By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Canelo Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was every bit the mismatch many anticipated.
Alvarez dominated a bigger but mostly ineffective Chavez on his way to a 12-round unanimous decision Saturday night in the main event of an HBO Pay-Per-View telecast. Judges Adalaide Byrd, Glenn Feldman and Dave Moretti each scored the fight for Alvarez by the same score, 120-108, meaning none of them gave Chavez a single round.
The highly anticipated Mexican showdown drew a loud, proud sellout crowd of 20,510 to T-Mobile Arena, but didn’t deliver much drama. The fight was contested at a catch weight of 164½ pounds, a career-high for Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs), yet it didn’t hinder his performance one bit.
Chavez worked with legendary Mexican trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain for the first time Saturday night. That didn’t make much of a difference, either, as Alvarez was the faster, sharper, stronger fighter from the opening bell and never appeared affected by any of Chavez’s punches.
Chavez’s chin was impressive, as he took an array of left hooks, straight right hands and jarring jabs during the one-sided fight. Other than that, Chavez (50-3-1, 32 KOs, 1 NC) did little to make the fight more than target practice for Alvarez, who moved up nearly 10 pounds to fight the son of Mexico’s most beloved boxer.
Alvarez, who went off as a 4-1 favorite late Saturday night at MGM Grand’s sports book, had the heavier hands, despite Chavez’s significant size advantage. The 6-feet-1 Chavez is four inches taller than Alvarez and is believed to have out-weighed him by at least 10 pounds once the bout began.
Alvarez and Chavez declined HBO’s request Saturday night to be weighed on the network’s unofficial scale.
The last three rounds looked like little more than Chavez trying to avoid getting knocked out. Alvarez also threw fewer punches during those final three rounds and seemed content to win a decision.
Chavez tried to hurt Alvarez to the body early in the ninth round, but referee Kenny Bayless warned Chavez for hitting Alvarez low while Alvarez was against the ropes. Chavez moved Alvarez against the ropes later in the ninth, too, but Alvarez fired back at Chavez and made him move across the ring.
An Alvarez combination knocked Chavez into the ropes 35 seconds into the eighth round.
Chavez began banging away at Alvarez’s body early in the seventh round, but Alvarez, backed against the ropes, unloaded a barrage of body and head shots that made Chavez move away from him.
Alvarez continued teeing off on a fading Chavez in the sixth round. Chavez briefly backed Alvarez against the ropes later in the sixth, but Chavez was reluctant to engage, as if he knew Alvarez was trying to bait him into a costly counter punch.
A straight right by Alvarez snapped back Chavez’s head and made the crowd roar with just more than two minutes to go in the fifth round. By then, Alvarez basically was taking target practice on Chavez, whose swelling around his left eye was worsening.
An aggressive Alvarez opened the fourth round by landing a stiff jab and a right uppercut that made Chavez retreat. Chavez later landed a straight right hand that temporarily stopped Alvarez from punching.
Soon thereafter, though, Alvarez began bombing away at Chavez with right hands, left hooks to the body and hard jabs that seemed to demoralize Chavez.
Alvarez’s hard jab bloodied Chavez’s nose in the third round, which Alvarez clearly won. Chavez connected with a hard right hand with about 35 seconds to go in the third, but Alvarez took it well and fired back with power shots of his own.
After a first round in which Alvarez and Chavez largely were cautious, the action intensified in the second round. At one point Chavez backed Alvarez into the ropes, but he backed off, rather than trying to land anything more.
Alvarez also began landing to Chavez’s body in the second round.
The 26-year-old Alvarez weighed in at a career-high 164 pounds Friday, nine pounds higher than his previous high of 155 pounds that he weighed for four of his first 50 professional fights. He won each of those four bouts against Alfredo Angulo (10th-round TKO), Erislandy Lara (12-round split decision), Miguel Cotto (12-round unanimous decision) and Amir Khan (sixth-round knockout).
The 31-year-old Chavez also weighed in at 164 pounds Friday, lower than he had weighed for any fight since he came in at 159 for his 12-round loss to Sergio Martinez in a WBC middleweight title fight in September 2012.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.