By Jake Donovan
If there was ever any question surrounding the fighting heart of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, his latest ring assignment should help remove any lingering doubt. A showdown with Erislandy Lara marks the fourth consecutive dangerous assignment for the wildly popular Mexican, whereas most others in his position would have handpicked a much safer assignment.
Alvarez will still be a week shy of his 24th birthday by fight night, which takes place July 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The bout will air live on Showtime Pay-Per-View.
Having turned pro at age 15, the red headed boxing superstar has always been considered advanced beyond his age.
The past few years have been all about proving his worth in the sport—facing Austin Trout last April when he was still unbeaten, coming down slightly in weight for an eventual points loss to pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather last September and then – on the heels of his first defeat – returning to the lion’s den to face the still-relevant Alfredo Angulo this past March.
Given the endless list of talent in the Golden Boy stable in and around the 154 lb. division, Alvarez (43-1-1, 31KO) could have faced anyone he wanted. Instead, he chose a tough assignment in Lara, a crafty fighter few are in a hurry to face.
The matchup is viewed as a fight between two of the best 154 lb. fighters in the world. But that’s not entirely why Alvarez chose the assignment.
The fans asked for this fight, but not just because he's a good fighter,” Alvarez explained to Showtime’s Mauro Ranallo shortly after Tuesday’s press conference in Los Angeles. “He was talking so much sh*t on Twitter. He kept running his mouth, and now I'm going to shut him up on July 12.”
The trash talk actually began moments after Alvarez’ 10th round knockout win over Angulo, when Lara crashed the post-fight press conference. The once-beaten Cuban demanded next in line, but was initially dismissed by Alvarez, who believed there were more proper ways to go about securing such a fight.
Persistence eventually paid off, even though Lara claims to have just been in the right place at the right time, and overcome with the urge to issue a challenge.
“Nothing was planned, it wasn't staged,” Lara insists. “I just went there intending to tell him to his face this was the fight I wanted, that it was time to give the fans what they want.”
Persistence eventually paid off. It also apparently ran Lara dry of material, as he was a man of few words during Tuesday’s press kickoff.
“There’s nothing left to say,” Lara simply stated. “We’re here, and on July 12 are going to let our fists do the talking.”
Ironically, that approach never helped land Lara the fights he covets. His wide points win over Austin Trout last December only left him that much more avoided by his peers, as it was his fingers (or those of his team members who type for him) that did the talking, enough to secure the summer clash.
The press tour continues Wednesday in San Antonio, followed by a stop in New York City on Thursday before wrapping up Friday in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The final stop will also feature both sides of the show’s chief support, Juan Manuel Lopez and unbeaten Francisco Vargas.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: Saul Alvarez , Erislandy Lara , Canelo-Lara , Canelo vs. Lara