Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez had one of the most comfortable nights in his entire 58-fight career on Saturday evening.
The current WBA (Super) and WBC super middleweight champion made light work of his mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim in Miami to set up a much-anticipated meeting with Britain's Billy Joe Saunders.
Brutal uppercuts were the order of the day for Canelo against Yildirim at the Hard Rock Stadium.
The Mexican barely missed his opponent throughout the night and, as early as the second round, it became clear that the Turkish challenger was likely to offer very little resistance to the Canelo onslaught.
Having dominated the first two rounds, Canelo then unleashed a stiff straight right in the third that knocked Yildirim to the canvas.
Although Yildirim did manage to regain his feet, it was obvious to most of the 12,000 fans in attendance that the writing was on the wall.
Yildirim did well to survive until the end of the round but looked all at sea as he stumbled back to his corner.
Yildirim's coach Joel Diaz was clearly concerned, indicating that he would allow his fighter one more round to show he could be more competitive before pulling him out of the fight.
However, when Yildirim did not respond positively to any of his questions in the corner, Diaz made the decision to end the fight immediately.
In truth, it was the right call. Canelo was in firm control of the bout and on his way to a stoppage victory in any case.
Once the official decision had been read, attention quickly turned to Canelo's next assignment.
Promoter Eddie Hearn was so confident that the 29-year-old would get the job done against Yildirim that he had a video package ready to play in the arena announcing that Canelo will face WBO super middleweight champion Saunders on May 8.
That fight will mark Canelo's third contest in just six months. Canelo, though, is in no mood to wait when it comes to unifying the 168-pound division and seemed happy to be remaining active.
"He’s a very difficult fighter. We need to go for him," said Canelo of the unbeaten Saunders after his win.
"People talk, but I’m a mature fighter. I know how to control myself."
A win over Saunders would leave Canelo with just IBF champion Caleb Plant to beat in order to hold every world championship at super middleweight.
Saunders has no intention of being a stepping stone for Canelo, however, and believes he can cause a big upset.
"Canelo, I’m ready to rock and roll," insisted Saunders after the announcement of their fight, per talkSPORT.
"You have to dare to be great and you aren’t going to be a great if you don’t beat the greats...I believe I am the only one with the footwork, knowhow, skillset, mindset and brain to unlock that door in Canelo.
"He’s the main man in the sport and the face of boxing. You have to give him respect, he hasn’t ducked anyone, he’s beaten good names, but nobody is unbeatable, and I believe I have got the tools to beat him."
Unbeaten in 30 fights, Saunders is a two-weight world champion. Despite his success, though, he lacks a career-defining win - something he would achieve by beating Canelo.
"I am looking at the golden ticket to cement my legacy, and that’s how you have to go in there to beat him. I’ve won everything from southern area to world titles.
"I could say ‘I’ve won it all, been to the Olympics, I’m unbeaten – I’ll see you later.’
"But I’ve only just turned 31, I’ve got no miles on the clock, haven’t taken any punishment – I believe he’s been in harder fights than me and has more miles, so I want to cement my legacy and beat him."
Saunders was due to square off with Canelo last May, before COVID-19 caused the fight to be postponed. Now, just over one year later, he will finally get his opportunity to prove he belongs alongside boxing's pound-for-pound best.News Now - Sport News