With one memorable and thundering blow, Canelo Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) appears to have climbed the ranks as perhaps the top middleweight contender in boxing, with a hard knock out of James Kirkland (32-2, 28 KOs) on Saturday night before 31,588 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
The Mexican star, who previously lost a unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather in Sept. 2013, landed a sharp right hand that floored Kirkland in the first round. In the second round, Alvarez used a hard right to tag Kirkland that clearly hurt the Texas native.
In the third round, Alvarez would knock down Kirkland again with a clean upper cut. But with about 45 seconds remaining in the third, Alvarez unleashed an even more potent right hand that dropped Kirkland. With Kirkland on his back and clearly looking fazed, referee Jon Schorle had no choice but to call off the fight.
Kirkland, who provided some solid punches in the first round, said he didn't even know he was knocked out. He went to a nearby hospital, where he received a CT scan.
The convincing victory immediately vaults Alvarez into a top contender in the middleweight division.
"I'm happy about the win. The result was what I expected," Alvarez said.
According to CompuBox, Alvarez landed 58 percent of his punches compared to Kirkland's 21 percent.
The victory may mean a showdown with top middleweight Miguel Cotto. The Puerto Rican star is one of boxing's best pound-for-pound boxers and a battle with Alvarez might make for a pay-per-view bonanza. The crowd in Houston was heard chanting "Mexico!" for Alvarez, and Cotto has often received a huge support from his Puerto Rican fans.
Cotto faces Australian Daniel Geale on June 6 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Another top middleweight, undefeated Gennady Golovkin, is set to take on Willie Monroe on May 16 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
"I was really excited all these fans came out to see me," Alvarez said. "It gives me the strength and power to train hard and to please everyone."