Target practice: Canelo Alvarez stops Avni Yildirim in three rounds
SAN DIEGO, Calif., February 26, 2021 – Saul “Canelo” Alvarez of Mexico (55-1-2, 37 KOs) put on a target practice demonstration, blasting mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim of Turkey (21-3, 12, KOs) for three rounds with little resistance, forcing Yildirim’s trainer Joel Diaz to call a halt to the bout in the corner. The ring walks and national anthems ran longer than the bout.
“It’s great to be active. It’s wonderful to be here in Miami,” said Alvarez. “I wanted to have a great fight here. I needed a knockout, and that’s what I did. As I’ve always said, it doesn’t matter if they’re taller, if they have more reach, or a good trainer, or not a good trainer. It’ doesn’t matter. I came here to make history, I came here to win,” declared Alvarez after the win, to the cheers of the 15,000 fans at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
Body work sets up the win
Alvarez began the fight dedicated to body work, from left and right. Yildirim didn’t have much to offer in return. Alvarez easily evaded tentative left jabs. The body work set up an opening right uppercut in the second round on Yidirim. The left uppercut landed a minute later, and the floodgate opened. Yidirim was like a deer in the headlights. When he did try to land a right hand, he missed. Alvarez pounced. He fired a straight left, followed by a hard right.
“Jab to the body, feint him! No respect to this guy? Did he hurt you already?” asked trainer Joel Diaz of Yildirm after two, who said no. But if Alvarez was engaged in target practice, Yildirm hardly managed to get his gun out of the holster – and he’d forgotten to load it.
In the third round, Alvarez’s hands were like heat seeking missiles fired at will. A minute in, Yidirim was down. Yidirim got up to a nonstop barrage. Yidirim was hurting to the body, but he couldn’t protect himself without being open to hard hooks. Yildirim gathered himself as best he could. Alvarez took his time, and Yildirim survived the third round.
“I’m going to give you one more round, you’ve got to show me something or I’m going to stop the fight. I’m here to take care of you,” said Diaz in the corner to Yildirim.
But Diaz didn’t like what he saw or heard, and decided to save his fighter. He let the officials know his fighter’s evening was over. It was Alvarez’s quickest stoppage since his destruction of James Kirkland in 2015. Yildirim’s spirit was crushed even more than his body.
Alvarez says the super middleweight division is his sweet spot. “I feel strong, I feel fast, I feel comfortable. I think it’s one of my best moments.”
Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn promised a big announcement coming soon about a Cinco de Mayor bout with WBO Super Middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders. “Last year, we had to miss out on the big weekend, Cinco de Mayo. On May 8, Canelo Alvarez will continue to make history by unifying against Billy Joe Saunders. We’ll announce shortly, it will be one of the biggest fights of the year.”
Why Saunders? “He’s a difficult fighter, he has the WBO title,” said Alvarez. “We want to unify and we want to go for it. Everyone wants a piece of Canelo. People talk, but I’m a mature fighter. I know how to control myself. All I do is go into the ring, win, and make history.”
Unification at super middleweight for Mexican legacy
Alvarez explained the goal to unify the super middleweight division is his focus now.
“It’s because it hasn’t been done in Latin America. I want to make history, I want to be one of the best. At 168 it’s never been done.” Does he believe he can be the greatest Mexican fighter in history, surpassing Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.? “I respect all fighters. I don’t want to be equal or like anyone. I want to make my own history. And when they talk about boxing, they always remember Canelo.”
Anyone with remaining doubts about Alvarez’s status as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world has some explaining to do. He won’t be tested unless he faces a top light heavyweight, either a powerhouse like Artur Beterbiev or a nimble technician like Dmitry Bivol.
Yildirim’s countrymen in Turkey held parades for him before the fight celebrating his opportunity just to step in the ring with an opponent of the stature of Alvarez. It’s worth pointing out how an athlete’s goals are measured on an individual level, even on a big stage. Yildirim merely wanted to make boxing popular in Turkey. Anything more was a bonus. He was at least brave enough to test himself.
Arroyo stops late replacement Rodriguez in five
McWilliams Arroyo of Puerto Rico (21-4, 15 KOs) lost his opportunity to fight for the WBC flyweight title when Julio Cesar Martinez pulled out due to injury. But Matchroom Boxing found Arroyo another opponent in Abraham Rodriguez of Tijuana (27-3, 13 KOs), who took the fight on two day’s notice with a WBC World Flyweight interim title at stake.
Rodriguez agreed to fight at 112 pounds, up from his usual 105 pounds against Arroyo. Rodriguez gave a good effort, but Arroyo was too much for him. He scored a knockdown in the fourth round. Rodriguez came out for the fifth, but his corner threw in the towel after Arroyo walloped Rodriguez with a body shot to score a TKO win at 1:45 of the fifth round.
Heavyweight Zhang Zhilei of China (22-0-1, 17 KOs) scored three knockdowns in the first three rounds against Jerry Forrest of Virginia (26-4-1, 20 KOs).
But Forrest didn’t give up. After getting off the deck three times, Forrest kept on coming.
As the ten-round fight wore on, Zhilei began to gas out, and Forrest made the most of it. He also got an assist when Zhilei was docked a point for repeatedly leaning on the shorter forest with 270 plus pounds. By the closing bell, Forrest had fought his way back to a majority draw. It was a significant moral victory for Forrest and a disappointment to Zhilei, who hoped for a performance to launch himself into a title eliminator or more.
Super middleweight prospect Diego Pacheco of Los Angeles (10-0, 8 KOs) faced a determined Rodolfo Gomez Jr. of Laredo, Texas (14-5-1, 10 KOs) who wanted to earn more than just a paycheck. Gomez Jr. lasted the full eight rounds against 19-year-old Pacheco and made him work for the unanimous decision win, with three scorecards of 97-93.
Another young super middleweight remained undefeated.
Alexis Espino of Las Vegas (7-0, 5 KOs) stopped Ashton Sykes of Virginia (5-4, 1 KO) in the fifth round of their six-round bout.
Accomplished American amateur Keyshawn Davis of Norfolk, Virginia won his professional debut with a second-round TKO win over Lester Brown of the Bahamas (4-3-3, 1 KO) in his lightweight division debut.
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