by David P. Greisman
It’s debatable whether Erislandy Lara’s performance against Canelo Alvarez was enough to win. His performance definitely wasn’t enough to win over those who weren’t already fans of him.
Lara needed more than victory alone if he wanted the stardom that eluded him and its requisite perks. He’d been featured on television, earned decent money and held a world title. None of that would’ve come to him had he remained in the Cuban amateur system instead of leaving his home country and moving to the United States.
He still wasn’t being accorded the status and respect he felt he deserved. Rather, it was Alvarez who was getting the major spotlight and the pay-per-view main events, Alvarez who was the favored child of Golden Boy Promotions, and Alvarez who was becoming increasingly popular and increasingly rich.
Some of that was Lara’s fault; his style wasn’t always the most aesthetically pleasing, and it didn’t help Golden Boy in its promotional efforts. Then again, the promotional efforts weren’t the greatest even when Lara did entertain. And so the skilled boxer was seen as high risk and low reward. Unlike others stuck in similar situations, however, Lara was receiving an opportunity against Alvarez.
That’s because Alvarez wanted the challenge, wanted the benefits of overcoming this kind of opponent. He was coming off a loss to the best boxer in the world, Floyd Mayweather, last September, and then a one-sided beating of Alfredo Angulo this past March. A win over Lara would bolster Alvarez’s claim of being one of the best junior middleweights in the world.
The result — a split-decision victory for Alvarez on Saturday on Las Vegas — kept both men at status quo. Alvarez is still a young star with grit and power and questions about his ceiling. Lara is still a high-risk, low-reward titleholder who doesn’t realize the damage he sometimes does to his own cause.
Lara’s fortunate that the bout with Alvarez was contested at a 155-pound weight limit, which allowed him to hold onto his belt despite the defeat. That gives him some leverage. A win this past Saturday would’ve been even better. A win in entertaining fashion would’ve been ideal.
Instead, Lara mixed good boxing with a glut of evasiveness. He made Alvarez miss three out of every four punches thrown, according to CompuBox. But he also went significant stretches without sending out his own shots, never mind landing them. That left the official judges with a very close fight to score. One saw it 115-113, or seven rounds to five, for Alvarez. Another had it 115-113 for Lara. The third judge had it much wider than his fellow official observers and than an overwhelming majority of unofficial observers, scoring it 117-111, or nine rounds to three, for Alvarez.
Lara proved that he is very good at not getting punched if that is his intention, like a matador moving out of harm’s way as the sluggish bull pursues. Yet at times he resembled Morrade Hakkar, the embarrassment of a middleweight challenger who shuffled back and forth around the ring to try to keep away from Bernard Hopkins back in 2003.
Lara didn’t need to be this way. He is a wholly capable boxer who could’ve moved and countered without covering so much distance. Lara largely sought to deter Alvarez with his legs instead of his hands. Alvarez, then, was able to keep coming forward without fear of much except for another wild miss of his own and the very sporadic hard left hands and right hooks from Lara. Alvarez targeted the body, a wise choice against a mobile opponent. In fact, 73 of Alvarez’s 88 landed power punches were to the body.
Alvarez was credited with landing 97 of 415 punches on the night, a 23 percent connect rate, an average of 8 punches landed per round out of every 35 or so thrown. He was a paltry 9 of 183 with his jabs, and 88 of 232 with his power shots.
Lara outlanded Alvarez, but that separation is negligible. He landed 107 of 386 on the night, a 28 percent connect rate, an average of 9 punches landed per round out of every 32 thrown. He was 55 of 246 with his jabs and 52 of 140 with his power shots.
That was comparable to Lara’s draw with Carlos Molina back in March 2011, a flat performance in which Lara landed 103 of 566 over the course of 10 rounds.
Lara had looked much better in his next outing, a fight with Paul Williams in which Williams was awarded a highly controversial majority decision and the judges involved were subsequently suspended. Lara had gone 224 of 530 that night.
After the Williams robbery, Lara realized that taking a fight out of the judges’ hands is sometimes necessary, and he blew Ronald Hearns out in less than a round.
Lara’s activity on Saturday night was much less than his average in his win against Angulo — a difficult pressure fighter who knocked Lara down twice — and against Austin Trout last year.
Statistics aren’t everything, and they can be misleading. But in this case they are representative of the stretches in which Lara just wasn’t throwing punches, something that the judges held against him. Even the one judge who had Lara winning 115-113 only disagreed on two rounds with the judge who scored it 115-113 for Alvarez.
It was foolish hubris on Lara’s part to think he could do this and win. And it was silly of Lara to forget that he also needed to win fans over. Fighters who lose but entertain are more likely to get second and third chances than do boxers who lose without captivating the crowd. Fighters who win but don’t entertain aren’t always welcomed back by the networks that air them; witness Lara’s counterpart from Cuba, Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Alvarez, for his part, made the wise adjustment of going to the Lara’s body, and he remained aggressive even while dealing with such a frustrating style. He took Lara’s clean power shots well. And he now has close wins over Trout and Lara to go along with the pounding of Angulo.
His stardom didn’t grow with Saturday’s win, but it wasn’t diminished either. He remains a pay-per-view attraction and a box office draw. He’ll continue to get the major spotlight and could be in the running to face Miguel Cotto in the not-too-distant future.
We still don’t know how good he’ll look when a top 154-pounder not named Mayweather is able to put it all together against him. We don’t know how Alvarez would’ve looked had Lara fought differently on Saturday. He may have been better. He may have been worse.
We know we’ll tune in to see how he looks in the future. Alvarez, despite having no major sanctioning body world title, is guaranteed to remain in the big time. Lara, despite his belt, his experience and his clearly impressive skillset, still has no such guarantee.
The 10 Count
1. Those monitoring Twitter during Saturday’s pay-per-view main event between Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara may have observed the amazing amount of disagreement on the scoring of many rounds. Heck, BoxingScene’s Jake Donovan noted four swing rounds — rounds that could’ve gone either way.
“Scores expected to be all over the place,” he tweeted after the 11th.
There would indeed be a split decision, with judge Jerry Roth seeing the bout 115-113, or seven rounds to five, for Lara, only to be outvoted by Dave Moretti, who had it 115-113 for Alvarez, and Levi Martinez, who had it 117-111 (nine rounds to three) for the redheaded star.
Martinez was the clear outlier, turning in a card that was far more lopsided than the fight appeared to be. We’ll come back to him in a moment.
Moretti and Roth, unlike the writers and observers tweeting away the night, actually didn’t disagree on much at all. They had 10 of the 12 rounds in common. Both gave rounds 1 through 3 to Lara. They gave Round 4 to Alvarez. Both gave Round 6 to Lara. They gave rounds 7 through 9 to Alvarez. And both had Lara winning Round 10 and Alvarez winning Round 12.
That’s five rounds apiece for each man.
Their only differences were in rounds 5 and 11. Moretti had those rounds for Alvarez, giving Alvarez the 115-113 victory. Roth had ‘em for Lara, giving Lara the edge by the same tally.
Martinez, meanwhile, was in agreement with his two counterparts for half the fight. He, like them, had Lara winning rounds 1 and 3 and had Alvarez winnings round 4 and rounds 7 through 9.
He also agreed with Moretti on rounds 5 and 11, both of which were for Alvarez.
Where he was in the minority was with rounds 2, 6 and 10 — he was the only one to see those rounds for Alvarez — and round 12, which he gave to Lara.
Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal said he spoke with Nevada Athletic Commission executives regarding Martinez’s scorecard.
“They expressed concerns,” he tweeted. “NAC chairman Francisco Aguilar and exec. Dir. Bob Bennett said Martinez's scores differed by one third with Vegas judges Roth and Moretti. The width of those scores [is] what concerned them. And yes, they asked him to explain his card. Granted this was not an easy fight to score but the NAC said Martinez's work deserved to be scrutinized. I agree. Bottom line: don't expect Levi Martinez to judge a big fight in Vegas anytime soon.”
Going by “majority rules” to evaluate a judge’s performance shouldn’t always be the standard, given that you might have two judges see something contrary to what the rest of the boxing world sees.
Still, if you do go by majority rules for Saturday’s three official judges, you end up with a 115-113 card for Alvarez.
This was indeed a tough fight to score at times. Of the swing rounds from BoxingScene’s highly respected Donovan, three of them were for Lara (rounds 2, 5 and 11) and one of them was for Alvarez (round 7).
Donovan’s final scorecard was a 114-114 draw, which puts him smack in-between Roth’s and Moretti’s cards. But if you turn his swing rounds in the opposite direction, Donovan could’ve had anywhere from a 115-113 win for Lara to a 117-111 win for Alvarez, matching Martinez.
On a side note, Moretti was never in the minority on Saturday night. At least one other judge agreed with him in every single round. Roth was in the minority for rounds 5 and 11, which were two of the swing rounds Donovan noted above.
Though Roth had it a close 115-113 win for Lara, Lara was never behind on his scorecard. He was up 39-37 after four, 59-55 at the halfway point, 77-75 after eight, and 106-103 going into the final round.
Moretti had Lara ahead for some time: 39-37 after four, 58-56 at the halfway point, and 67-66 after the seventh. It was tied up at 76-76 after the eighth, 86-85 for Alvarez after the ninth, and tied up again at 95-95 after the 10th. He gave Alvarez the final two rounds — and the victory on his card. Alvarez took five of the final six rounds on Moretti’s card.
The final time Lara was ahead on Martinez’s card was after the third round, when it was 29-28. Martinez had the fighters tied up after four, and then had Alvarez taking eight rounds in a row — rounds 4 through 11.
2. I’ll be curious to see what the buy rate was for the Canelo Alvarez-Erislandy Lara pay-per-view. This was his third consecutive pay-per-view main event, and his second as the A-side. Canelo’s win over Alfredo Angulo earlier this year pulled in an estimated 350,000 buys. He’s young, and he could become the next big PPV attraction as the careers of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao begin to wind down.
This has been a packed year for pay-per-views, and Lara was not the biggest star in terms of opponents. Those factors could affect the number.
But the big things will be to get people in the habit of paying to see Canelo, and for Canelo to keep winning.
Mayweather’s first three pay-per-views — against Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah and Carlos Baldomir — all had buy rates in the 300,000s, per Wikipedia. Pacquiao’s first six major PPVs — the Erik Morales trilogy, rematches with Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez and a win over David Diaz — ranged from 250,000 to 400,000.
Both became big draws after their respective wins over Oscar De La Hoya.
3. So it’s official: Floyd Mayweather will have a rematch with Marcos Maidana on Sept. 13. It was an announcement that made sense; Maidana was the best option available for Mayweather, and the second fight could end up doing good business given the way the first bout unfolded.
What will be interesting to see next year, meanwhile, is whether a potential fight between Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto ends up competing with Mayweather vs. TBA for the traditional Cinco de Mayo Weekend date.
Mayweather’s team is once again working with Golden Boy Promotions for the Maidana rematch. But Golden Boy, which promotes Alvarez, may want to stake a claim for that May date. I’m reminded of when Top Rank staged Sergio Martinez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Mexican Independence Day Weekend back in September 2012, while across town in Las Vegas was Golden Boy’s show featuring Alvarez vs. Josesito Lopez.
Then again, there could be more money to be made with rematches between Mayweather vs. either Alvarez or Cotto.
4. Jeff Lacy was depressingly and decisively demolished last week on a Fox Sports 1 undercard bout, losing via second-round technical knockout to Humberto Savigne.
Lacy is more than eight years removed from his loss to Joe Calzaghe, whose retirement was long-enough ago that he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this past June.
As BoxingScene’s Lyle Fitzsimmons tweeted last week, “The last time Lacy defeated a fighter with fewer than 16 losses was 2009.”
That was against Otis Griffin. And as Mark Ortega of Behind the Gloves tweeted, “For the record, Jeff Lacy lost to Otis Griffin (but got a gift decision).”
Lacy lost to Jermain Taylor in 2008, to Roy Jones in 2009, to Dhafir Smith (23-19-7 at the time) in 2010, and spent nearly three years out of the ring (including time dealing with the aftermath of a family tragedy) before returning last November with a stoppage of 20-16-2 Martin Verdin.
Last week, “Left Hook” Lacy looked more like “Nothing Left.”
5. Sadly, and bizarrely, Jeff Lacy is blaming his loss on what he believes was a previously unknown twin or brother of Savigne’s who stood in at the weigh-in — and then disappeared while a bigger, heavier fighter was in the ring on fight night.
“I am looking for a lawyer that would fight for this just as hard as I do in the ring,” Lacy wrote on Facebook. “Fact are here an more to come...this is outright wrong on many many levels!!!!!!!”
6. Suddenly, Lacy has given the Charlo brothers a great idea…
7. The decline of Atlantic City and the demise of several casinos there add even more reason for boxing promoters to start learning to do a better job of marketing locally and building fan bases for the sport in major metropolitan areas.
Here’s the latest on A.C., according to the Associated Press: Trump Plaza, which sits right next to the city’s major venue of Boardwalk Hall, could close on Sept. 16. The Atlantic Club closed at the start of this year. Showboat is scheduled to close in August. And Revel — the new casino and resort at which last year’s bout between Daniel Geale and Darren Barker was held and at which next month’s fight between Sergey Kovalev and Blake Caparello will be — is bankrupt.
This isn’t a surprise.
The nearby states of Delaware, Maryland Pennsylvania have gambling, including table games. There are two large casinos up in Connecticut. There are casinos in the state of New York. There’s less need to travel to Atlantic City, which does not at all have the tourist magnetism of Las Vegas.
Atlantic City is still a good location for drawing boxing fans from these nearby states. There need to be other places to stage shows, though. Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, has become one. Washington, D.C., should become another, and I’m not just selfishly saying that because I’m there. These are places with masses of populations that have supported boxing in the past, and have prospects, contenders and titleholders in the area.
Those fighters can be a way of getting people to go out and watch their local heroes. These people can get hooked and then return for more. People want to go to big events. WWE and UFC have an “event” feel when they come to town — UFC was in Baltimore, Maryland, earlier this year and had a reported attendance of more than 13,400 people and revenue of $2.3 million.
That’s nearly twice the attendance of Bernard Hopkins’ win over Beibut Shumenov this past April just down I-95 in Washington, D.C. Hopkins-Shumenov brought about 6,800 people, a crowd we at the venue considered to be very good.
Golden Boy also did well in D.C. with the December 2011 fight between Amir Khan and local favorite Lamont Peterson, with an announced crowd of 8,647.
8. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated checked in last week with his second straight good interview with a boxing network executive. Here’s his piece with Stephen Espinoza of Showtime:
I’d like to link you to his June interview with HBO’s Ken Hershman, but Sports Illustrated has redesigned its website and apparently wiped out several articles that once were there.
9. Boxers Behaving Badly update: The case against Amir Khan didn’t last long at all.
The welterweight contender had been accused of assaulting two teenagers earlier this month in the United Kingdom as the teens were headed home from a mosque, according to The Bolton News. The alleged attack stemmed from one of the teens saying something disrespectful to one of Khan’s friends, the report said. They were not seriously injured.
Within days, Khan’s publicist released this statement saying that the fighter was no longer facing criminal charges:
“Amir Khan was arrested during the early hours of Friday 4th July on suspicion of common assault against two youths. Shortly thereafter he was released on police bail pending further enquiries. This was a minor incident involving a misunderstanding between Amir Khan and two other youths. On Monday 7th July, Amir was notified by the police that the allegations against him had been withdrawn and the matter would not be pursued any further.”
The 27-year-old former 140-pound titleholder is 29-3 with 19 KOs. He is coming off a May win over Luis Collazo on the undercard to Floyd Mayweather’s win over Marcos Maidana.
10. Last week brought a boxing broadcast on Wednesday with Alfonso Gomez and another show on Thursday that had Jeff Lacy and Edison Miranda in separate bouts…
…and sadly, this wasn’t on ESPN Classic.
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]