Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Canelo Alvarez wins close decision

Canelo Alvarez looked to erase the memories of him refusing to try any strategy other than the one that was already not working against Floyd Mayweather last September. Erislandy Lara was looking to make Alvarez relive that nightmare by boxing and moving effectively on the outside. Essentially, to give Alvarez a lesson in Cuban boxing. The actual result was a little of both. It depends on who you ask.

Alvarez would score a split decision victory, but it’s already regarded as highly controversial. Not because it was split or that Alvarez won, but because one card was very close to negligent. The scorecards read 115-113 for Lara, 115-113 for Alvarez, and 117-111 for Alvarez. The first 2 cards are a reflection of what actually might have occurred in the ring, while the final card is something we’re still trying to figure out.

Lara executed his game plan brilliantly, moving around the ring constantly and stopping only to unload a quick combination before moving again. He peppered Canelo with his left hand that took Canelo nearly half the fight to adjust to. He used activity and movement to keep Canelo from setting his feet for nearly the entire fight. I can clearly see the justification for the 115-113 Lara card.

Canelo, on the other hand, seemed like he came up with the perfect game plan to counter Lara’s attack. He knew that intrinsically he’s not Julio Cesar Chavez. He was never going to impose his will and corner Lara, so he instead would catch Lara moving. Canelo would throw as Lara would throw, or he’d throw as Lara changed directions. Canelo also threw to the body. A move that enabled him to target a wide open space that wasn’t moving. The payoff would be a slower Lara at the end of the fight. It paid off. Canelo looked fresh after 8 while Lara had considerably slowed down. I can see with Canelo’s consistent body work that 7-5 for him was fair.

And anything in between. That’s good.

The 117-111 card is a different story. There isn’t a piece you’re going to read about this fight that doesn’t spend an enormous amount of time harping on the 117-111 card so I’ll mostly be brief.

This is what happens when you have a system of scoring that doesn’t provide a way to objectively measure the outcome with 100% reliability. As long as you have humans deciding the outcome, this is what we’ll get. Decisions like this. I’m sure 117-111 makes complete sense in Levi Martinez’s head. Whatever the reason may be, I’m sure Martinez didn’t flip a coin every round. I’m not defending him, but I’m not surprised. As long as we have people like you and me scoring fights, this is what we can expect.

As for the fight, Lara started strong. He looked faster and sharper to begin. His straight left was surgical. He landed almost at will early on. Canelo followed him around the ring, trying to cut him off, but never really could because he couldn’t or wouldn’t close the gap. The first three rounds were all Lara.

In round 4, Canelo turned it around. He got more aggressive and started the round quickly. One problem with Canelo’s game plan, and you could see it more clearly in the rounds he won, was that he was using nearly the exact same strategy as he had in the Angulo fight. He wanted to stalk, land body shots, and counter. Only 2 of those things would be effective against Lara.

The 5th round was a swing round. I gave it to Lara. I thought Canelo took rounds 6 through 8 for his consistent body work. Lara did a terrific job moving and keeping Canelo outside, but he himself wasn’t doing enough. Sure, the punches he did land were clearly defined blows to the face that were very pleasing to watch, but they just didn’t add up to the body work. By round 8, Lara was slowing down. His work rate dropped.

Rounds 10 and 11 were Lara’s behind his effective work with his left hand and his counters that kept Alvarez from landing anything significant. Alvarez took the final round on his activity. Lara landed a few nice punches, but nowhere near what I saw from Alvarez.

My final score is 114-114, a draw.

You know this is an accurate split decision when you read forums or Twitter. Fans are split, just like the judges. You have the ‘running school’ that believes fights can’t be won going backwards. You have their rivals, the ‘Cuban boxing school’ that believes fights are won by the guy hit the least. Whatever side you’re on, you have a legit case for your guy.

One final case for Canelo. Lara landed a lot of punches that were simply scoring punches. That’s a massive tool to have as an elite amateur fighter and at times, it’s enough to win fights, but as a professional, it’s not that great of a tool. While Lara would land single blows and move, Canelo was the one throwing the combinations. The more Lara chose to be stationary and to allow Canelo to pressure and work, even though he blocked or avoided the punches, he certainly gave off the vibe that he didn’t want any piece of Canelo. That thought, should it occur for you, could greatly color what you’re seeing like a pair of tinted glasses.

In the end, ask yourself who you would have rather been at the end of the fight? The guy with the mouse under his right eye or the guy with the cut above his eye who’s likely pissing blood?

Other quick observations:

Canelo is a stubborn guy who appears to be the one giving the orders in his corner. It’s either that or he has an incompetent corner who’s failing to come up with tactical plans. Canelo’s game plan was no different from the one he used against Mayweather and Angulo. It’s not a bad one, but it certainly isn’t effective if Canelo isn’t going to try to break down a boxer like he’s Julio Cesar Chavez. Imagine how good Canelo would be if he was training with the maestro behind Gennady Golovkin, Abel Sanchez.

It’s obvious that Golden Boy doesn’t want the rematch. That’s fine with me. In fact, at 24, Alvarez might have earned an easy, less dangerous opponent. Miguel Cotto sounds good.

While Lara lost the fight, he did score a win tonight. Not with Canelo fans. He was never winning them over. I mean with the casual fans who tuned in with no horse in the race. Everyone likes to get behind the guy who deserves something. To those that feel Lara deserved the win, he’s now the scorned guy who deserved more. I’m sure Lara made some new fans tonight.

I want to throw one more thing out there regarding the controversy here. I wrote this in the viewing guide I posted a week ago.

The reason Lara is in trouble is this: Lara is a ‘just enough’ fighter. What that means is that there’s some sort of unconscious internal counter that counts the amount of clean blows landed. When the fighter (in this case Lara) determines that they’ve done enough to win, they suddenly become defensive to ensure winning the round.

While that works in the amateurs, as a pro, being defensive is sometimes a huge detraction in the scoring. Judges score quality of blows as much as quantity. They also look at who’s pushing the fight and who’s controlling. If a fighter suddenly stops being aggressive, judges take note and score accordingly.

Canelo will not stop pushing and cutting off the ring. If Lara takes any breaks, rounds begin to shift into Canelo’s favor.

Tags: Boxing Canelo Alvarez Erislandy Lara Saul Alvarez

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