By Jake Donovan
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez continues his quest to prove there is life after a Mayweather loss, aiming for his second straight win since watching his “0” go last September.
Erislandy Lara hopes to keep the good fortunes going in a busy stretch for notable Cuban boxers. Yuriorkis Gamboa didn’t provide the best lead-in, but the slack was picked up by Rances Barthelemy in his 130 lb. title win over Argenis Mendez earlier this week.
Next week features the ring return of 122 lb. king Guillermo Rigondeaux. But on Saturday night in Las Vegas, all eyes will be on Lara to see if the Cuban boxer can knock Alvarez down another notch or two as they collide in a non-title bout live on Showtime Pay-Per-View.
Lara (19-1-2, 12KOs) hasn’t fought at all in 2014, his last bout coming in arguably the best win of his career, a 12-round domination of former 154 lb. titlist Austin Trout. The win trumped the performance put in by Alvarez, who decisioned a then-unbeaten Trout earlier in the year.
Who got the best of a common opponent rarely matters when it comes to head-to-head matchups in a perceived 50/50 fight – especially when there is more than one common opponent to consider.
Alvarez (43-1-1, 31KOs) had his way with Alfredo Angulo earlier this year, scoring a 10th round knockout in his first fight back following the loss to Mayweather. Lara also scored a 10th round stoppage over Angulo, but was forced to overcome two knockdowns in their clash last June.
Even with the bout taking place at a catchweight of 155 lb., it has been argued that the winner of Saturday’s headliner at the MGM Grand should be regarded as the best super welterweight in the world. That distinction currently resides with Mayweather, but the unbeaten pound-for-pound and box-office king is sticking at welterweight in a rematch with Marcos Maidana in September.
Regardless of what honors await the winner of Saturday’s bout, many view the fight as a competitive fight, one with little more than bragging rights at stake.
So who will come out on top? Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes the action will play out.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: CANELO ALVAREZ vs. ERISLANDY LARA
Anson Wainwright (Alvarez by decision): “I give Canelo huge credit for taking this fight, it wasn’t a bout that people were clamoring for. Lara is a dangerous southpaw with crazy amateur credentials. Lara has called Canelo out for a while now and finally has his wish. Perhaps he should be careful what he wishes for. I expect a close battle in which both have their moments, however Canelo's will do slightly more seeing him home on points, possibly controversially.”
Ryan Burton (Alvarez UD): “I think that Canelo will start out fast landing counter shots and possibly even dropping Lara early on. The Cuban will rebound to win the late rounds on the card but Canelo will have built enough of a lead to win by a 115-112, 115-113 type of score.”
Michael Coppinger (Lara by split decision): “Lara is the more skilled technician, and on his biggest stage yet, I expect him to use his Cuban schooling to outbox and befuddle the Mexican star. There will be a lot of drama, with Canelo perhaps dropping Lara, but Lara will rebound and eke out a close decision in a career-defining win.”
Jake Donovan (Alvarez by unanimous decision): “Been going back and forth on this fight really from the moment it was announced, and seeing a perceived-to-be-drained Alvarez at the weigh-in doesn’t help matters. As talented as Erislandy Lara is, he’s there to be outfought. He’s not the prototypical Cuban boxer, nor is Canelo Alvarez of the cloth of the stereotypical Mexican brawler. Lara has his moments and wins plenty of style points. But Alvarez’s’ aggression prevails in a close but clear decision win even if there are rumblings from Lara’s camp and supporters immediately thereafter.”
Keith Idec (Alvarez by TKO10): “The skilled, left-handed Erislandy Lara obviously isn’t Austin Trout, but Alvarez’s success in his own fight against Trout was a strong indicator of his ability to handle a smart southpaw. Lara possesses more power than Trout, but Alvarez’s chin never has been an issue, and that won’t change Saturday night. He’ll have some difficulty with Lara’s movement, and the first half of the fight should be highly competitive. Eventually, though, a persistent Alvarez’s strength will become the foremost factor in a fight against an opponent whose chin hasn’t always been reliable. Lara is more than willing to trade, and that’ll cost him in this fight.”
Ryan Maquiñana (Alvarez by decision): “I think Canelo Alvarez showed in his close win over Austin Trout that he not only could score on a slick southpaw, but do enough damage to put him on the canvas. Erislandy Lara will definitely capture his share of rounds, but I don’t see him landing consistently enough to win on the cards in a close, possibly ugly fight. This is a fight in which a heavily pro-Canelo crowd will be screaming at the top of its lungs whenever the Mexican star throws, much less lands a combination.”
Cliff Rold (Lara by decision): “Another week, another toss up but no coin flip this time. The money is with Alvarez. The Haymon is with Lara. I think the latter squares the judges and Lara seizes the moment for a clear decision win.”
Francisco Salazar (Lara by split decision): “The style that Lara possesses is all wrong for Alvarez. If Lara finds a rhythm and is able to counter effectively without Alvarez going to his body, he has a good shot to win. Alvarez is going to be determined and fight an aggressive, yet intelligent fight plan. Since he's the house fighter, you would figure he gets the close rounds. Lara has everything to gain and he would not be smart playing into Alvarez's hands. It will be very close, but Lara barely gets it done to get a decision. Alvarez will get a November rematch.”
Reynaldo Sanchez (Lara by late TKO): “I am convinced that Canelo’s best chance against Lara comes down to his fight night weight. If Canelo enters weighing less than 165 lb., he will have a chance to move faster and last longer in the fight. If Canelo’s weight is about 170 lb., Lara will have a slower opponent and that's dangerous for the Mexican idol. Canelo would have to go straight to infighting in order to hit hard from the start. If Lara moves around the ring and is not a stationary target to reach using his smart boxing, Canelo will be tired in 6 or 7 rounds, and Lara could put him out of action before the end of the fight.”
Luis Sandoval (Alvarez by decision): “Much like in the Trout fight, Canelo will have to think and follow a specific game plan against the skillful Cuban. I think Lara does well in spots but I think Alvarez's hand speed and overall size will show up as a factor the more the fight goes on. I think Alvarez manages to drop Lara en route to being awarded a tight decision on the scorecards.”
Alexey Sukachev (Lara by majority decision): “The last time Alvarez ran into a pure boxer (Floyd Mayweather), he was given a boxing clinic. However, a fight before that he managed to dominate another stylist - Austin Trout - with quite ease. It makes me wonder where Lara rates between Floyd and Trout, as it'll define the outcome of the fight. Feeling is that he is closer to Mayweather rather than to Trout, and Alvarez will not cope with his
finesse and speed plus his camp was bad, it has been suggested.”
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: @JakeNDaBox