Long before he entered the ring at Anaheim’s Honda Center, Saul Alvarez already had his star. Now he has his belt.
At 20 years 233 days, “Canelo” became the youngest fighter to capture a piece of the 154-pound belt after decisioning the outsized but resolute Matthew Hatton. The new WBC titlist supplanted Fernando Vargas, who was 21 years 10 days old when he stopped Yory Boy Campas in seven to win the IBF strap December 12, 1998.
Alvarez’s drive to his first belt was powered by his excellent accuracy. He connected on 47 percent of his total punches (294 of 626), 26 percent of his jabs (37 of 140) and 53 percent of his power shots (257 of 486). Conversely, Hatton landed 25 percent of his total punches (138 of 546), 24 percent of his jabs (63 of 258) and 26 percent of his power punches (75 of 288).
Like Julio Cesar Chavez – a notoriously slow starter to whom Alvarez has been compared – it took some time for Alvarez to find his rhythm. In the first three rounds he landed 32 percent of his total punches (61 of 178) and 42 percent of his power shots (49 of 118) but from round four onward those numbers surged to 52 percent overall (233 of 448) and 56.5 percent in power shots (208 of 368). He topped 60 percent overall accuracy four times, topping off at 71 percent in round 10 (30 of 42) and exceeded 60 percent in power connects five times with his high water mark being 70 percent in rounds seven (33 of 47) and 10 (23 of 33). Like “El Gran Campeon Mexicano,” Alvarez dished out relentless, workmanlike punishment.
And like his more famous older brother Ricky, Matthew Hatton never stopped trying and the proof is that his output never dropped off dramatically for long stretches. On the two occasions he dropped into the 30s (33 in round seven and 34 in round 10), Hatton dug deep and picked it up in the following rounds (53 in the eighth and 41 in the 11th), even in the face of Alvarez surges. Though Hatton was swept in total and power connects, Hatton out-did Alvarez 10-1-1 in jab connects – small solace in the face of his comprehensive but honorable defeat.
The PunchZone maps revealed that Hatton concentrated his attack to Alvarez’s head while “Canelo’s” distribution was more balanced. Most of Hatton’s success was down the middle as 50 of his 113 head connects struck Alvarez’s chin while rights produced 44 hits and lefts netted 19 connects. The Briton scored 24 times to the body; the hook landing 16 times and the right eight times.
Meanwhile, Alvarez was prolific in all the scoring areas. Of his 205 head connects, 76 struck the chin, 68 were produced by rights and 61 by lefts. Alvarez struck Hatton’s body 88 times, of which hooks produced 47 connects and rights amassed 41 hits.
By signing to fight former WBO junior featherweight champion Daniel Ponce de Leon, Adrien “The Problem” Broner had problems to solve. First, he was fighting the best and most experienced opponent yet. Second, he was fighting before a hostile crowd. Third, he was making his first appearance on a high-profile network in HBO. Finally, not only was he facing a southpaw, it was one with a puzzling volume-punching style.
While there were plenty of rough patches along the way, the 21-year-old prospect advanced his record to 20-0 (16 KO) with an unpopular – but unanimous – decision.
Ponce De Leon held a slim 127-126 lead in total connects but Broner’s accuracy may have persuaded the judges he was worthy of victory – if not many fans and media. The youngster landed 36 percent of his total punches (126 of 351) to Ponce de Leon’s 21 percent (127 of 592) and connected on 23 percent of his jabs (25 of 108) to Ponce de Leon’s dismal 4 percent (8 of 200). Perhaps most importantly, Broner was successful on 42 percent of his power shots (101 of 243) to Ponce de Leon’s 30 percent (119 of 392).
A look at the round-by-round statistics revealed a fight in three parts. The first three rounds saw Ponce de Leon out-land Broner 48-24 (total) and 43-18 (power) while the Cincinnati prospect dominated in rounds four through seven (63-34 total and 50-34 power). The final three rounds saw the veteran regain the statistical momentum with 45-39 (total) and 42-33 (power) leads.
Ponce de Leon was by far the busier fighter (he out-threw Broner in 34 of a possible 36 CompuBox categories) but Broner held his own when it came to connects as the ex-champ led 20-14-2.
Broner’s marksmanship , especially in terms of power punches, was eye-catching as he topped 40 percent four times in the last seven rounds, topping at 65 percent (17 of 26) in the seventh, while Ponce De Leon hit that threshold just twice (in rounds three and 10 when he reached exactly 40 percent). De Leon’s horrific jab accuracy didn’t help him either as he went 0 for 105 in rounds four through eight.
The PunchZone maps graphically demonstrated their divergent attacks. All but 25 of Broner’s 126 connects targeted De Leon’s head but they were well distributed as lefts produced 34 hits, rights 40 connects and 27 struck the chin. Of his body connects, right hands produced 17 of them – unusual for a right-handed fighter – while lefts netted eight hits.
Conversely, De Leon whaled away at the body to slow down the speedier Broner. Eighty-one of his 127 connects struck the flanks, of which hooks scored 44 times and rights 37 times. His 46 head connects mostly targeted the chin (22) while the distribution of left-hand (11) and right-hand (13) connects were nearly balanced.