CANELO retained his WBC and WBA world titles with a savage stoppage over Billy Joe Saunders, making him quit with a sickening eye injury.
The brave Brit was doing brilliantly well until a trademark blow smashed a gruesome welt around his eye in round eight and his corner stopped the Texas shootout.
Saunders was looking impressive in the middle rounds but then he dipped right into a thunderous uppercut that cracked his orbital bonw, making his cheek swell and discolour immediately.
The winner roared: “I knew the fight would develop from round eight and I know that I improve every day.
“He was not winning any of the rounds, not at all, I was winning round-by-round.
“I was adjusting very quickly.
“I knew it, I think I broke his cheek and I knew he would not come out. I told his corner he would not come out because I broke his cheek.”
Saunders was taken straight from the ring to a local hospital with what is believed to be a broekn orbital bone.
The injury is the same facial fracture that forced Daniel Dubois out of his November clash with Joe Joyce.
Tyson Fury, Saunders’ childhood friend, was ringside in Dallas after walking his fellow Gyspy to the ring carrying his WBO world title.
The 6ft 9in WBC champ insisted his man would beat the pound-for-pound king on points with a jabbing masterclass.
When Saunders entered the AT&T arena, almost all of the 73,126 fans crammed inside booed the brave Brit.
The 31-year-old made his march to Winston Churchill’s ‘Fight Them on the Beaches’ speech and looked ice-cool on the long walk, dancing the final few steps to the hotly-debated 22x22ft ring.
Canelo, who was looking to beat his seventh British rival, wore a specially made t-shirt with the words ‘Keep Canelo and Carry On’.
Saunders got his southpaw jab going early as Canelo took the opening round to work his rival out.
Canelo liked the left hook to Saunders’ ribs and ventured an early uppercut.
The Hatfields man was jabbed into a corner and whacked with a straight right hand to the body and he used the exact same move moments later but whipped it round the torso.
Saunders started the second with a busy jab again but Canelo clipped him with a right hand and, after a couple of close-range uppercuts, another right made the Englishman wobble backwards.
In the third Saunders launched a one-two but Canelo slipped backwards out of range and then a right hook smashed into Saunders’ neck but he shook it off.
Saunders was wisely staying off of the ropes, where the flame-haired banger could harm him most, but Canelo’s corner told him in the break that he was slowly finding his rhythm.
Saunders started the fourth with a fizzing combination into Canelo’s guard.
But then the Canelo upped the ante and started loading up with terrifying power shots.
Then, near the end of the session, Canelo crashed in an uppercut that almost smashed the gumshield out of Saunders’ controversial mouth.
Saunders scored with a brilliant double jab in the fifth, the second slamming into Canelo’s jaw and a big left hand landed sneakily on a clinch break.
And the 30-year-old favourite failed to recover as the Traveller enjoyed his best round of the fight so far.
Saunders made Canelo miss wildly in the sixth but managed to stop himself from showboating.
But seconds later, when Canelo scored with a couple of uppercuts, Saunders stuck out his tongue and wiggled it in his foe’s face.
Saunders was dancing beautifully to his right, avoiding Canelo’s booming right hand. The 4-1 underdog was making Canelo P4P king look very human in some stages.
Canelo seemed to be solely focused on huge single shots but Saunders was still willing to drop his hands and goad the brute.
But then Canelo turned up the heat and smashed a dark bruise into Saunders’ right eye.
The hometown hero then found his groove and landed a couple more and found time to wave his heavy hands to encourage the roaring crowd.
And Saunders was pulled out with the eye injury as it seemed to close up in the interval.