A title belt isn't on the line, but Canelo Alvarez's upcoming bout against Erislandy Lara in Saturday's pay-per-view, light-middleweight bout could be transformative for both fighters' careers.
Alvarez has quickly emerged over the last few years as one of the top young contenders in the weight class, earning a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2013 and giving him a battle in a majority-decision loss. He rebounded by convincingly beating Alfredo Angulo in March, and another win over the established Lara might give him enough to earn another title shot.
The opportunity is just as great for Lara. The 31-year-old has only suffered one loss in his career and is coming off an awfully impressive beating of Austin Trout in Brooklyn from late 2013.
Here's a look at odds and a complete breakdown of the fight.
Note: Odds courtesy of Odds Shark, as of July 11
All eyes will be on Alvarez during Saturday's fight, and that's not too much of a surprise. Through the early part of his career, he's made a serious case to be the next face of the weight class in the coming years.
But not even Alvarez can afford to sleep on Lara.
Alvarez has a decided advantage in fight appearances and wins, but Lara tops his opponent in experience. The 31-year-old rarely puts himself in situations where he can be beaten and has ousted quality opponents like Trout and Angulo.
Actually, Lara is the only active belt holder between the two. He currently holds the WBA light middleweight title, but it's not up for grabs on Saturday since it's taking place at 155 pounds.
For any quality victories that Lara can boast over the recent part of his career, though, Alvarez can more than match them. He also beat Trout in 2013 and topped Angulo in much more convincing fashion than the boxer he's entering the ring with on Saturday.
As always, Canelo was high on confidence and emotion heading into Friday's weigh-ins, per Showtime Sports:
Alvarez is the favorite—and with good reason. But facing a southpaw like Lara could end up being the 23-year-old's demise if he isn't careful.
The highly touted Mexican has easily gotten past many southpaws in his early career but noticeably struggled against Trout. Considering Lara topped Trout in a unanimous-decision victory, that could bode trouble for the favorite.
How will the fight end?
But Saturday isn't the first time that Canelo has been pegged up against a fighter whom many expect to be a superior tactical boxer. That's not where Alvarez makes his mark. Instead, it's his relentless energy, enthusiasm and elite power that so often crush his opponents.
It takes an elite boxer to be able to handle Alvarez's bursts of energy and power, as we saw even Mayweather struggle at times with his unique fighting style. Lara will have to be up to the task if he is going to will himself to a win.
Prediction: Alvarez Wins by Unanimous Decision
Lara might be more technically sound than Alvarez, but what the youngster lacks there, he more than makes up for in his raw power, energy and heart. That will get him past Saturday's fight, just as it has so many times before.
Is Alvarez's victory in the bag? No—far from it. Lara is the quality type of opponent that is more than capable of taking Alvarez down, with the smarts and sound technique to wear him down.
But wearing a regular boxer down isn't the same as wearing down Alvarez, who seemingly never gets worn down. Even if Lara is able to set the tone and win a couple of rounds, Canelo will make no doubt of his victory by the 12th round.