Saul “Canelo” Alvarez retained his undisputed super-middleweight title with a convincing victory over his fellow Mexican Jaime Munguia, who recovered from the first knockdown of his career to survive all 12 rounds.

At Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, on the occasion of Cinco de Mayo weekend, the world’s highest-profile fighter earned scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112 and therefore a unanimous decision to show what a fine fighter he remains.

That Munguia reached the final bell made him the fifth successive opponent to do so and extended the run that has contributed to suggestions that at 33 Alvarez is in decline, but Munguia enhanced his reputation on the occasion of his biggest fight to ensure that further rewarding nights will come his way.

In his previous fight Munguia had stopped John Ryder, who in May 2023 frustrated Alvarez over the course of 12 rounds. The 27 year old’s performance that night in January and the result contributed to his selection as Alvarez’s latest opponent, but more relevant may have been that that was his first fight under the guidance of Freddie Roach, whose influence against Alvarez consistently showed.

The typically reckless Munguia was more polished and cautious from the opening bell. It was Alvarez, and not Munguia, who first looked naive when he swung and missed with a wild left hook, even if it swiftly became clear that Alvarez recognised that the biggest risk of defeat existed in the possibility of him being outworked. 

To that end he quickly targeted Munguia’s body. After landing a left hook he threw a right to the body, and while Munguia briefly let his hands go in response he remained patient, jabbed with greater intelligence and admirably cut off the ring.

A right and left to Munguia’s body followed in the second round, and when after further jabs Alvarez punished Munguia with a hurtful straight right hand, Munguia starting to outwork him and landed, also to the body, an eye-catching left hand.

Further success to both head and body in the third was punctuated by Alvarez landing a right uppercut and then a left to the body and the rivals trading for a brief exchange. When Alvarez then missed with a right, Munguia landed a right to the body and then to the head and, encouraged, he intensified his attack to snap back the champion’s head and bring the near-capacity Mexican crowd to their feet.

It was in the fourth when Alvarez, having repeatedly tested Munguia’s admirable punch resistance, recorded the only knockdown of the fight and the only knockdown Munguia has suffered in his career. They had traded further right hands when Alvarez clinically timed an accurate right uppercut and dropped Munguia, whose gradual recovery equally impressed. 

Munguia’s body thereafter became less of a target for Alvarez, who in targeting his challenger’s head appeared determined to record his first knockout since that over Caleb Plant in 2021. Munguia looked tired as a consequence of the punishment he had taken; his technique lost some of its earlier edge, and he started to get backed up.

When his head was snapped back by a left hand in the sixth the risk of the stoppage appeared significant. Instead, after successive right hands from Alvarez, Munguia responded, albeit with reduced authority, by throwing back to both body and head.

Alvarez, potentially in an attempt to unnerve his less experienced opponent, repeatedly stood between rounds. In the build-up to their fight it had been suggested that Munguia’s unconvincing defence would undermine him, and so, throughout the seventh round, it proved. 

Alvarez’s advantage in experience was perhaps never more apparent than when while he was in the corner he allowed Munguia to let his hands go, waited for his moment, and then landed a left hook.

There were again periods when Munguia threatened to outwork Alvarez, but when his work-rate was negated by the superior quality and accuracy of the champion’s punches. 

The distance, and to a lesser degree the fight’s tempo, were increasingly being dictated by Alvarez, as was demonstrated in the ninth round that was Munguia’s most effective since the knockdown but that still ended with him swallowing a right hand and then a left hook.

Munguia was hurt again by a right uppercut when they were trading inside in the 11th, and again in the 12th when another right uppercut punished his aggression. A left-right combination hurt him once again shortly before the final bell – by when it became clear that not only would he survive, but that by remaining on his feet and forcing so exciting a contest and therefore the loudest of atmospheres he had proved himself capable of competing with the elite.

“This win means a lot," Alvarez said. "I’m glad that I gave him this opportunity. Munguia is a great guy and a great champion. He’s gonna have a great career. I’m very proud that all the Mexicans are here watching us.

“I took my time. I have a lot of experience. Munguia is a great fighter. He's strong and smart. But I have 12 rounds to win the fight and I did. I did really good and I’m proud of it.

“He’s strong, but he’s a little slow. I could see every punch. That’s why I’m the best.

“When I retire, my numbers will say what position I'm in. I know there's a lot of great Mexican fighters in the past, but I’m the best fighting right now.

“I’m gonna rest and enjoy my family. If the money is right, I can fight right [David Benavidez] now. I’ve fought everyone and I can do what I want."

"I came out strong and was winning the early rounds," said Munguia. "I let my hands go, but he’s a fighter with a lot of experience. The loss hurts because it's my first loss and I felt strong. 

"There’s no doubt I would have beaten anyone else tonight. He has a lot of experience. I started well, but he’s a fighter who creates a lot of problems."