Canelo Alvarez's voice grows louder as he cuts through boxing's power structure

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Whatever Canelo Alvarez was going to do on Saturday night, it was going to be done loudly.

Noise begot noise. When Alvarez started to hit Billy Joe Saunders in the eighth round of their super middleweight bout, Alvarez raised his gloves and egged on a record-breaking crowd that was at AT&T Stadium mostly to watch the Mexican superstar. Saunders wouldn't make it to the start of Round 9.

When middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade crashed his news conference and demanded a fight, Alvarez wasn't going to be quiet at that moment, either. He dipped into English, cussed out Andrade and got back to business.

From the beginning of fight week to the absolute end, Alvarez's aura flowed as freely as his punches did in a stoppage victory to win three of the four belts in the 168-pound division. And he showed he can transcend boxing's politics to make the fights he wants.

After beating Saunders, that means Alvarez is getting a fight with Caleb Plant, who holds the only share of the super middleweight division Alvarez doesn't have. Between the performance and the crowd on Saturday night, Alvarez displayed all the leveraging power he needed to nix any political complications from Plant's alignment with Premier Boxing Champions.

"He's free to make the fights that he wants to make where he wants those fights to happen," Matchroom Boxing's Eddie Hearn said in a postfight news conference.

Throughout the buildup, Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) wasn't shy about speaking up, whether it was dealing with barbs or asking for a bout against Plant (21-0, 12 KOs), the IBF's 168-pound champion. It was out of character for the previously reserved fighter and a sign of someone speaking from a place of self-actualization.

Alvarez was chided by Saunders' camp while walking through a lobby on Tuesday and turned around and replied that Saunders was a "f---ing p---y" for threatening to pull out of the fight because of the ring size. Alvarez gave Saunders the extra two feet he wanted and then proceeded to pummel him in the eighth round, injuring his right orbital bone to the point where the eye immediately closed and forced Saunders' trainer to stop the bout as Saunders sat blinking on his stool.

In the postfight news conference, middleweight champion Andrade made an unexpected appearance. Andrade has long complained that the sport's top fighters, including Alvarez, have avoided him.

Again, Alvarez wasn't shy about speaking up. This time, it was far more forceful: Alvarez told Andrade it was his night and repeatedly asked him in English to "get the f--- out" of the room. The unified champion felt so good, in fact, he even started singing.

"Payday, payday," Alvarez crooned to Andrade. "You want a payday. I know that."

It was the demeanor of someone who knew exactly where he stood in boxing's convoluted landscape.

Alvarez was able to bring 73,126 people into the venue, the record for an indoor boxing match in the United States. Not only did it eclipse a mark previously set by a Muhammad Ali fight in 1978, but it came as vaccines for COVID-19 are still rolling out around the country and as only a handful of capacity arena shows have been held since March 2020.

Last year, Alvarez set the stage to be completely autonomous, a rare opportunity that only a few boxers such as Floyd Mayweather Jr. ever get to experience. Alvarez got out of his contract with Golden Boy Promotions, created his own company and banked on his star power to continue his career's momentum.

So far, he has done just that. Leading up to the Saunders fight, Alvarez didn't shy away from questions about his legacy or facing Gennadiy Golovkin for a third time or even a potential light heavyweight showdown with Artur Beterbiev at 175 pounds.

Alvarez fought and spoke like a man who controlled the voices and pocketbooks of more than 70,000 people based on what he did with his gloves. The people in Texas paid to watch him throw them. When prompted with those same gloves, the fans cheered in unison.

And when it came time to fight one more battle in his postfight news conference, Alvarez couldn't be stopped then, either. What Alvarez showed Andrade was the product of someone brimming with self-confidence.

"At some point, I f---ing need to say something, right?" Alvarez said. "This is the time."