ANAHEIM, Calif. – Saul Alvarez dominated nearly every minute and unanimously outpointed Matthew Hatton on Saturday night to win the vacant WBC 154-pound belt, picking up the first world title of the 20-year-old's skyrocketing career.
The redheaded, freckle-faced Mexican phenomenon known as Canelo — the Spanish word for cinnamon — became the youngest man to win the super welterweight belt with a dominant performance against Hatton, the younger brother of former world champion Ricky Hatton.
Alvarez picked apart Hatton from the opening bell, peppering the smaller Englishman with head shots and using his brute power. Hatton twice went to the canvas after getting hit out of a clinch with Alvarez, but wasn't seriously hurt either time.
"This was a great experience for me," Alvarez said. "This was my first world title shot, but it's the first of many, and I'll win them all for my fans. I want to fight the biggest and the best. I'm going to be the next big name of Mexico."
The overwhelmingly pro-Mexican crowd of 11,674 at Anaheim's Honda Center roared for the fighter who's already among the nation's most famous athletes. The rest of the world will soon know all about Canelo when this title leads to bouts against the division's biggest names.
Alvarez has won 32 consecutive fights since June 2006, when he was a raw 15-year-old. He tried to finish off Hatton, who hasn't been stopped in more than eight years, but never knocked down the Manchester native with an impressive chin.
"He's a good fighter," Alvarez said. "People criticized him, but he was a tough guy."
All three judges scored the bout 119-108, meaning Alvarez won every round on every card. He lost one point for an illegal punch in the seventh round, which was uniformly scored 9-9.
Alvarez landed 47 percent of his 626 punches, including 53 percent of his power shots, while Hatton connected with just 25 percent of his 546 total blows.
Adrien Broner also remained unbeaten with a feisty unanimous decision over Daniel Ponce De Leon on the undercard.
Alvarez missed the 150-pound catch weight by 1.4 pounds on Friday, but the fight went on after Alvarez apparently agreed to pay a penalty to his opponent. Hatton, a longtime welterweight who claimed the European title while winning four straight bouts last year, agreed to stay in his first world title shot for the belt vacated by Manny Pacquiao.
"He's a fantastic fighter, but he was just too big," Hatton said. "He never really hurt me. It was just a size difference. I want to go back down to my natural weight at welterweight, and hopefully I'll get another shot there. When you get an opportunity to fight for a title, you can't turn it down."
Alvarez clearly was both bigger and more athletic from the start, stalking forward and landing multiple shots that bloodied Hatton's face by the second round. Alvarez dominated into the seventh, when he hit Hatton coming out of a break.
Hatton took several steps before taking a knee for a timeout, and referee Lou Moret took away a point from Alvarez. That just made Canelo mad: He landed several dynamite combinations to finish the round, rocking Hatton.
Hatton took another exaggerated tumble in the 10th round in response to another blow out of a clinch from Alvarez, who was angry about Hatton's shot to his groin. Hatton actually started complaining to Moret before falling down, and his theatrics again angered Alvarez, who finished the 10th ferociously.
Hatton earned his paycheck with a game, cagey effort, but he had no answer for Alvarez's heavy hands, prodigious speed and superior size. He still represented arguably the toughest challenge to date for Alvarez, who stopped veteran Carlos Baldomir in Los Angeles last September.
The second-largest boxing crowd in Honda Center history was yet another testament to the exploding popularity of Alvarez, whose American fame grows with every fight in Southern California. It's unlikely any other 20-year-old fighter with no world titles could pack this many fans into an arena that isn't even in his hometown — and Canelo is just getting started.
Broner (20-0, 16 KOs) is a rising 130-pounder from Cincinnati, used his superior technical skills for a close decision over Ponce De Leon (41-3), the entertaining Mexican brawler. Two judges scored the bout 96-94 for Broner, while a third favored him 99-91.
Broner reveled in his villain role in the overwhelmingly Latino crowd, taunting the fans and basking in their boos before leaving the arena to a shower of sodas and trash. Yet he also fought a sharp counterpunching game plan, allowing Ponce De Leon to work his body before landing numerous head shots.
"He was a great fighter, so I had to respect him, but I stayed true to my plan," Broner said. "I was smart and listened to my coach. He had power, but everyone can punch with 8-ounce gloves on."
During the early undercard fights, Golden Boy prospects Daniel Jacobs and James Kirkland both beat opponents with losing records by first-round knockout. Nearly two years since the last time he fought, Kirkland (26-0, 23 KOs) was back in the ring after serving an 18-month prison sentence for gun possession as a felon.