In July 2018 Rocky Fielding earned the biggest win of his career by beating Tyron Zeuge in Germany. The fifth round TKO earned the Liverpudlian the WBA “Regular” Super-Middleweight title.

Two months later in a hugely anticipated rematch in Las Vegas Canelo Alvarez defeated rival Gennadiy Golovkin to retain his two middleweight world titles. However, the Mexican fancied a brief dip into super-middleweight territory before returning to 160lbs.

The man selected to be his opponent was Fielding. “Rocky from Stocky” was about to receive the opportunity of a lifetime and be well paid for what looked like an impossible task on December 15, 2018, at Madison Square Garden, New York 

Ahead of Canelo’s undisputed super-middleweight title defence against Jaime Munguia on Saturday (May 4) Boxing News has dipped into the archives to bring you John Dennen’s report on Canelo’s first fight at 168lbs.

Original headline: King of New York – Canelo Alvarez demolishes Rocky Fielding

THERE is a lesson we learned. Fighting Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is a painful experience. Only the elite of the sport thrive against him. Rocky Fielding is a solid fighter, a big super-middleweight with weight in his punches. But even though Canelo was moving beyond his natural division, he was too good, too fast and without mercy.

He gave Fielding no room to move or breathe. He forced his game on Fielding and he did it all with furious speed.

Rocky began to jab, trying to push out his left lead and push Alvarez away. But very quickly Canelo was on him.

Every time they had gone head to head, right up until the referee’s final instructions before the first bell, the Englishman had towered over Alvarez. Fielding did look gigantic. But it made no difference. Canelo tore through the gap between them, absorbing the space, all the oxygen of the ring and snatched the wind from Rocky’s body. A thumping left hook slammed into Fielding’s side and forced the Liverpudlian to take a knee in the first round.

It was a disastrous start. Fielding needed to begin with confidence, he needed to impose himself on Alvarez, let his size serve a warning and try to inflict at least of sliver of doubt in the Mexican’s mind, that he was an unwelcome guest in the super-middleweight division. Instead it was Canelo who dictated all the terms from the very beginning.

On a knee early on, at this point Fielding could have unravelled. But he didn’t bounce straight back to his feet. He caught his breath, he watched referee Ricky Gonzalez’s count and rose to see out the remainder of the first round. As he settled down on his stool in the first break of the contest his trainer Jamie Moore ordered him to breathe.

Fielding couldn’t afford to lose his composure. He needed to time, time to acclimatise to the rarefied air of elite competition. But Alvarez wasn’t about to give him that. He burned through his defences in the second round too.

Canelo let a right hook loose into Rocky’s body. Fielding was fighting just to ward Alvarez off. The Briton threw his shots quickly. They cuffed into the Mexican without the shape or form of the punches Canelo unleashed. Again a nasty left hook streaked round the outside of Rocky’s elbow, knocking against his ribs. In answer the Briton curved a left hook into Alvarez’s head. But up close, Canelo’s right uppercut was a shot of near beauty. It jolted Rocky’s head back with savage authority.

Fielding needed to drive him back, get him off the inside, where Canelo’s work was so brutally efficient. But comfortable in the pocket, Alvarez had locked on to the target. Yet again his left hook to the body set the Briton down on a knee.

Rocky was brave. He stood up. He fought on into the third round. He began the session with a combination, his right uppercut-left hook tagging Saul. The Mexican tapped his jab high, touching Rocky’s guard, triggering another Canelo right hook to crash into the body. Battling against the pressure, Fielding let his hands go, throwing a straight one-two. He cranked out his jab, stretching his left arm forward, before stepping in, reaching out in an effort to hold Canelo in a clinch.

Fielding hooked in his right, then the left. He continued chucking punches at his tormentor. But Canelo snuffed out the rally. As Rocky backed towards the ropes, Alvarez’s right hook swept through high. It clipped Rocky’s head, the sheer weight of the punch driving Fielding off his feet, back down to the canvas.

Fielding was confounded. His mouth hung open, as if he could cry out in frustration. He was looking for answers. But none were forthcoming.

There is a truth to boxing, that the good big guy will beat the good little guy. Fielding was big but not good enough, at least not for this opponent. There is another lesson too, one that is often repeated but only learned in the doing. That there are levels to this sport. Canelo, even with a deficit in height and reach, was too good for him.

Reality struck. There are no Christmas miracles and Rocky triumphs are for the movies. Alvarez ended the lesson the same punch he started it with. His left flicked out an uppercut only to set up a hook to the body off the same fist. It thundered in and Fielding was down again, for the fourth time in three rounds. That was enough. Referee Gonzalez ended it at 2-38.

Unrequired judges were Eric Marlinski, John McKaie and Kevin Morgan.

“I knew where I was, I knew everything,” Rocky said ruefully. “I tried to fight back but I got caught. I dared to be great. I lived the dream. I’ll come again. I’ll come back.”

“That next level power, he’s got it. The timing, the speed. He puts his shots together well. I think he can mix it with any super-middleweight,” Fielding continued. “I stood there too long. I thought I could try and mix it with him. I shouldn’t have. You’ve seen the height of me compared to him. I should have kept it long. I stood there with someone who’s elite and who’s strong. I gave it everything.”

Canelo was ruthless, as great fighters have to be. “He committed the error by beginning to exchange with me,” the Mexican said with a hint of that cold ferocity. “That’s what we worked on, to work hard to the body and thank God everything went well.”

Alvarez has come through his close controversial fights with Gennady Golovkin to reign as the king of this sport. His year began with him facing a brief suspension once traces of clenbuterol from tainted beef were detected in his system. It’s ended with his first fight in New York selling out Madison Square Garden, to kick off a vast broadcast deal with DAZN that is making him the most highly paid active boxer in the world today. Winning Rocky’s WBA secondary super-middleweight title means Alvarez will also consider himself a three-weight world champion.

“I’m just happy to be marking history,” Canelo said with a smile.