By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Saul Alvarez did the one thing guaranteed to make a fighter look good in Las Vegas.
He didn’t fight Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Rather than growing exasperated as his jabs, crosses and hooks caught nothing beyond shoulders, forearms and conditioned desert air, the Mexican heartthrob found himself a Saturday night workout partner only too happy to sacrifice chin, ribs and liver to advance the “Canelo” war machine.
Toward that end, Alfredo Angulo certainly earned his 850 grand.
At that rate, in fact, each of the 295 shots Alvarez landed over 27 minutes and 47 seconds of in-ring exercise was worth about $2,881.36 to the “El Perro” bank account, a figure that should keep him awash in the finest jewel-encrusted dog collars this side of Sylvester Stallone in Rocky II.
Once he’s divvied up the largess between himself, his team and the Internal Revenue Service, though, Angulo might want to consider passing a few pennies over to Tony Weeks, too. Because were it not for the veteran referee humanely saving the overmatched slugger from himself in the MGM Grand ring, a few more of those dollars might have been earmarked toward long-term recuperation.
Though in-house meatheads and Internet he-men were in panties-bunched furors over the one-punch round 10 rescue, anyone who’d charted the fight’s competitive arc was aware Angulo had been proven the lesser man. And considering that his best shots had done little more than irritate though nine rounds, there was no need to prolong the carnage to allow for a home-run swing that didn’t exist.
In stark contrast to phrases like “subdural hematoma” and “medically induced coma” that are trotted out by doctors when referees wait too long, the EEG-free debate that’s emerged since Saturday over whether one punch too early is better than one too late is ample evidence that Weeks got it right.
In golf, it’s the cutline. In high school football, it’s the mercy rule.
And in boxing, where the physical toll is far greater, it’s the common sense of a referee who recognizes a brutally one-sided scrap ought to end before the loser is loaded into the back of an ambulance.
There’s little reason for the sadists to fear anyway. Given Angulo’s career-long penchant for absorbing hellacious punishment – even in fights he’s much closer to winning than this one – there’s every likelihood he’ll be back on a Golden Boy card before you know it, either as a difficult springboard for an up-and-coming wannabe or a dangerous crossroad for a similarly fallen former elitist.
He’ll swell, he’ll stagger and he’ll bleed. And the bloodthirsty masses will titter with excitement.
As for Alvarez, his prospects veer a little more toward the higher end.
And now that he’s reestablished the brand as both an entertaining and winning one, he’s no doubt got the leadership teams at Golden Boy and Showtime huddling together to plot the next moves.
The cable network’s boxing czar, Stephen Espinoza, told me last week that though he’s got myriad possibilities at 154 pounds, “Canelo’s” future could indeed include a matchup with the winner of the June 7 middleweight showdown between former 154 champs Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto.
Neither dwarf the 5-foot-9 Alvarez in stature – Martinez is an inch taller, Cotto two inches shorter – and both have fought as junior middleweights in the relatively recent past; the former in an iffy majority draw with Kermit Cintron in 2009, and the latter in a six-fight stretch that included four stoppage victories and two decision losses between 2010 and 2013.
“There are plenty of options for (Alvarez) in the weight class,” Espinoza said. “Making 154 is no problem. It's where he feels comfortable and there's no reason to rush. Having said that, the results of other fights could make some great matches possible at 160 pounds.”
And on the off chance “Canelo” emerges from 2014 with a middleweight championship belt slung over his shoulder, it’s far less than fantastical to suggest he’ll rendezvous with old friend Mayweather in 2015 to round out “Money’s” Showtime contract and re-enact last year’s PPV windfall.
Make it a title bout at 160, Espinoza said, and people might believe the sequel could best the original.
“In the long run, I think we may see a rematch if circumstances warrant,” he said. “Stylistically, it may make sense to put them in the ring again, if there's a chance the result could change.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant IBO flyweight title – Durban, South Africa
Moruti Mthalane (No. 1 contender) vs. Jether Oliva (No. 98 contender)
Mthalane (29-2, 20 KO): Seventh title fight (5-1); Held IBF title (2009-12, four defenses)
Oliva (20-1-2, 10 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Second fight outside Philippines (0-1)
Fitzbitz says: “A resounding return to the belted class for South African veteran, conveniently matched with a foe who’s in far above his head when compared to past competition.” Mthalane in 6
WBA/WBC super lightweight titles – Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Danny Garcia (champion) vs. Mauricio Herrera (No. 4 WBA/No. 10 WBC contender)
Garcia (27-0, 16 KO): Fifth WBC title defense (fourth WBA); Second fight outside United States (1-0)
Herrera (20-3, 7 KO): First title fight; Second fight scheduled for 12 rounds (1-0)
Fitzbitz says: “Herrera has a W against Ruslan Provodnikov, but little else to show for a nondescript seven-year career. He’ll not spoil the road trip to Garcia’s ethnic homeland.” Garcia in 8
Last week's picks: 1-0
2014 picks record: 11-4 (73.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 558-198 (73.8 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder - no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.