WBO super middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders 29-0 (14) left his run late before scoring an 11th round knockout in his US debut against unheralded Argentinean Marcelo Coceres 28-1-1 (15) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on Saturday night.
The 30-year-old British southpaw was looking to arrive with a bang on American shores and push for a fight with Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 53-1-2 (36) but his performance left fans and pundits underwhelmed.
In a surprisingly back-and-forth battle Coceres, 28, was able to have success with his counter right hand and managed to get the better of some of the inside exchanges to make the contest close.
Saunders opened the fight up in the penultimate round, dropping Coceres three times including with a textbook left uppercut that forced referee Ray Corona to wave the fight off at the 1:59 mark.
At the time of the stoppage judges Patricia Morse Jarman and Lou Moret both had Saunders leading 96-94, while judge Robin Taylor had Coceres up by the same score.
After the fight Saunders admitted it was less than a stellar performance.
“There’s no excuse,” he said. “I knew from round nine I have to get this man out of here.
“I wanted to impress the American crowd and I hope you enjoyed the knockout. That’s all I could give you tonight.
“I knew to stay calm, people might have said ‘he’s taking this a bit slow’ but I knew I had to turn it up at some point.
“I could see he was wearing down. I was making him miss and then I was trying to find that left hand over the top. Once he went down once I knew that was it.”
Saunders used his lacklustre showing to call out Alvarez.
“Canelo… take me while you think I’m spent. Take me now,” he said.
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