LAS VEGAS — Saul “Canelo” Alvarez dominated a grudge match against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Saturday night, winning a unanimous decision in a fight that left no doubt who is the top active Mexican boxer.
Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) used a punishing jab to take control early in the 12-round matchup of former middleweight champions. The bigger Chavez (50-3-1, 32 KOs) started bleeding from the nose in the third round. His left eye swelled in the sixth and started to close a round later.
Alvarez, a 4-1 favorite, was much quicker against the largest fighter he’s faced and won every round on all three judges’ cards.
After the beating, Alvarez immediately announced he will next face middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin in September in a long-awaited bout. Golovkin then quickly joined Alvarez in the ring.
The 31-year-old Chavez, son of iconic Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., was trying to revitalize a career derailed by positive drug tests, weight issues and lax training. But he proved no match in the bout fought at a catchweight of 164 1/2 pounds.
Chavez avoided a $1 million-per-pound penalty when he weighed in at 164 pounds Friday, a half-pound below the catchweight and the lightest he’s been since losing his middleweight title to Sergio Martinez in 2012.
The 26-year-old Alvarez also weighed in at 164, nine pounds heavier than he’s ever fought. Alvarez, whose lone loss was to Floyd Mayweather Jr., got against the ropes several times and absorbed combinations from Chavez before quickly recovering with uppercuts.
Despite the 4-inch height advantage and an obvious weight edge after he rehydrated, Chavez was overmatched in his first fight under iconic trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain.
A confident Canelo didn’t bother to sit in his order after the seventh round, in a fight that wasn’t nearly as competitive as hoped.
A week after Anthony Joshua stopped Wladimir Klitschko in the 11th round of a thrilling heavyweight bout in front of 90,000 fans at London’s Wembley Stadium, the sport staged another big fight. Only this time there was a distinct Latino flavor.
Mexican bands played outside T-Mobile Arena more than three years before the main undercard began. A majority of the 20,510 fans inside the sold-out building wore either red (Canelo) or green (Chavez) headbands as they celebrated the Cinco de Mayo weekend by chanting “Mexico, Mexico.”
There was tension between the two fighters along with political overtones as a commercial for the fight depicted both boxers bursting through President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.
The red-bearded Alvarez is normally mild-mannered, but he had criticized Chavez for his work ethic. Chavez then needled him for refusing to fight the bigger Golovkin.
Alvarez was guaranteed $5 million and Chavez $3 million.
In the co-main event, former IBF middleweight champion David Lemieux of Montreal took a unanimous decision over stubborn Mexican Marco Reyes in a catchweight bout at 163 pounds.
A left by Lemieux (38-3) opened a large gash above Reyes’ right eye in the second round. Lemieux later twice knocked out Reyes’ mouthpiece with punches. But Reyes (35-5) stayed upright for 10 rounds as blood streamed down his face and onto his chest.
Lemieux hopes to get a shot at Alvarez.
“I could have done better but I hurt my hand after round two,” Lemieux said.
Other matches on the undercard included Lucas Matthysse, a former junior welterweight champ, ending a 20-month layoff by dropping Emmanuel Taylor (20-5) of Maryland twice before the referee stopped it in the fifth round. The Argentine (38-4) was making his welterweight debut.
Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. (24-0) out-pointed fellow Californian Manuel “Tino” Avila (22-1) in a one-sided 10-round featherweight bout.
For much of the undercard, fans traded “Canelo” and “Chavez” chants on a festive night that brought out several stars, including Evander Holyfield.