The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of July 14
There’s nothing like a big fight going down in Las Vegas with a fair bit of controversy.
Canelo Alvarez captured a grudge match split-decision victory over Erislandy Lara on Saturday night at the MGM Grand, but the win didn’t come without a fair bit of contention over the official scoring.
Did Canelo deserve the win? Or was Lara robbed again?
Now that the Mexican sensation has vanquished his longtime rival, where does he go next?
In other news, pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather has officially announced his welterweight rematch with Marcos Maidana. Given a second chance, will boxing fans be sold this time around?
All that and a few thoughts on Abner Mares’ return, and Guillermo Rigondeaux’s upcoming fight in this week’s edition of the hottest storylines in boxing.
Was Canelo's Win a "Robbery"?
This was no robbery.
Canelo’s win over Lara was extremely tight, competitive and, yes, controversial. But close, competitive and hard-to-score fights don’t equate to robberies.
It’s easy to throw around said term whenever you see a verdict you disagree with, but it’s not always accurate, and it devalues the concept.
In the post-fight presser, an obviously agitated Lara decried the scoring—117-111 and 115-113 for Canelo and 115-113 for Lara—calling it worse than his ridiculous defeat against Paul Williams in 2011.
Sorry, Erislandy, but that’s just not correct.
The loss to Williams was a robbery—it was crystal clear, beyond dispute and the official judges were suspended as a result.
That fight is controversial because it wasn’t close. This one is controversial because it was.
In the majority of rounds, Canelo was the aggressor, coming forward and trying to make the fight against the tricky, mobile Cuban southpaw. His attack wasn’t overly effective—he landed just 97 of 415 shots, according to ShoStats tracking—but his punches were clearly heavier and did more damage.
Lara was content to ride his bicycle for most of the fight, moving around the ring and frustrating Canelo. Every now and again, he’d pop him with a jab and a countershot or two, but he wasn’t terribly active or accurate himself, landing just 107 of 386 shots according to ShoStats—for comparison, he landed 224 punches against Williams—with 55 of his connects being jabs.
And that was pretty much the fight.
Canelo chasing, Lara moving and nobody landing a whole heck of a lot.
Most of the consternation about the verdict has to do with Levi Martinez’s 117-111 ruling. That score means he credited the cinnamon-haired Mexican with winning nine of the 12 rounds.
That does seem a bit wide, but media scorecards at ringside and on social media were so divergent—on both sides—that it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that you could find nine rounds for either man. It all depends on what you favor, and Lara has himself to blame for being too passive.
It’s hard to convince some judges that you’re winning a fight if you spend the entire 36 minutes moving backward and you’re not particularly active. And when you only land 10 more shots during the course of a fight, you can’t be mad when the harder puncher gets the credit.
Does Lara have a gripe? Absolutely.
This was just one of those fights where you could legitimately score for either man. A case can be made both for and against either, but in the end, the judges rewarded the more aggressive fighter.
And you can’t blame them for that.
Who's Next for the Cinnamon-Haired Star?
Canelo now seems to have the pick of plenty for his next opponent.
Lara demanded an immediate rematch after the fight, but that’s simply not going to happen. Golden Boy Promotions was seemingly reluctant to place their cash cow in with the tricky Cuban once, and they simply won't be in a hurry to do it again.
For a clearer picture of why a rematch won't happen, see Lyle Fitzsimmons' excellent piece on the subject.
No, like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, Canelo has crawled through the pipe, coming out dirty but free on the other end.
The plan is for Canelo to fight once more this year—in November—and you can be sure that he won't be in a rush to face another difficult technical fighter.
Three of his last four opponents have been tricky boxers—Austin Trout, Mayweather and Lara—and it seems that he deserves a fight against another banger who will give him the opportunity to look good offensively.
It seems that Miguel Cotto isn’t an option this year—that fight would do better business on Cinco de Mayo weekend anyway—but someone like James Kirkland, who was mentioned prominently at the post-fight presser and was considered in the past, makes sense.
Kirkland is a big puncher and would provide some excitement by attacking Canelo in a way that we haven’t seen before. That alone would make the fight intriguing, and Canelo would still be a heavy favorite to advance to a spring showdown against the Puerto Rican icon and newly crowned middleweight champion.
However, if as was also floated during the post-fight chatter, Canelo elects to pursue a match with middleweight bomber Gennady Golovkin, all bets are off.
He'd get points for bravery, for sure, but that would be a colossal risk, and probably not one worth taking with such a huge fight on tap for next year.
Will Fans Pay Attention to Mayweather vs. Maidana 2?
Mayweather officially announced his rematch with Maidana this past week—the two will embark on a five-city press tour beginning on Monday in New York City—and all involved will be hoping that the dramatics of the first fight will draw people in for the rematch.
Maidana gave Mayweather his toughest fight in years—possibly of his storied career—roughing up the pound-for-pound king and placing him in more perceived danger than any recent opponent.
The fight was competitive, which isn’t the same thing as close, but it certainly exceeded expectations, and Maidana gave a very good account of himself.
But the fight wasn’t really that close, particularly in the second half when Mayweather turned the corner, figured out his foe and dominated to close the show.
Many fans scored their expectations, reacting to Mayweather being in an actual fight by ignoring that most of Maidana’s punches missed the target and that the judges rendered the correct verdict.
With the pickings a little slim, a rematch makes all the sense in the world, but the fighters and their teams will be hoping for stronger numbers on pay-per-view.
Mayweather and Canelo squared off in the richest fight in boxing history last September, and a letdown was all but guaranteed when Mayweather elected to face Maidana, a dangerous puncher who was given little chance by most fans and media.
The bout generated approximately 900,000 buys on PPV, a dramatic drop from the estimated 2.2 million that Mayweather drew against Canelo. Even so, those numbers are still very good compared to other recent fights that underperformed on pay television.
In other words, they're very good for anyone not named Mayweather.
Given that expectations were exceeded the first time, it will be interesting to see whether or not the public will be more interested in the rematch and whether they'll part with their hard-earned dollars to watch.
What Can We Take from Abner Mares' Performance?
A year ago at this time, Mares, a former multi-weight world champion, was rocketing up the pound-for-pound ranks, seemingly on his way to superstardom.
And then he met Jhonny Gonzalez in what was supposed to be a late-summer warm-up bout before stepping in with Leo Santa Cruz in a high-profile all-Mexican showdown.
But Gonzalez’s fists ended all talk of that fight. He shocked the boxing world, dropping Mares twice in Round 1 en route to a stunning stoppage victory.
The loss derailed Mares’ train to the top and forced a complete reshuffling of his team. He took 11 months off from the sport before returning on the primary support bout for Canelo vs. Lara on Saturday night, making his first appearance under new trainer Virgil Hunter.
Hunter, known for helping fighters improve their defense and movement, was brought in to make Mares a more elusive target while on the attack and help him refine his strengths.
Facing Jonathan Oquendo on Saturday night, Mares showed a few immediate signs of Hunter’s presence in his camp. He kept his hands higher and used more side-to-side movement than we’ve seen in the past, content to control the action without ever going for broke.
But he was also far less aggressive and exciting as well.
Mares was effective but unimpressive, and that left a few lingering questions.
He won the fight, but it’s hard to tell whether or not his performance was the result of several mitigating factors—a long layoff, a new trainer and other management upheaval—or if he’s just not the same fighter post-Gonzalez.
That judgment is impossible and unfair to make at this point, but it guarantees that his next bout will be very interesting.
Anyone Realize Guillermo Rigondeaux Is Fighting on Saturday?
Rigondeaux is probably the best pure boxer in the entire sport, but it seems that he may have already run out of chances to become a player on American television.
The 33-year-old Cuban returns to the ring on Saturday in Macau, defending his WBA/WBO Super Bantamweight Championships against Thailand’s Sod Kokietgym in a bout that HBO declined to televise.
It will instead air on a same-day tape delay on Spanish language channel Unimas.
Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist representing Cuba, got the biggest win of his professional career last April, easily outboxing Nonito Donaire to unify 122-pound titles at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
The fight wasn’t terribly exciting, but it looked like a downright slobberknocker compared to the Cuban’s next fight, a December meeting with former world champion Joseph Agbeko in Atlantic City.
That matchup was just plain ugly—in fairness to Rigondeaux, Agbeko didn’t show up to fight but only to collect a paycheck for an embarrassing performance—and it prompted many fans to walk out of Boardwalk Hall when the fight was still going on.
The main event posted the lowest rating in the history of HBO’s Boxing After Dark franchise, and the network has long been a few notches below enthusiastic about televising Rigondeaux's fights. It appears that the Agbeko affair was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Rigondeaux is obviously an immense natural talent, but his style isn’t always conducive to exciting fights, and in an era marked by increased cable tv boxing competition, it’s hard to blame HBO for not wanting televise a fight that won’t interest many American fans.