Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez made a triumphant return to the ring by edging Erislandy Lara in a 12 round fight.
In the much hyped event called, ‘Honor and Glory’ we saw the highly popular Saul Alvarez pinned against the Cuban tactician, Erislandy Lara, in a non title affair at 155 lbs. Canelo Alvarez was coming into the fight off a dominant victory over Alfredo Angulo back in March of 2014 and was looking to reestablish his standing as one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world.
In the opposite corner was Erislandy Lara, a former Cuban amateur standout who is known for his superb boxing abilities and speed. Although skilled, Lara was often avoided by the top fighters in the division due to his defense style. The move to fight Lara surprised boxing fans and critics, but proved that the Mexican star is not looking for any easy challenges.
As the fight began, you could see the stylistic difference in both men. Lara came out in the southpaw stance, looking to control the distance with his jab and ring generalship. Canelo on the other hand came in with an aggressive minded style and was looking to cut off the ring and pin Lara on the ropes. Round 1 was a fairly even round, Lara landing some quick jabs and Canelo connecting with a couple of body shots.
In round 2, Canelo came out aiming his attack towards the body of Lara and keeping pressure on the very mobile Lara. Erislandy Lara was very light on his feet and snuck in a couple of shots but Alvarez had the harder blows in the round.
The speed edge was on the side of Lara, and in round 3 he had perhaps his best display of the fight. Erislandy executed his gameplan to perfection — moving side to side, not giving Alvarez a target to aim at, and at the same time landing his trademark pinpoint accurate strikes. Towards the end of the round you could see a hint of frustration on the face of Saul Alvarez as he was swinging wide shots and missing by large margins.
Round 4 was perhaps the most pivotal round of the fight as Canelo came out with high paced aggression, prioritizing work to the body of the Cuban Olympian. The heavy pressure kept Lara mostly on the defensive and nullified the offensive success he had had in the previous round. Canelo would have to keep up this style of attack if he was going to win the bout.
Lara attempted a comeback of his own in round 5, trying to keep the fight at a pace where he would be most comfortable to land his own strikes and avoid taking much damage. Unfortunately, Alvarez stayed on the gas pedal and kept charging forward, landing thudding shots to the sides of Erislandy any time he closed the distance.
By round 6 you could see Lara’s feet were not as quick as they were in the opening rounds — an indication that the body attack was beginning to wear on him. The subsequent rounds showed more signs that Lara was not liking the pressure, and a cut over his in round 7 only added to the frustrations. Lara wiped away at his eye on several occasions and his facial expression didn’t exude the confidence it did early in the fight.
Saul Alvarez was in command of the fight in the middle rounds, the key was his pressure and body shots. Lara wasn’t absorbing many shots to his head, but downstairs was a different story. Energy draining shots were taking their toll on Lara. By round 9, Lara was just looking to avoid punishment and wasn’t offering anything significant in terms of offense.
One big question about Saul Alvarez has always been his conditioning. Fans point to him having stamina issues and not having the same energy down the stretch, but in this fight, no such claims could be made. Canelo was in spectacular shape and in the final rounds he was able to keep the heat on Lara. Amidst the attacks of Alvarez, Lara still showed some of his class, landing some sharp jabs and left crosses, but they came few and far between.
As the fight concluded, both fighters raised their hands as they awaited the judges score cards. Two judges scored the fight 115-113, one for Lara and one for Alvarez, the final judge had a wider margin, scoring it 117-111 in favor of Saul Alvarez, thus awarding him the split decision victory.
Tensions ran high after the winner was announced, as a small scuffle broke out between the camps, but order was quickly restored. Canelo stated post fight, “I came here to fight, not to run. He’s a fighter that came to run and jab, that’s not how you win a fight” When asked if he would give Lara a rematch, Alvarez replied, “When he learns how to fight I’ll give him a rematch.” On his behalf Lara said, “I won this fight, 100%, I controlled every round easily. I made him look bad in front of his public.”
With the win, Saul Alvarez established himself as the best fighter in the junior middleweight division, and has set himself up for some interesting options next. The fight that makes the most sense would be a fight with middleweight champion Miguel Cotto, as the fight was talked about in the past, with Cotto turning down 10 million dollars in favor of a shot at the middleweight crown.
The bout would pose an interesting clash in styles and with Cotto now having a more aggressive style under Freddie Roach, a Canelo-Cotto fight could end up being an all out war that fans would certainly turn out for.
Besides that bout, there is also the possibility of Alvarez meeting knockout puncher James Kirkland in a fight that could have fight of the year potential. No matter what direction Alvarez goes in, his future his looking bright because right now at age of 24 he has established himself as one of the best boxers in the world, a top PPV attraction and also one of the sport’s most important stars.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is the future of the sport, and with Mayweather and Pacquiao heading closer to the retirement door, Canelo proved once again that he is ready to carry the torch and be one of the shining lights of boxing for years to come.