Canelo Alvarez Wins Close, Tactical Decision Over Erislandy Lara

(Las Vegas; Erislandy Lara [red gloves] evades a blow by Canelo Alvarez [black gloves] during a junior middleweight fight at MGM Grand. Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

We got an especially close fight Saturday on Showtime pay-per-view between Saul Alvarez and Erislandy Lara, and the tie went to the more popular fighter, young rising star Canelo Alvarez. Yet it also went to the fighter who was more aggressive, who pressed more, and that, too, can make a difference.

Lara was dominant early, with his left hands and movement dictating everything. As Canelo punched more, he got into the fight more. And as Canelo punched to the body more, he slowed Lara down more, although Lara found a higher gear late. Both men did some of what they should’ve; neither man did as much as they should’ve. Had Lara scored with cleaner shots more often, he could have won. Had Alvarez thrown more combinations, he might not have had to settle for a split decision.

The scorecards of 115-113 both ways — which accounted for two of them — were fine. The scorecard of 117-111 Alvarez by Levi Martinez told you all you needed to know. There were many close rounds, to be sure. But there were barely enough to score it 7-5 Canelo; there were not as many to score it 8-4; there were none to score it 9-3.

It was a good tactical battle, and dramatic. Lara moved so well, and might have moved too much. Early, his straight lefts raised a mouse under Canelo’s right eye. Later, in the 7th, Canelo — who had appeared frustrated prior — opened a cut with an uppercut that gave him some confidence once the blood began to flow. As much as the early rounds were Lara’s, as much as the middle rounds were Alvarez’s, the late rounds were kind of all over the place. But Canelo showed the proper degree of urgency late, winning the 12th as Lara landed some eye-catching shots but not enough of them.

You can and should be dismayed by the 117-111 scorecard. Either man had an argument for winning. This is the outcome we got, and it wasn’t so bad — just 1/3rd of how we arrived at it. Alvarez was very, very dismissive after the fight of Lara’s “running,” and we can go ahead and assume that Canelo isn’t going to take a rematch of a fight he didn’t need in the first place. If it’s middleweight champion Miguel Cotto next for Alvarez — it’s more likely that we’d get it early next year — count me in. That has the look of an outstanding match competitively, tactically, dramatically and in terms of action. We got a great deal of those elements Saturday — just not all of them. The one we missed might’ve been the difference.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.