A Whole Lot of Nada: Saul "Canelo" Alvarez Squeaks By Erislandy Lara

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Photo: Josh Hedges / Getty Images

Erislandy Lara was pugnacious at press conferences before and after the biggest showdown of his career on Saturday night, but between the ropes, where it matters, he proved to be little more than a paper tiger when Saul “Canelo” Alvarez outpointed him at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, before a crowd of 14,239. After 12 uneventful rounds, Alvarez earned a split decision by a 115-113, 113-115, and an absurd 117-111. Remezcla scored the bout 115-113 in favor of Alvarez.

It was a dull fight that hardly merited weeks of cynical Showtime infomercials designed to gouge its subscribers into purchasing extracurricular programming. In the end, pay-per-view consumers got 12 undistinguished rounds in exchange for $50-$60 on their cable bill and enough hype to induce sensory overload. According to statistics released by Showtime, the two men landed a total of 214 punches between them over 12 rounds. That works out to about 17 punches landed per round combined!

Lara dodged, deked, darted, and ducked from wire to wire and, when the horrorshow was finally over, went into his defiant act to the surprise of absolutely no one. Boxing and running are two different things, of course, but Lara blurred the line so often against Alvarez, 44-1-1 with 31 knockouts, that winning seemed almost secondary to him. Lara belonged in the Goodwill Games and not in a boxing ring on Saturday night, and if he had been given a pole between rounds, he might have vaulted out of the ring and into the rafters. Not every fight has to be a toe-to-toe shootout, naturally, but a clean boxer like Floyd Mayweather, Jr., can work his magic without turning his back—repeatedly—to flee.

When Lara, 31, added showboating to his dance act in the fourth and fifth rounds, it was a sign of a fighter interested in something other than the task at hand. Alvarez, by contrast, was more consistent with his work rate and was the aggressor throughout. When he could pin Lara down momentarily, he would rip combinations to the body in close. It may not have been effective aggression most of the time, but it was effective enough to send Lara, originally from Guantanamo Bay but now fighting out of Texas, backpedaling for much of the fight. A left uppercut—off of a fake hook—left Lara with a cut on his right eyebrow. From time to time, Lara, who relied mostly on his jab, would land a straight left or a solid right hook, but these were isolated blows for the most part, and he rarely opened up with more than a one-two. Not exactly Julio Cesar Chavez on Saturday night, Alvarez, 23, looked foolish missing several of his shots, but he was the only man in the ring interested in earning his paycheck, and he got the benefit of the doubt from two out of the three judges (one of them obviously play Candy Crush Saga at ringside) who recognized a spoiler when they see one. And Lara, with Prada talent and a Kmart attitude, made sure that his negative strategy would lead to nowhere for all involved.

It looks like Lara, now 19-2-2 with 12 knockouts, simply does not have the temperament to be a world-class fighter: he would rather stir up a ruckus after a draw or a close decision loss than actually seal victory in the ring. So let him have at it on Twitter or at press conferences. After all, that’s where he does his best work.

Carlos Acevedo is the editor of The Cruelest Sport and a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Maxboxing, Boxing World Magazine, and Esquina Boxeo.