Published Saturday, July 12, 2014 | 8 p.m.
Updated Saturday, July 12, 2014 | 10:20 p.m.
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez raised his hands in celebration one second, then shook his head in frustration the next.
Alvarez won a showdown to determine the best junior middleweight in the world Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, besting Erislandy Lara by split decision (117-111, 115-113, 113-115), but the fight didn’t go the way he planned. Lara spent most of the fight backpedaling, forcing Alvarez to chase him down in order to engage.
“I came to fight,” Alvarez said through a translator while still in the ring. “You win by hitting, not by running. He ran from my punches.”
Alvarez changed his approach when Lara’s strategy caught him off guard. Instead of standing in the pocket and trying to win exchanges, Alvarez took what he could get.
He targeted Lara’s body, landing several shots to the stomach that must have stood out to the judges in a handful of close rounds. Lara protested, insisting he took no damage.
“They connected, but the body shots didn’t have any force,” Lara said through a translator. “None of those shots hurt me.”
Most in the arena felt unsure what way the decision was going in the moments between the end of the fight and the announcement. Alvarez’s own corner reportedly told him he might be losing going into the final round.
Lara celebrated with more vigor than Alvarez at the immediate conclusion. He leaned on the ropes in shock for several minutes after hearing the verdict in favor of Alvarez.
“Everyone knows I won the fight,” Lara said. “It didn’t seem like he was doing anything. I know one thing: I made him look bad in front of all his people.”
Lara lobbied for a rematch, as several who scored the fight in his favor supported the position. Controversy never ceases to find boxing, though the Sun’s live scoring agreed with the decision, tallying a 116-112 victory for Alvarez.
Golden Boy Promotions Oscar De La Hoya also praised Alvarez’s performance, saying he knew he had won and turning back talk that a rematch was imminent.
“When he learns to fight,” Alvarez said, “I’ll give him a rematch.”
Check below for a live blog of Canelo vs. Lara and come back to lasvegassun.com later for full coverage.
Every fight, those heavily involved boxing must have something to fret over.
For tonight’s showdown between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Erislandy Lara at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, it’s pay-per-view sales. Alvarez is a proven seller but, despite his undefeated record, Lara remains a virtual unknown to the legions of casual fans usually needed to trigger overwhelming success.
Concerning one’s self with the profit margins of Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions, however, might be missing the point. At best, it’s surrogate distress because there’s no worry regarding the actual fight.
Canelo vs. Lara is a sweet-science spectacle in every sense. There’s no title on the line because no title is needed.
The best junior middleweight in the world will emerge by the end of their 12-round affair, which should start within the next 45 minutes.
Bothered by the constant criticism of facing handpicked opponents, Alvarez demanded a bout against the best. While most consider the Mexican the top 154-pound fighter in the world, many have the Cuban right behind him with others flip-flopping the two at the top.
The 23-year-old Alvarez has youth and power, as his punches connect at their hardest with more impact than anything Lara throws. The 31-year-old Lara has experience and speed, as he has seamlessly pieced together combinations and counters during a current five-fight unbeaten streak.
Alvarez may have twice the amount of professional fights as Lara, but that’s because the latter spent far more years in the amateur ranks. Alvarez turned professional at 15 years old, not suffering a loss until encountering Floyd Mayweather Jr. last September.
Some would argue Lara has never lost, as his lone setback came against Paul Williams three years ago in a fight where the decision made no sense. Lara clinched himself the opportunity against Alvarez by being brash with trash-talking and threat-making.
He hasn’t toned it down all week, going on Showtime just minutes ago to declare it a “personal” fight. Now is the time to back up his words.
Alvarez and Lara are expected to make their way to the ring shortly after a featherweight bout between Abner Mares and Jonathan Oquendo. Mares, Golden Boy’s heralded first homegrown champion, looks to come back from a stunning quick knockout loss to Jhonny Gonzalez 11 months ago.
Stay tuned to lasvegassun.com for a round-by-round blog with scoring of Alvarez vs. Lara and updates on Mares vs. Oquendo.