LAS VEGAS – Canelo Alvarez hardly covered himself with glory in his split-decision victory Saturday over Erislandy Lara in their non-title super welterweight bout.
Alvarez struggled to cut off the ring, often flailed helplessly at Lara and, despite moving forward relentlessly throughout the bout, never had Lara so much as wobbled.
But Alvarez won the bout, and in boxing, nothing is more important than that. Memories will fade and in a few months, those who weren’t impressed with what they saw will forget it.
Alvarez generates big money – he sold out the MGM Grand Garden on Saturday, attracting 14,239 fans who roared every time he got close to hitting Lara – and that rules the day.
Alvarez will move on to a big-money fight in November and the controversy over whether he deserved to win will be long forgotten.
Judges Dave Moretti (115-113) and Levi Martinez (117-111) scored it for Alvarez, while Jerry Roth had it 115-113 for Lara. Yahoo Sports also had it 115-113 for Lara.
The Lara camp was outraged and called for an investigation. When promoter Oscar De La Hoya said there would not be a rematch, Lara co-manager Luis DeCubas Jr. smirked and said, “Now you sound like Don King, Oscar. That’s Don King kind of stuff.”
Canelo Alvarez (left) takes a hit from Erislandy Lara. (AP)
How one saw the outcome probably turns on whether one felt Lara was running, as the Alvarez camp suggested, or if he was boxing.
Lara used movement throughout, but there were long periods in the middle of the fight when he was circling away from Alvarez without throwing. For all his technical faults, whatever they might have been, Alvarez was the aggressor and was firing punches at Lara whenever he could.
Alvarez, who landed only 97 punches in 12 rounds and connected on just 23 percent of his blows, was clearly frustrated by Lara’s strategy, even though he said he expected it.
“There is a saying that to make love, you need a partner,” Alvarez said. “It’s the same in boxing: You need a partner to make a good fight.”
The Lara camp argued, however, that it was a brilliant fight. Trainer Ronnie Shields said Lara’s boxing was on point and that Lara was better in ring generalship, effective aggression and defense, three of the main scoring criteria.
He’s been around boxing a long time and knows scoring frequently favors the aggressor, so he girded himself for a bad outcome. When ring announcer Jimmy Lennon read Roth’s score for Lara and Moretti’s for Alvarez, he had no complaints.
“When they said ‘115-113,’ I was like, ‘OK, I can accept that, either way,’ ” Shields said.
Then Lennon read Martinez’s score. He said “117-111,” and then took a dramatic pause. When Shields heard the 117-111 score, he was convinced Lara had pulled it off.
“But when he said 117-111, I said to myself, ‘Finally. Someone finally saw what we did and that we won more rounds,’ ” Shields said.
But it wasn’t to be. De La Hoya praised Alvarez’s performance and said he wasn’t disappointed in him despite Alvarez landing just 97 punches overall and nine of 183 jabs.
“The punch stats aren’t accurate,” De La Hoya said. “You know the punch stats aren’t accurate. Look at the power. Look at the combinations. That tells the story of this fight.”
De La Hoya compared the way Lara boxed throughout the fight to the way he boxed against Felix Trinidad in 1999, when they met as undefeated welterweight champions.
Alvarez enters the ring prior to his fight against Lara. (AP)
Most observers felt De La Hoya had won, but he circled the ring without punching in the final three rounds and that led to the call going Trinidad’s way.
“What Lara did is what I did against Trinidad, but I only did it for three rounds and I lost the fight,” De La Hoya said. “He did it the entire fight!”
Lara has a notoriously difficult style and Alvarez knew it. He was urged by De La Hoya not to take the fight because anyone who knew boxing well knew it would be tough for Alvarez to look good.
But Alvarez was still shocked at the way Lara chose to fight. He was on the move throughout and slowed down only a bit in the final few rounds, when he was getting fatigued.
“We knew it was going to be that kind of fight and that I’d have to pressure him,” Alvarez said. “But I didn’t think he’d be running a marathon.”
The Lara team attempted to create a controversy, but the only one that held even a little water was Martinez’s card. He scored it 9-3 for Alvarez even while giving Lara the 12th round.
That score left DeCubas, Lara and Shields irate.
“Someone needs to investigate Levi Martinez,” DeCubas said.
Nevada Athletic Commission chairman Francisco Aguilar and executive director Bob Bennett weren’t happy that Martinez was in the minority in four of the 12 rounds.
“That’s a lot,” Aguilar said.
But they didn’t see a controversy and, like just about everyone else involved with the show except Lara’s team, wanted to move on.
“Lara lost and he moves to the back of the line,” De La Hoya said. “That’s how it works.”
It’s worked that way for years and isn’t going to change soon.