Saul “Canelo” Alvarez might be more of a household name than any other active fighter in boxing right now, but last night he Canelo performed at the historic Madison Square Garden for the first time in his career. Canelo also headlined his first card for DAZN, the new streaming service that signed him to an historic $365 million dollar deal, and fans packed the Garden to capacity to watch him take on unheralded Rocky Fielding in a fight that carried little significance on paper. Yours truly was on site for all the action, so here’s my full report on the event.
In the first fight of the night, Bilal Akkawy overmatched Victor Fonseca, punishing him throughout the contest before referee Steve Willis mercifully stopped the contest at 2:53 of the 7th round. Akkawy, who fights out of Australia, improves to 19-0-1 with the victory.
Montreal’s Yves Ulysse Jr. (17-1) cruised to an eight round unanimous decision over a game Maximiliano Becerra (16-3-2). Ulysse scored two knockdowns in the 6th and 7th rounds with straight right hands, each prompting Becerra to take a delayed reaction knee to avoid Ulysse’s follow-up attack. Scores were 79-71, 78-72 (twice). Ulysse expressed plenty of gratitude after the win, calling it a “dream coming true to fight at the Madison Square Garden.” This marks just the second time Ulysse showcased his skills in the US and the first at such a mainstream venue as the Garden. His performance was just further proof that Ulysse is a threat to anyone in the super lightweight division.
Lamont Roach Jr. of Capitol Heights, Maryland scored an impressive 10-round unanimous decision victory over Puerto Rican southpaw, Alberto Mercado. Roach found a way inside Mercado’s long reach consistently, scoring effectively with lead right hands and left hooks in close quarters. Roach had Mercado wobbly in the 7th with a left hook, but couldn’t find a way to close the show. Nevertheless, the WBO number 5 ranked junior-featherweight Roach remained in control in the late rounds and improves to 18-0-1, with 7 KOs. Scores were 99-91, 98-92, and 97-93. After the fight, Roach called out WBO 130-lb champion Masayuki Ito, who recently won the vacant title from Christopher Diaz in an upset earlier this year.
Rising star Katie Taylor dominated WBC junior lightweight champ Eva Wahstrom via unanimous shutout victory, improving her record to 12-0 and retaining the unified lightweight title in the process. Taylor controlled Wahlstrom from range in the early going, making use of her straight punches and shifty lateral movement to take an early lead before out-hustling her Finnish opponent in close and opening up Wahlstrom’s face in the last three rounds. Taylor closed the show by throwing some eye-catching Sugar Ray Leonard-esque flurries, punishing Wahlstrom as she was attempting to clinch and get a breather. In the post-fight interview, Taylor expressed interest in facing super-lightweight champion Amanda Serrano.
After two less than impressive decision victories, Ryan “Kingry” Garcia rekindled his knockout streak with a fifth round knockout over unorthodox but outclassed Braulio Rodriguez. Garcia, fighting with Canelo Alvarez’s lead trainer Eddy Reynoso for the first time in his career, got off to a quick start, knocking Rodriguez to the deck with a left hook late in the first. Rodriguez weathered the storm, and proceeded to oddly showboat and attack wildly in the next two rounds, having a point deducted in the third for low blows. But class eventually told as Garcia leveled Rodriguez with a right hand in round five, knocking his Dominican opponent out of the ring and out of the fight.
Former WBO 154-lb champion Sadam Ali scored a unanimous decision over journeyman Mauricio Herrera after ten somewhat underwhelming rounds of action. Ali boxed well against the methodical, flat-footed veteran in his first fight since his crushing KO defeat to Jaime Munguia in May. This also marks Ali’s inevitable return to welterweight after he may have bit off more than he could chew at junior-middleweight, but the fight itself provided little insight as to how Ali would fare against the upper echelon of the 147 pound division.
IBF super featherweight champion Tevin Farmer retained his title against Francisco Fonseca with a clear-cut unanimous decision victory. Farmer put on his typical boxing display: slippery defense, angling off center, and scoring and tying up in close. Fonseca fought gamely and never lost his competitive spirit, just as was the case against Gervonta “Tank” Davis prior to his KO defeat in their bout last year, but was clearly outclassed and outgunned. All three judges had the fight scored 117-111 for Farmer, who was surprisingly dismissive of the prospect of facing “Tank” in a unification.
“Is that the fight I want? We’ve moved past him. Does he want to fight me? Like I said, we active, we getting paid. It’s time for him to fight and stay active and then he can come see me.” Farmer has a point; having defended his title twice in less than two months and by expressing interest in making a hometown defense in Philly in March, Farmer has shown he can certainly keep himself busy, while Davis has only fought once in the last 16 months. Without Davis, Farmer can look forward to the likes of WBC champion Miguel Berchelt, WBA (regular) champion Alberto Machado, and WBO champion Masayuki Ito in a packed junior-lightweight division.
In the main event, Canelo Alvarez was every bit as dominant as boxing fans figured he’d be against the WBA (regular) super-middleweight champion, Rocky Fielding. Each round was more or less a carbon copy of the previous, Canelo making his way inside the reach of the rangy Fielding with ease and dropping him with a left hook to the liver. The pattern was finally broken in the third when Alvarez scored the first knockdown with a straight right, before ultimately ending matters with another liver shot.
Why Golden Boy and Canelo found it necessary to make a temporary detour at 168 while his options appear primed at 160 was unclear, but IBF middleweight champion Danny Jacobs’s presence ringside may suggest that negotiations for a possible Cinco de Mayo unification are possible. When asked about whether cutting back down to 160 would be an issue, Canelo did not appear concerned with making it back down to middleweight to defend his titles, and has previously hop-scotched weight divisions when he fought Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at a 164.5 lb catchweight prior to fighting Gennady Golovkin at 160.
— Alden Chodash