Saul “Canelo’’ Alvarez knew all along that his non-title light-middleweight bout with Erislandy Lara at the MGM Grand Garden Arena last Saturday evening wasn’t going to be easy.
It wasn’t and after nearly three rounds, Alvarez became frustrated because he was tagged multiple times with stiff jabs by Lara, but across the last nine rounds attacked the body with much success, and earned a split decision.
Two of the three judges seemed to have watched the same fight, but Levi Martinez, who scored it 117-111 in favor of Alvarez, the 2-to-1 betting favorite, seemed a bit off according to Lara.
Jerry Roth had it 115-113 in favor of Lara, but Dave Moretti sided with Alvarez, 115-113, who landed 97 punches compared to 107 for Lara, who also connected on 22 percent of his jabs (55 of 246). Alvarez, the one-time junior-middleweight world champion, hit the mark on nine of 183 jabs for five percent.
Still, Alvarez felt the decision was justified despite Lara seeing the outcome differently. “I came to fight,’’ said Alvarez, who raised his record to 44-1-1 with 31 knockouts. “I didn’t come to run here. You don’t win by running. You win by hitting. He does have a great jab and he moves around, but you don’t win a fight that way. You don’t run.”
Lara didn’t agree. “One hundred percent I won the fight,’’ said the Cuban defector who found the range on 37 percent of his power shots (52 of 140) versus 28 percent (88 of 232) for Alvarez. “I was controlling the rounds and worse, I made him look bad in front of his fans. I jabbed and I outboxed him. People know I won this fight.”
There were 14,239 spectators in the arena and the majority supported Alvarez, which didn’t help Lara’s cause.
The bout began with the 31-year-old Lara (19-2-2 with 12 knockouts), a super-slick left-hander jabbing and moving out of the way. Lara did this for the first two rounds and some of the third, and in the process had Alvarez missing by wide margins.
It was midway through the third round that Alvarez decided to use the left hook to the body. This has been a longtime staple of Mexican fighters, and can render the boxer getting hammered to eventually get tired, which Lara did over the second half of the battle.
“I want to leave people with a good taste in their mouth,’’ said Alvarez, who turns 24 years old this month. “This wasn’t the fight I expected. I wanted to go toe-to-toe. He didn’t come to fight. He came to run. He’s a great boxer and I respect him, but he has to learn how to throw more punches.”
Late in the seventh round Alvarez cut Lara’s right eye with a left upper cut that rocked him, and changed the course of the 12-round fray.
“When I cut him with that upper cut he ran even more,’’ Alvarez said, “but I thought I landed the harder punches and that’s why I won the fight.”
Lara said he would like a second encounter with Alvarez, but it may not come to pass. “I want a rematch and I’ll win that fight,’’ he said.
“When he learns how to fight then I’ll give him the rematch,’’ said Alvarez, who hit 73 power shots to the body. “For now, my birthday [July 18] is coming and we’re going to have fun.”
Alvarez explained his reasoning behind the body assault. “The first couple of rounds I was just trying to cut the distance, but after a few rounds I was able to get inside and work the body. When I did that he started moving and running.”
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.