Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Alvarez-Lara: Worthy Of A Sequel

On July 12th the Boxing world focused it’s attention on the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada for the highly anticipated encounter between former Jr. Middleweight world champion Saul Alvarez and top contender Erislandy Lara. In the lead up to this fight I stated that stylistically this was a fight that you could see an argument for either fighter winning. The actual fight would validate that statement.

Although it was my belief that this would be a contest where there would be a little of everything, a large portion of this fight was a tactical Boxing match where there were several close rounds. It was not surprising to this observer to see Lara begin this fight using his lateral movement in order to be an elusive target. It was this approach that I felt dictated the early rounds of this fight as Lara used angles to set up his offense, establishing his jab and mixing in crisp combinations.

This seemed to keep Alvarez from letting his hands go consistently early on. In contrast to Lara, Alvarez was sporadic in throwing his jab throughout much of this fight. This could be attributed to both Lara’s lateral movement and quick hands. Establishing a consistent jab against an elusive target who is also a precision counter puncher is after all easier said than done.

Alvarez however, was effective in targeting Lara’s body as the focal point of his offense when he was able to close the distance between himself and Lara. Although Lara was clearly more active in my eyes early on, Alvarez had the edge in terms of landing the more effective punches when he was able to land.

As is often the case in fights where both fighters are able to have periods of effectiveness in the same rounds, it can present a conundrum for not only fans, but more importantly also the judges. This can and often does result in rounds that are deemed “Swing Rounds” that can go either way.

Even though Alvarez was consistent in terms of trying to walk Lara down and apply pressure on him, the question in my mind was whether Alvarez was doing enough to win rounds that were extremely close based on how effective he was when he was able to get in close and land solidly with his body attack. One could make a valid argument that this fight was a scenario where Lara was able to control the early part of the fight with his lateral movement and ability to get his punches off first and make Alvarez miss. As the fight progressed however, Alvarez was able to be more effective and close the gap in terms of the scoring of this fight.

There was however, no question that this was shaping up to be a close fight. As the fight entered the middle rounds, I felt that Lara had a slight edge based on how effective he was early in the fight. The body attack established by Alvarez did seem to begin to pay off for him in the middle rounds as he was able to land not only to the body, but also begin to have success landing punches to the head of Lara including cutting Lara over the right eye with an uppercut in round seven.

At this stage of the fight the momentum had clearly shifted toward Alvarez. Despite appearing to be affected by Alvarez’ body attack, Lara did not appear as though he was in any trouble as this fight progressed and kept trying to remain elusive and keep Alvarez at distance.

At the end of the twelve round bout I felt that Alvarez did enough to win the fight based on his consistent pressure and body attack that proved evident in the second half of the fight. Based on this, I scored this fight unofficially 7-5 in rounds or 115-113 in points for Alvarez. There were however, several momentum shifts throughout this fight and it was certainly not surprising to see the official judges turn in varying scores resulting in a split decision.

Judge Jerry Roth scored this fight 115-113 for Erislandy Lara, while Judge Dave Moretti scored this fight the same way that I saw it, 115-113 for Saul Alvarez. The deciding scorecard was rendered by Judge Levi Martinez who scored this fight 9-3 in rounds or 117-111 for Saul Alvarez.

Although there might be some who feel that Judge Levi Martinez’ scorecard was inaccurate and although I did not see this fight by as wide a margin it is understandable how a score like that can be rendered in a fight like this. Even though I do not want to seem repetitive I will say again as I have said many times over the years that when it comes to close fights it will boil down to what a judge prefers based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense in their own individual criteria in how they score.

There were times throughout this fight where Erislandy Lara landed the cleaner punches and dictated how the fight was fought based on his lateral movement, which made it difficult for Alvarez to get close and caused him to miss many punches. In contrast, Alvarez was more effective particularly in the second half of this fight where his body work made it possible for him to get on the inside and landed the harder punches in my estimation. This is a classic example of how “Swing Rounds” can result in differing scores and opinions.

I thought that this fight was very close and could have gone either way. Although I had Alvarez winning by two rounds, I could easily see an argument for Lara winning this fight by the same margin or by a score of 8-4 in rounds or 116-112 in points. It was that kind of fight.

Prior to this fight I stated that I believed that all the ingredients were there for might be a classic encounter. There may be some who disagree with me in this regard. The one thing that I believe everyone will agree on is that this fight represented two of the best fighters in the Jr. Middleweight division both putting themselves and their standing in the division on the line.

 It was a highly competitive encounter that will almost certainly be a topic of discussion and debate for Boxing fans for years to come. What will this fight do in the overall Jr. Middleweight picture? It is certainly debatable. Lara who currently holds interim/regular status in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) ratings was not theoretically risking his standing in this fight as it was not for interim/regular champion status. It will be interesting to see if the WBA will drop Lara from that status due to the loss. Even though this was not a fight for interim/regular status, or to put it more simply to determine an official WBA mandatory challenger, it could certainly be possible that the WBA could order a rematch between Alvarez and Lara based on what happened in this fight.

One should also consider that the current unified WBC/WBA Jr. Middleweight world champion Floyd Mayweather who is scheduled to defend his unified Welterweight world championship as recognized by both the World Boxing Council (WBC) and the WBA in a rematch against former WBA world champion Marcos Maidana in September. This would appear as though it would prevent Lara or Alvarez from challenging for the unified Jr. Middleweight world championship unless circumstances emerged where the titles would be stripped from Mayweather. Even though there may be some who feel that there should be rematch fight between Alvarez and Lara, I respectfully disagree.

This was a highly competitive fight from beginning to end. An argument could be made that either Alvarez or Lara won this fight as well this fight could have ended in a draw. In my opinion, this fight is certainly worthy of a sequel.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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