By Jake Donovan
The clock has struck midnight on the short-lived Cinderella story of Josesito Lopez, while Saul Alvarez is ready to advance his career to the next level.
The unbeaten titlist was all business in registering a fifth round knockout over Lopez in the main event Saturday evening at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Alvarez was 154 lb. for what was the fifth defense of his alphabet title, also earning the $100K Knockout of the Night bonus, as voted by the fans at home.
Lopez – who only moved up from 140 lb. this past June – came in at a career-heavy 153 lb. for his first title shot.
Alvarez went against the grain and jumped out to an early start, convinced he could hurt the naturally smaller Lopez any time he wanted. The in-ring action lived up to that suggestion in the first few rounds. The uppercut was an effective weapon for Alvarez, who set the table with a stiff jab and then time Lopez whenever the Californian provided a stationary target.
Lopez did his best to make it a fight in round two, attacking Alvarez the moment the bell sounded to begin the frame. Alvarez was pinned along the ropes as Lopez went on the attack, though none of the action featured any game changing power punches.
That dynamic dramatically changed the moment Alvarez went on the attack, which was about a minute into the second round. From there, it was no longer a competitive fight but instead the very mismatch as suggested on the scouting report.
The unbeaten Alvarez simply overwhelmed Lopez from that point onward for as long as the bout lasted. An uppercut along the ropes floored Lopez for the first time in the fight, busting up his nose in the process. The third round proved even more disastrous, with yet another knockdown courtesy of a left hook to the body.
Lopez never stopped trying, but his attempt to fight fire with fire left him severely outgunned. A welcomed break came under undesirable circumstances when Lopez was drilled with a low blow late in round four. Alvarez attempted a double left hook to the body, but was a bit too low with the tail end o that combination.
The accidental foul coupled with the quick breather provided Lopez with a burst of energy, but proved to be false confidence as a combination once again floored the Californian towards the end of the fourth. Lopez continued to dust himself off and climb off of the canvas, but reached a point in the fight where he was merely serving as a punching bag.
Alvarez threw his punches with knockout intentions to begin the fifth round, but Lopez was game and offered enough return fire to prevent referee intervention. The tide briefly turned midway through the round as Lopez scored with left hooks upstairs as the two stood center ring.
It turned out to be his last hurrah. Alvarez regained control and never relented. Lopez was trapped in the ropes eating straight right hands until referee Joe Cortez wisely elected to stop the contest.
The official time was 2:55 of round five.
Alvarez improves to 41-0-1 (30KO) with the win, which doubles as the fifth defense of the alphabet belt he acquired last March. Despite registering perhaps his most dominant performance to date, Alvarez insists there is more work to be done.
“I’m very happy with my performance but need to improve,” Alvarez stated afterward. “I’ve never hit anyone as hard as I hit him tonight. I did my job today. I had the support of the crowd, but Josesito Lopez has a lot of heart.”
Heart was all that Lopez could offer in this fight. The size difference proved overwhelming, though there was also the fact that Alvarez is simply the better fighter.
“Canelo’s “chingon” – Canelo is a bad ass,” Lopez admitted afterward as he falls to 30-5 (18KO). “He’s a good fighter. I knew coming in that he was a tough fighter and he proved it. It’s way out of my weight. It felt good, but the size was (the difference). He’s a strong fighter and a smart fighter.”
Alvarez will now go the wait-and-see route before deciding his next move. Given his past rate of activity in terms of ring frequency, it stands to reason that the unbeaten Mexican star will return to the ring before year’s end. Against whom is the lingering question.
There was a slew of candidates in line for this date, but Lopez ultimately landed what seemed to be a cursed assignment. The original choice was Victor Ortiz, who suffered a broken jaw en route to a 9th round stoppage loss to Lopez in June.
Paul Williams was named as the next leading candidate, but a bad accident left the lanky southpaw paralyzed. The former two-division titlist was at ringside taking in the action, appropriately given a champion’s reception from the capacity crowd on hand.
Williams’ unfortunate fallout led to James Kirkland landing the assignment, only for the Texan to attempt to sue his way out of contract with his promoter and management team. In came Lopez, pinch-hitting for the second time in as many fights. He earned the slot after scoring the upset over Ortiz, a fight in which he participated after Andre Berto was (falsely) popped for a banned substance.
While Lopez is destined for a career spent at 147 and below, Alvarez turns to the future. Names such as Miguel Cotto have been mentioned. There is also the possibility of moving up to middleweight and facing lineal middleweight king Sergio Martinez, who scored a decision win over Alvarez’ longtime rival countryman Julio Cesar Chavez on the same night and in the same Vegas town.
Whatever the future has in store, Alvarez insists he will be ready.
“Of course, it would be an honor for me to fight (Miguel Cotto) and move up to the next level,” Alvarez stated, while also speaking on his growing star status outside of Mexico. “It’s really motivation I thrive upon. This is what I live to do.”
The fight many believed would steal the show and also produce the $100K “Knockout of the Night” bonus turned out to be the biggest disappointment on the strip. It wasn’t disappointing to Daniel Ponce de Leon, however, as the free-swinging featherweight became a two-time champion after a technical decision win over Jhonny Gonzalez.
Scores were 77-74 (twice) and 79-72 in favor of Ponce de Leon, whose 6th round knockdown of Gonzalez was the lone bright spot in a fight marred by headbutts.
Action was missing for much of the night, as both fighters were affected by the multiple clash of heads. Ponce de Leon was left with a cut along the top of his head in round two, but managed to fight through the blood and outhustle a surprisingly reluctant Gonzalez.
The tone of the fight permanently remained in Ponce de Leon’s favor after stunning and flooring Gonzalez in round six. Yet another headbutt two rounds later left the soon-to-be-dethroned titlist with a cut above his eyebrow, which was severe enough to convince the ringside doctor to stop the fight.
Ponce de Leon improves to 44-4 (35KO) with the win, his third straight as he now becomes a two-time titlist in as many weight classes.
Gonzalez falls to 52-8 (45KO) with the loss, snapping a 12-fight win streak. All in all, it was not the greatest of celebrations for Gonzalez’ 31st birthday.
Marcos Maidana (32-3, 29KO) managed to breathe some life into his hopeful welterweight career. The former 140 lb. titlist was relentless in his 8th round knockout of faded fringe contender Jesus Soto Karass (26-8-3, 17KO). Both fighters entered the bout coming off of losses.
Leo Santa Cruz (21-0-1, 12KO) made the first successful defense of his bantamweight belt with a 5th round stoppage of former flyweight titlist Eric Morel. Action was one-sided throughout before Morel (46-4, 23KO) opted to not come out for the sixth round.
All bouts aired live on Showtime Championship Boxing as part of a quadruple header.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: