On Saturday, November 9, 2019, on the principle undercard of the main event and pro debut bout of YouTube celebrities Logan Paul and KSI, WBO Super Middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (29-0 14 KOs) made his US debut and the first defense of his title.
The bout streamed live on DAZN from the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, California. Saunders fought through some rough patches and walked away with an 11th-round stoppage of undefeated Argentinian Marcelo Coceres (28-1-1 15 KOs) in a much tougher fight than expected.
Saunders decked in purple Grant gloves and US flag trunks (similar to his Gypsy counterpart Tyson Fury a few months back) started the bout more aggressively than we are used to seeing, commanding ring center and walking his opponent down with precise jabs and right hands.
Saunders seemed in complete control, sweeping the first half of the fight by out boxing his opponent at mid-to-close range. But as the rounds piled on, Saunders seemed to tire being hit more often and loading up on single shots.
Sensing his chance, Coceres imposed his style, walking Saunders down and staying at close range to force him to fight when he did not want to.
Coceres was bringing the pressure with gritty determination, but was still not landing consistently. Coming through the eighth round, despite most likely being ahead in the fight, Saunders seemed flat having to work hard to keep Coceres off of him.
Coceres was gaining confidence and becoming more bold, dropping his hands and doing his best Sergio Martinez imitation to invite Saunders into an exchange.
Saunders retook some control in a mostly uneventful ninth round with his jab and slowed the momentum of his opponent. The next round started slowly and reached a crescendo in the second half when the crowd erupted in a chorus of boos that seemingly motivated both fighters to exchange and trade flurries–with Saunders getting the best of it.
Looking into the corners between rounds, the urgency was felt by team Saunders who implored their man to decisively win the next two rounds to retain the title.
Like a man possessed, Saunders came out in the 11th and caught Coceres cold with two left hands and a right hook that dropped him for the first time in the fight.
Coceres beat the count and Saunders came out for the big finish, connecting with a huge uppercut that sent him back to the canvas for the second time.
Despite beating the count a second time it was obvious the end was near and Saunders went right back to work, pummeling Coceres with a flurry of punches until the stoppage was called by the referee.
The official TKO came at 1:49 into the 11th round. In his post-fight interview, Saunders remarked on his flat performance and admitted it was not the type of showing that would attract a big money fight.
“There’s no excuse, that performance was not worthy of Canelo or any of the other big names,” said Canelo.