Guadalajara — Saul "Canelo" Alvarez made a triumphant return to Mexico, punishing John Ryder on the way to a unanimous 12-round decision to retain his undisputed super middleweight world title.
Ryder, whose face was already a bloody mess by the time Alvarez knocked him down in the fifth round, battled gamely in the later stages but Alvarez emerged a clear winner in his first fight in his native Mexico in nearly 12 years.
Judge Jeremy Hayes scored the bout 120-107 for Alvarez while Joe Pasquale and Gerardo Martino both saw it 118-109 for the champion, who delighted a sellout crowd of some 50 000 at the open-air Akron Stadium in his hometown.
"It's a historic moment for me," Alvarez said. "I'm blessed to be here with my people who supported me from the beginning."
Alvarez improved to 59-2-2 with 39 knockouts while Ryder, the mandatory challenger, fell to 38-6 with 18 wins inside the distance.
After a tentative opening round, the 32-year-old Alvarez began to open up, landing a bevy of right hands that had Ryder bleeding from the nose and mouth by the third round.
A brutal left-right combination dropped Ryder in the fifth round.
He beat the count and held on until the bell, but he was in trouble again in the sixth when another big right from Alvarez had the Briton's knees sagging.
But Ryder, nicknamed "The Gorilla," kept coming. He was down again after a right from Alvarez late in the eighth, but that was ruled a slip and he had bounced back up moments before the bell.
Shaken again in the ninth, Ryder nevertheless seemed to find a second wind. The 10th and 11th were closer and Alvarez was less effective but had more than enough to hang on.
"He's strong," Alvarez said. "I'm not surprised about it."
But Alvarez, regarded by many as the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing, was pleased with the performance after a mixed 2022.
He was well beaten by Dmitry Bivol last May after stepping up to light heavyweight before labouring to a unanimous victory over old rival Gennadiy Golovkin in September.
He later underwent surgery on his left hand to address a long-running ligament problem.
"I'm happy with the fight," Alvarez said. "I won and I'm happy that people had a great time."
Alvarez admitted he wasn't fully confident in his left hand from the opening bell.
"I needed a couple of rounds to start punching and knowing I'm good with the hand," he said. "Now I know."
And now he wants a rematch with Bivol, reiterating in the ring that he wanted to return to light heavyweight against the undefeated Russian who handed him the second defeat of his career.
"Everybody knows we want Bivol, the rematch with Bivol," Alvarez said, "175 (pounds), same terms, same everything."