Saunders retired on his stool at the end of the eighth round after a devastating uppercut left his right eye swollen and shut, having produced a valiant performance against the Mexican superstar.
Saunders, a previously unbeaten two-time world champion, was down on all three scorecards when the fight ended but had impressed and caused Alvarez problems in spurts.
“He couldn’t see. I spoke to [Saunders’ trainer] Mark Tibbs, he said he couldn’t see and he wouldn’t let him go out,” promoter Eddie Hearn said afterwards. “He busted his eye socket.”
Speaking to IFL TV, Tibbs said: “It’s never easy in a moment like that. But his leading eye was damaged and I’ve got too much love for the man to ask him to go back out there. It’s difficult. He couldn’t see.”
The injury came just as Saunders had started to build momentum in the middle rounds, but Alvarez’s advantage in power had been immediately evident.
The Mexican had admitted before the fight that Saunders’ style would likely cause him problems in the early stages but duly delivered on his promise of a late knockout and will now attempt to become the undisputed champion of the 168lbs division when he faces Caleb Plant in September.
“As I said beforehand, the fight was going to develop by the seventh or eighth round. That’s what happened. But it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. That’s where I take note that my preparation is good, and I improve day-by-day,” Canelo said.
“The fight I was winning round-by-round. I told you, my fight would develop after six or seven rounds. But I started getting adjusted quickly. “I knew that this [the eighth] was going to be the final round. But I knew it. I think I broke his cheek, and I knew he wasn’t going to come out. That was it.”