Saunders’ trainer Mark Tibbs pulled the Hatfield fighter out of the contest after the eighth round as Canelo’s powerful, counter right uppercut inflicted multiple fractures on his opponent’s right eye socket.
The ringside doctor visited Saunders’ corner after the eighth round but it was clear from the TV footage that the 31-year-old was unable to see out of his right eye.
Saunders had been the WBO super middleweight champion heading into the contest and was hoping to secure Canelo’s WBC and WBA straps on the night.
But he came up against the man most consider to be the pound-for-pound best boxer on the planet in Canelo.
In the immediate aftermath of the fight, there was criticism from some that Saunders had pulled out of the fight, with DAZN pundits Sergio Mora and Chris Mannix questioning his fighting spirit before realising he had suffered major damage to his eye.
Saunders had gone into the fight claiming he would rather die than quit the contest with Canelo and in the past has been critical of other fighters who pulled out of fights before the 12 rounds were up, such as Daniel Dubois in November – something which was quickly highlighted by some fans on social media.
However, posting on his Twitter account, Fury said: “People love to hate on others willing to chase their dreams. Billy Joe Saunders tried to be great last night! It wasn’t his night but at least he had the bottle to follow his dreams and heart.
“He will always be my bro. We go back to 15/16 (years old).
“What a night to remember in #30years Dallas.”
It came after an earlier message where Fury had said: “We thank God for everything and everyone around us. After a great week in Texas with Billy Joe Saunders, we now keep on moving forward in this journey through life. In God we trust” and tagged his brother Tommy Fury who was also in the picture.
Saturday night’s fight took place in front of more than 73,000 fans at Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
And fans were not left disappointed as both men impressed at different stages of the fight.
After an edgy opening round, Canelo started to take control in rounds two and three, as Saunders struggled to trouble the Mexican despite arguably being the more active.
However, the former British Olympian raised the intensity and showed his boxing skills between rounds four and seven.
Saunders is not renowned for his punching power but he was putting together more combinations in the middle rounds and was actually in front on some people’s scorecards heading into the eighth round, including respected journalist Mannix.
But the devastating counter right uppercut from Canelo midway through the eighth round was the defining moment of the fight.
It was clear from the second it landed and when Saunders’ eye swelled up immediately that the Brit was in some serious trouble, as Canelo waved for the crowd to raise the noise and the Mexican admitted afterwards that he knew he had broken the eye socket as soon as the shot landed.
After the fight, it was revealed that all three judges had Canelo in front, with Tim Cheatham recording 77-75 and both Max DeLuca and Glenn Feldman 78-74. I too had Canelo winning 77-75 but at least three of the rounds were arguably close enough that they could have been scored either way depending on what you want to see from your boxers, in my opinion.
Saunders was immediately taken to hospital after the fight and the promoter of the event, Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn, confirmed via social media that he had suffered multiple fractures to his eye area.
Hearn tweeted: “Just at hospital in Dallas, Billy Joe Saunders stayed overnight.
“Suffered multiple fractures to orbital area and will undergo surgery this afternoon.”
And speaking to DAZN , which broadcast the fight, Hearn said: “I spoke to [trainer] Mark Tibbs. He couldn’t see and he wouldn’t let him go out.
“I thought Billy boxed beautifully. Canelo is so strong, he took his time. Billy is so tricky, but he busted his eye socket. Canelo coming on strong in the back end of the fight. Too good.
“It was a great performance by Billy Joe Saunders, he came to win.”