Callum Smith displayed incredible courage to hear the final bell but had long been bloodied and beaten into submission as Canelo Alvarez produced a brutal masterclass to clinch the WBA and WBC world titles.
Smith was a worthy challenger but simply found the chasm in quality too wide to bridge on a gruelling night in Texas as the Briton relinquished his undefeated record in a landslide on the scorecards.
The victory cemented Canelo’s legacy as a four-weight world champion - this the 30-year-old’s 54th victory in an illustrious 15-year career - and his sheer dominance only emphasised the height of his powers, with Smith previously considered the premier fighter in the 168lbs division.
“This is one of the best nights I have had. One of the greatest nights,” Canelo said afterwards in front of a partisan crowd at San Antonio’s Alamodome. "I will go for more. I want all the belts, it doesn't matter who has them.
"I don't run from anybody. I have fought against the best. I have shown the world I fight the best."
Smith, hoping to avenge Canelo’s victory over his older brother, Liam, in 2016, started cautiously as he sought to test the Mexican’s fearsome power and was rarely able to offer a serious threat of his own in return.
Canelo took his time to close the distance, wary of Smith’s lead left hook, but eventually began to back the Briton up onto the ropes and unleashed vicious punches to the head and body in a foreboding image of what was to follow.
Smith attempted to walk Canelo onto right uppercuts in the third and fourth rounds but the Mexican’s head movement proved impossible to pin down and a left-hook caused the first cracks to appear in the Briton’s armour.
Smith’s seven-inch height advantage proved a hindrance rather than help, with Canelo relentlessly walking forwards and exploding into punches from a low centre of gravity and the difference in power between the pair became glaringly apparent.
A huge uppercut in the sixth round was followed by a remorseless seventh as Canelo lost respect for Smith’s menace and landed 60 per cent of his power punches.
It was a pattern that only became more gruelling and trainer Joe Gallagher twice threatened to throw in the towel but Smith valiantly insisted on continuing.
Another violent uppercut lifted Smith onto his toes in the ninth and Canelo sought to close the show in the championship rounds, repeatedly wobbling Smith on the ropes, who stayed standing through sheer bravery in spite of the agony.
And as the final bell neared, with Canelo launching one last onslaught, both fighters shared a laugh, perhaps in disbelief at Smith’s refusal to yield as his face swelled and blood streamed from his nose.
It was a punishing night for Smith, who appeared to suffer a detached bicep, but there was no need for excuses. He was simply outclassed by a phenomenal fighter, who once again solidified his place at boxing’s pinnacle.
“I'm devastated,” Smith said. "Listen, I never wanted to lose, I came here to win. It wasn't my night.
"It could have been a better version of me tonight ... he performed and was the better man."
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