NEW YORK — Canelo Alvarez kicked off the richest athlete contract in sports by doing just what was expected on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Heavy favorite Alvarez, the unified middleweight world champion and boxing’s biggest star, moved up one weight class and destroyed the game Rocky Fielding with a heavy body attack to take his secondary super middleweight world title.
Alvarez, fighting in his first non-pay-per-view fight since 2015, knocked Fielding down four times much to the delight of the raucous pro-Canelo soldout crowd of 20,112.
The fight was Alvarez’s first in New York, a place he had always wanted to fight, and it represented the first bout of the record-breaking contract he signed in October with new sports streaming service DAZN, which was looking for a franchise athlete and lavished him with a five-year, 11-fight, $365 million deal to take him off pay-per-view in the hopes he would help drive subscriptions to the $9.99 a month service.
Alvarez had been under exclusive contract to HBO and been the biggest pay-per-view star of the post Floyd Mayweather era, but that contract expired in September and HBO made no move to retain his services because it dumped its boxing coverage last week after 45 years of covering the sport.
But Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs), 28, of Mexico, moved seamlessly to his new outlet and shined in his debut against an overmatched opponent in Fielding, who virtually nobody gave a chance to win.
Alvarez was coming off the biggest win of his career in September, when he narrowly outpointed Gennady Golovkin to win the unified middleweight world championship in the biggest fight of the year, a rematch of last year’s controversial draw. He wanted to fight once more this year after a failed drug test cost him the GGG rematch in May because of a suspension.
So he took the opportunity to cherry pick a titleholder at 168 pounds in Fielding and won a title in his third weight division despite the belt being a second-tier version.
Alvarez came out fast in the first round banging the much taller Fielding’s body and throwing hooks to the head. Fielding, who had a much longer reach, tried to get his jab going but it was no use. Alvarez hammered him with a left hook to the liver and he went down to a knee.
Fielding (27-2, 15 KOs), 31, of England, beat the count but took a beating the rest of the round as Alvarez landed many more body shots and a left uppercut.
Alvarez continued the assault in the second round, forcing Fielding back with an assortment of power punches but Fielding landed a few of his own though Alvarez did not seem at all bothered by the blows. Late in the round he landed a carbon copy left hook to the liver like he did in the first round and Fielding went down again.
It seemed like every shot Alvarez landed in the third round buckled Fielding, who kept trying and throwing punches back. But he was fading fast and with about 40 seconds left, Alvarez landed a right hand to the head to knock him down for the third time. He again beat the count but moments later Alvarez landed yet another crushing left hook to the body. Fielding took a step back, winced and went down to a knee and referee Ricky Gonzalez waved off the fight without a count at 2 minutes, 38 seconds.