By Sean Crose
Canelo Alvarez left his locker room Saturday night in a way which was reminiscent of 20s heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey. Head down, hair unkempt, five o’clock shadow clearly present, the young man from Guadalajara looked more like a dark, brooding warrior than he did a knight in shining armor.
Canelo’s opponent, the skilled Cuban immigrant Erislandy Lara was waiting when Canelo slipped in between the ropes. Bouncing up and down in a steady flow of eager energy, Lara appeared unfazed by the fact that he was clearly in Canelo country at the MGM Grand.
The opening round was all Lara, his right jab and masterful footwork telling the tale. Lara stumbled early in the second, but it was because of his own feet, not because of the fists of Canelo. Still, Canelo was able to close in better in the second three minute interval. He also landed a couple of solid shots to the body.
Lara absolutely owned the third, dancing, poking his right jab and landing solid lefts. Canelo was patient, never lost control, but seemed unable to hit and hurt his opponent. Yet he managed to rock Lara hard to the body in the fourth and actually began connecting with more frequency. Lara remained disciplined and hard to hit, but the round still belonged to the Mexican.
Canelo continued to work the body hard in the fifth, but Lara continued to elude for large portions of the round. He was also able to land successfully to Canelo’s head. It was pretty much the same story by the midway point of the fight. While Canelo was able to land combos to the body one to three times per round, Lara was able to avoid and land points to Canelo’s face.
Lara lost the seventh, as the Mexican’s determination and numerous shots to the body overwhelmed the Cuban’s frustrating defense. Canelo won the eighth round, too, for now Lara was the one who wasn’t landing. It was anyone’s fight.
The ninth was close, but Lara was cut. He was also looking beat up and a bit tired. The fast footwork had slowed way down. The body blows were clearly taking their toll. In a return to form, however, Lara came back to dominate and take the tenth handily. As the bout entered the championship rounds, it was either man’s to lose.
Lara continued to dominate in the eleventh. In fact, it was fair to assume he was one round away from winning the fight. Yet Canelo was so popular, and the crowd was so intense in it’s support of him, that it was clear the twelfth round might be essential.
And the twelfth was close. Very close. Still, I felt Lara had won the fight by a round or two. Not that my opinion mattered. For, in the end, it was Canelo ‘s night by split decision – thanks in part to an outrageous score of 117-111 by one of the three judges. Such inexcusable scoring has done incredible damage to the reputation of boxing and shall continue to do so. Why? Because, quite frankly, it’s allowed.
At any rate, Canelo’s future remains as bright as the rising son. Lara, on the other hand, may well be avoided by popular opposition and occasionally robbed by shameful judges. Such is boxing, a sport where the best man doesn’t always win.
As for judge Levi Martinez, who had Canelo winning by an outrageous six points, well, he’s more typical than most fans should hope boxing judges are. Giving Canelo a win would be one thing. Giving the man a gift, which Martinez did, is another story entirely.