By Cliff Rold
Levi Martinez screwed Erislandy Lara on Saturday night by a score of 117-111. That didn’t cost Lara the fight.
Lara cost Lara the fight.
Even with one absurd score, it’s hard to debate too hard about the outcome. This scribe saw it even. Many saw it 115-113 for Saul Alvarez. Still others saw it roughly the same for Lara. That was the fair range of scores.
That was the final outcome on two of the official nods. Jerry Roth liked Lara by that score. Dave Moretti like Alvarez the same way. Flip two rounds on either card, and we get the same verdict.
Flip two on just Moretti’s and Lara wins.
Did either man really do enough to be considered a clear winner? No.
The defeated man is the one with the complaints so the bigger question is: could Lara have done more in at least two of the rounds Moretti scored against him?
Let’s go the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Lara B; Alvarez B/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Lara B; Alvarez B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Lara B; Alvarez B/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Lara B; Alvarez B/Post: B; B+
There were moments when both men looked fantastic. When Alvarez got it going to the body, he was vicious. When Lara let his hands go, he was able to make Alvarez pay for some missed shots that sailed by not in a space of inches but feet.
There wasn’t enough from either man.
In a fight that provided an intriguing clash of styles, the final punch stats were paltry. Accepting that punch stats are a flawed calculation, we still get an estimate of 107-97 in punches landed (in favor of Lara) and 415-386 thrown (in favor of Alvarez). Over the course of twelve rounds, that’s not a ton of fists flying.
Some of the narrative of the fight has become that Lara ‘ran.’ It’s an overstatement. Someone busted Alvarez around the eyes and there were frames where Lara dug in and put in some good work. He’d land, move, and find space to land again.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t some rounds on the track. There were substantial frames where Lara moved, jabbed, moved again, made Alvarez miss head shots, and failed to finish by making him pay. He was too busy moving while Alvarez stood still waiting to be countered. Those were the rounds where the running narrative was fair, where at times it could feel like one of someone like Andre Dirrell’s bad nights.
A few more stiff lefts, a few more moments in the pocket, could have swung frames for Lara. Roth and Moretti both brought their A games. Lara convinced only one.
Alvarez convinced the other by going downstairs and helping Lara onto his bike.
In asking if Lara could have done more, might it also be asking if he could be someone else? There is another element to all this post-fight chatter. There is a belief in some that Lara can be more than he is but, at this point, might that be a flawed premise?
When the recent wave of Cubans arrived, Lara looked like the goods right out of the gate. Given the divisions he competed in, and the dollar level involved, there was reason to think he could be the class of the group before it was done. Instead, he’s never really evolved. What he did well at debut he still does well.
The limits of that remain as well. He still basically only throws two punches: a jab and left. There is rarely a hook or uppercut. The body work was nil, a reflection of the modern amateur fencing system. It makes for a sometimes low output, flighty fighter. He’s never really evolved as a professional. He’s sharpened what he does well without adding to it.
In close contests, that style works against the man on the move. Saturday was close. Lara retains his belt and will have more chances to shine but it might never be as big as it was on Saturday again. He might, and should, question if he did everything he could to win when it mattered most.
The answer is that he did not and that should haunt.
Having addressed the outcome, Canelo deserves his fair credit. There will be fresh resentment of his chosen son position after three high profile fights with at least one absurd score favoring him (his 118-109 against Trout and draw card with Mayweather were even worse than Martinez’s card Saturday). However, calling him the winner in Trout or Lara was not unfair and he earned those nods by landing the hard shots that won the right judges.
And he took the fights. Few in boxing have faced as crafty a cadre as Trout, Mayweather and Lara with an out as tough as Alfredo Angulo as the ‘soft landing.’ He exits that run at 3-1. After a careful construction, his finished product is a success.
Now let’s get him in with some bangers. Alvarez against James Kirkland and Miguel Cotto, the latter for the Middleweight title, sound like can’t miss wars. He’s earned the chance to have some wars.
There will be time again to chase boxers later.
Report Card Picks 2014: 30-15 (Including Staff Pick for Barthelemy-Mendez)
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org