Saul “Canelo” Alvarez knocked out James Kirkland with a sweeping right at 2:19 of the third round in their 154-pound fight Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
“I'm happy about the win,” Alvarez said. “The result was what I expected.”
Moments after getting off the canvas after being decked with a flurry of punches, Kirkland took the devastating knockout punch and collapsed to the floor on his back.
“I did not see the punch coming that knocked me out,” Kirkland said.
Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) returned from a 10-month break to beat Kirkland (32-2, 28 KOs), who was back in the ring after a 17-month layoff.
Alvarez is widely expected to challenge Miguel Cotto in a pay-per-view fight.
Alvarez threw 150 punches — 47 fewer than Kirkland — but he connected on 87 to just 42 by Kirkland.
The Mexican star got to Kirkland early and often, knocking him down the first time with about 1 1/2 minutes left in the first round. Kirkland got up quickly that time, despite the right hand to the face that left his nose bleeding heavily.
“Once I dropped him the first time I knew I had him,” Alvarez said.
He kept at him in the second, once using a left that landed to the side of his face.
A week after fans complained about the fight where Floyd Mayweather Jr. beat an injured Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision, they got an exciting show in Houston in front of thousands at the stadium where the Houston Astros play.
The crowd was very pro-Alvarez, with many fans wearing shirts with his likeness on them and waving ribbons with the colors of the Mexican flag.
Canelo didn't miss a beat in his first fight since a decision over Erislandy Lara in July. He was slowed by an ankle injury this winter before recovering to train to face Kirkland.
The 31-year-old Kirkland was once an up-and-comer in the sport, but legal troubles, time in prison and upheaval with his trainer have sullied his career.
Kirkland was fighting for the first time since 2013 and wasn't trained by longtime trainer Ann Wolfe for the first time since 2011. Wolfe led him to success before he dropped her the first time and suffered his only defeat before Saturday night against Nobuhiro Ishida in 2011.