t normally go for the knockout, but this was perfect tonight,” said Alvarez.
“I’m still learning, and I need to put my shots together better, but I feel that I’m improving with every fight. I had a big responsibility tonight to all of my fans and to everyone watching around the world, and I feel like I made them happy. I want the big fights now — [Miguel] Cotto, Floyd [Mayweather,] I’ll fight them all.”
Alvarez made the fifth defense of his crown, and was coming off a unanimous decision over ex-titleholder Sugar Shane Mosley, whom he vanquished by unanimous decision in May. Although he failed in that fight to earn a fourth consecutive knockout, Alvarez ended Mosley’s winning streak of 21 consecutive bouts against fighters of Mexican decent.
Lopez, meanwhile, had captured the hearts of many with a career-defining, ninth-round upset stoppage over former welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz at The Staples Center in Los Angeles in June, breaking Ortiz’s jaw in the process.
It had been Ortiz who was in line to face Alvarez, but Lopez took his place with the win.
Lopez, 28, made his junior middleweight debut against Alvarez, having fought at a career-high 144 and three-quarters pounds against Ortiz in a match up that represented only his eighth time weighing more than 140 pounds.
“He’s much stronger and smarter and a way better fighter than Victor. He’s got a lot of skill and he’s very smart. He’s the total package. Canelo is bad-a–. I knew that he was a tough fighter, and he proved it. He was the better fighter,” said Lopez.
“I felt good going in, but the size disadvantage was pretty big. That made a big difference. He’s a smart fighter. I was hoping to land good punches, but he was smarter, stronger and patient. I was looking to land a punch to change the momentum.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com