(Photo credit: Tom Casino, Showtime)
LAS VEGAS — Despite the ribbing and teasing about the veracity of an announced sell out , most seats were occupied and spectators witnessed a nice night of fights courtesy of Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions at the MGM Grand Garden Arena tonight. But the man who drove the attendance up and raised volume in the arena to a deafening hum was Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who scored a 5th round technical knockout over Josesito Lopez after delivering a thorough beating.
It’s not that Josesito Lopez’ stock plummeted following the loss, he showed exactly why there was a solid contingent cheering for him against the visibly larger man, but it wasn’t his night — nor his weight class.
Beginning in the 1st round, the size, strength and punching power disparity was obvious, as Lopez stood his ground and was able to land well to the body with left hooks, but was basically ineffective with what he landed. Alvarez didn’t seem interested in pushing the pace quite yet, but likely won the round with aggression. Looking to shake off any intimidation, Lopez seemed able to compete in the strength department, but was dropped by a left hook downstairs late in round 2. And in round 3, Lopez hit the deck once more from what looked to be a right hand-left hook to the body.
From that point, it became clear that Lopez just couldn’t stand up to the increasingly relentless attack from Alvarez. However, in the 4th round it appeared Lopez may have found something with a left hook that momentarily backed Alvarez off. Alas, it was a brief victory, as Alvarez landed a few right hands that put Lopez down once more before the end of the round.
A body assault from Alvarez destroyed Lopez’s hope for an upset, and Alvarez was throwing each shot with terrible intentions. A series of right hands while Lopez was in a neutral corner had referee Joe Cortez stepping in to mercifully stop the slaughter at 2:55 of the 5th round.
Coming into the bout, Lopez’s battle cry was essentially that he’d made a nice recent career run by upsetting guys that were supposed to beat him in Mike Dallas, Jr. and Victor Ortiz, whose decision to bow out against Lopez cost him this shot at Canelo Alvarez. However, after almost five full stanzas of thudding shots, it’s now clear that Josesito Lopez doesn’t belong at 154 lbs. — and he may not even belong at 147 lbs. Regardless, he never gave up and tried as hard as he possibly could to notch another upset. His record falls to 30-5 (18 KO).
Though he may not be quite as popular as Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., Alvarez has as many fans as ever (judging by the applause) even without the benefit of a famous name. Both men have been accused of being manufactured titlists, and while that may or may not be true, both are developing and growing as fighters. Alvarez in particular seems to have made a high energy and sledgehammering style work well for him, while leaving fighters like Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather out of the equation. It’s likely a good decision, though, as tonight’s bout may have played out slightly differently had Lopez been able to muster more physical strength or punching power. Cotto and Mayweather are in another realm altogether, despite Canelo’s unblemished ledger of 41-0 (30 KO).
In the co-feature, Daniel Ponce De Leon picked up the WBC featherweight belt with an eight round technical decision over Jhonny Gonzalez, in a bout that seemed to promise many more fireworks than it actually produced. Beginning tentatively, both men probed their way through the first five or six rounds, and Gonzalez appeared to have the upper hand with his length and range, staying away from Ponce De Leon’s southpaw left. In the 6th round, though, Ponce finally caught Gonzalez with a left hand that sent the former titlist reeling into the ropes, and it was called a knockdown.
The fight was slightly more exciting than earlier on after that, and Ponce de Leon appeared to be picking up steam, but as is often the case with orthodox vs. southpaw match ups, headbutts entered into the equation, and a nasty one opened up a cut to Gonzalez’ eyebrow that stopped the bout.
Surprisingly wide cards of 79-72 twice and 77-74 were handed in, strapping the belt around Daniel Ponce De Leon’s waist. Gonzalez’ record is now 52-8 (45 KO), while Ponce de Leon’s rises to 44-4 (35 KO). The fight itself didn’t seem to do a ton for either guy.
The fight of the evening wound up being between Marcos Maidana and Jesus Soto Karass, which in itself wasn’t entirely surprising, but it was supposed to have stiffer competition.
Maidana opened the fight throwing bombs as usual, but wasn’t able to so much as wobble Soto Karass, who was dipping and weaving under shots as Maidana chopped down at his head. Both men took turns leading and countering over the first four or five rounds, but the fight was littered with fouls, and both men were deducted points in round 4 for hitting on the break. In round 7 Maidana was penalized a point again for hitting on the break and was told to watch his head. But Maidana managed to land a booming right that put Soto Karass down towards the end of the round, just as it was looking like Maidana wouldn’t be able to make a dent.
The knockdown made all the difference and Maidana came out in round 8 looking like a starving wild animal searching for a meal. He hammered away at Soto Karass, who fell into the ropes and just covered up, forcing referee Kenny Bayless to stop the action at 0:43 of the 8th.
The first bout of the Showtime telecast was about as one-sided as the last, as IBF bantamweight beltholder Leo Santa Cruz retained his strap via 5th round corner retirement of former flyweight titlist Eric “Little Hands of Steel” Morel.
A high output, damaging style overwhelmed Morel in just about every round, though he managed to stay somewhat competitive throughout. But the body work from Santa Cruz was beastly and very consistent. Morel didn’t seem to have a ton of trouble landing, but his punches were having little effect on the younger man. Finally after round 5, Morel signaled that he’d taken enough punishment and the bout was stopped, taking Santa Cruz’s record to 21-0-1 (12 KO), while Morel, getting up in age and boxing years, saw his record dip to 46-4 (23 KO).
None of the fights, including the untelevised and Showtime Extreme-televised undercard bouts, were boring. In fact, they all added up to a nice, enjoyable fight card that lived up to pre-fight expectations in terms of entertainment, for the most part. And every bout save for Ponce De Leon vs. Gonzalez featured at least one fighter under the age of 30, which hopefully means that fans will be in for more solid action in the near future.