Canelo Álvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders, billed as Face the Fearless, was a super middleweight professional boxing match contested between WBA (Super), WBC, and The Ring champion, Canelo Álvarez, and WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders. The bout took place on May 8, 2021, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Canelo defeated Saunders via eighth-round corner retirement.
With an official attendance of 73,126, it was reported to have surpassed Leon Spinks vs. Muhammad Ali II as the most-attended boxing event at an indoor venue in U.S. history, as well as the largest U.S. gathering since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fight between the pair was previously planned for May 2, 2020 in Las Vegas, before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the sport to a halt.
Álvarez planned to stage his next fight on September 12th, again in Las Vegas, with Billy Joe Saunders, Callum Smith and a Gennady Golovkin trilogy all being possible. However, Álvarez refused to take a pay cut off his deal with streaming service DAZN and Golden Boy Promotions.
Unable to agree on an opponent and with DAZN unwilling to pay, Álvarez sued DAZN, as well as Golden Boy Promotion’s founder Oscar De La Hoya for breach of contract and sought at least $280 million, the remainder of what he was owed on his deal.
According to the lawsuit, De La Hoya would be liable for the money. On 6 November 2020, Álvarez was released from his contract with Golden Boy Promotions after a lawsuit was settled. In December 2020, Álvarez won the unified title against Callum Smith in San Antonio, Texas, and defended it against WBC mandatory Avni Yıldırım in February 2021 in Miami.
In July 2020, Saunders ruled himself out of a September showdown with Álvarez, citing he would not be ‘ready’ in time. Saunders then retained his WBO title after outpointing Martin Murray in London, and told Álvarez and his team to “Get your pens out and sign!”
Canelo vs. Saunders was agreed before Álvarez’s fight with Yıldırım, and was officially announced shortly after. The AT&T Stadium in Dallas was announced as a venue a few weeks later.
After a competitive first seven-rounds, a right uppercut from Álvarez in round eight caused a suspected fractured eye socket to the right eye of Saunders, leaving him unable to come out of his corner for the ninth-round.
Saunders was taken to hospital post-fight where the injury was confirmed. According to CompuBox, Álvarez outlanded Saunders during the fight, landing 73 of his 203 punches (35.4%), with Saunders landing 60 out of 284 (21.1%).
Saunders outlanded Álvarez 31-18 in rounds 5-7, but Álvarez turned it on in the eighth, landing 12 of 23 power shots.
After the fight, Álvarez made it clear he still wanted to become undisputed in the super-middleweight division, calling out IBF title holder Caleb Plant.
During the post-fight conference, WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade, with a shirt reading ‘Canelo & Billy Joe are scared to fight Boo Boo (Andrade)’, asking when they could ‘make it happen. Álvarez responded, claiming Andrade had ‘fought with nobody’, before labelling him as a ‘horrible fighter’ and told him to ‘get the fuck out of here’, before Andrade was escorted out by security.