Las Vegas (AFP) - Mexican Saul "Canelo" Alvarez unified boxing's 160-pound division on Saturday, earning a unanimous decision over Daniel Jacobs in a fight that pitted two of the world's top middleweights with three world titles on the line.
Alvarez kept his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association titles and seized Jacobs' International Boxing Federation belt in a bout that marked the Mexican's return to the middleweight division.
Alvarez said his hard work in the gym paid off and there was very little Jacobs did that came as a surprise.
"It is just what we thought it would be," said Alvarez, who became the first Mexican champ to hold three major titles in a single division. "We did our job. We showed a lot of diversity, in terms of punches and combinations. It was a beautiful fight."
Alvarez won on all three judges' scorecards, with two having it 115-113 and the other 116-112. This was Alvarez's first fight of 2019 but the second fight of his five-year 11-fight $365 million deal with the boxing streaming service DAZN.
Since losing to Floyd Mayweather in 2013 Alvarez has gone 10-0 with one draw including five knockouts. At the age of 28, he is still in his prime, having improved his record to 56-1-2 with 35 knockouts.
Alvarez's penchant for taking on all comers and his exciting style has elevated him to become one of the biggest stars in boxing, but it was his boxing skills and especially sound defence that stood out against Jacobs on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena.
He dominated the early rounds, landing power jabs and slipping head shots by Jacobs in a manner that would have made Mayweather proud.
By the sixth round Alvarez looked in control, prompting American Jacobs' corner to tell him to open up and take some chances. Up until that point, the most noteworthy move from Jacobs was his ability to switch from orthodox to southpaw style in an attempt to thrown Alvarez off.
Jacobs landed one of the best punches of the fight in the ninth round, a looping overhand right that hit Alvarez on the top of the head. Alvarez though didn't flinch, showing that he was ready to take some punishment to win.
There were more good exchanges in the 10th as Jacobs' confidence appeared to grow but Alvarez stuck to his fight plan and scored effectively.
"I feel great. I have to go back and look at the tape to see exactly what the judges thought," said Jacobs. "I was still pressing forward cause I wanted to finish strong.
"It took me a couple of rounds to get my wits about me, to get my rhythm. I feel like I gave enough to get the victory."
Alvarez is known to take on the toughest fights possible and he has the resume to back it up. Over the past seven years his CV features the likes of Mayweather, Shane Mosley, Austin Trout, Gennady Golovkin, Erislandy Lara and Miguel Cotto.
After claiming a world title at super middleweight in December, Alvarez decided to return to the 160-pound division on Saturday.
Asked if he would consider a third fight against Golovkin, who some felt should have got the decision in at least one of their two fights, Alvarez said, "For me we are done. But if people want another fight we will do it again and I'll beat him again."
- Eyes fourth title -
He now hopes to add a fourth title by taking on World Boxing Organization middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade.
Cancer survivor Jacobs is known as an exceptional boxer with impressive power but he didn't get a chance to show much of that on Saturday in his first fight in Las Vegas in nine years.
Jacobs (35-3, 29 KOs) was coming off of a hard-fought victory in October against Sergiy Derevyanchenko where he claimed the vacant IBF middleweight title via split decision.
He is nicknamed "The Miracle Man" after managing to overcome osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that threatened his career and sidelined him for over a year.
Jacobs returned fighting at a high level with his first ten wins all coming by way of knockout.
Elsewhere, Montreal's Artur Beterbiev retained his IBF light heavyweight title with a fifth round stoppage of Bosnia's Radivoje Kalajdzic in Stockton, California.
The unbeaten Beterbiev trapped his opponent on the ropes and was landing blows with both hands before the referee stepped in to stop it 13 seconds into the fifth.