Given the circumstances of his fight with Canelo Alvarez on Saturday night—for perceived supremacy among the world’s junior middleweights and atop a pay-per-view card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, not to mention the razor-thin closeness of its result—Erislandy Lara certainly deserves a rematch.
His loss came via split decision, after all, and more than a few unofficial eyes saw it the other way.
It was no crime to suggest the contrary. But in keeping with tradition that typically provides second go-rounds when significant matches yield disputed results, it’s one we surely ought to see repeated.
Still, if you stubbornly switched off your TV determined to hold your breath until Team Canelo said “OK, Erislandy, let’s do it again in six months,” here’s a tip that’ll save your kin some messy paperwork.
Because in today’s boxing reality, you’re more likely to see a Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. trilogy promoted by “Money’s” arch nemesis, Bob Arum, than you are to see Canelo-Lara II.
For a couple of reasons.
Primarily, because the aforementioned Team Alvarez simply doesn’t need it.
Lest we forget, the soon-to-be 24-year-old Mexican redhead already proved his PPV chops while riding shotgun to Mayweather on the highest-grossing show of all time last September, so it’s not as if that status was going to change simply because he had a hard time catching up to a tricky foe Saturday night.
He was the A-side heading into the MGM Grand. And, short of a complete blowout in which he was revealed as merely a well-connected impostor, he was going to leave with the same star status intact.
As it turned out, once the hare/turtle narrative was set in the first couple of rounds—when Lara, almost literally, raced around the ring while his slower-footed foe pursued—it was clear that any entertainment value to be derived over the full 12 would come thanks to the efforts of the chaser, not the chased.
And with that reality, Canelo was instantly free to either fail or succeed.
The feared blowout wasn’t going to happen thanks to the absence of engagement, and he was distinguishing himself enough in pursuit that even a tight loss would be spin-able as Alvarez said after the bout, “I came to fight. I didn’t come to run. If he wanted a marathon, let him run a marathon. You don’t win a fight by running.”
Purists might embrace Lara’s skill, but the ones who plunk down $50 usually want to see a little more.
Ironically, when the would-be tight loss turned into a tight win—thanks to a favorable scorecard from judge Levi Martinez—a stewing Lara might as well have dropped through a trap door as Alvarez hit the same “I came to fight” themes while happily trumpeting the sudden victory to Showtime’s Jim Gray and fielding questions about middleweight king Miguel Cotto.
But let’s face it, even if Lara had gotten the split instead of Alvarez, he still didn’t help himself much.
While people might tolerate Mayweather’s defense-sopped approach because of the blockbuster atmosphere that his twice-yearly events provide, a guy who eschews the shoulder roll in favor of all-out evasion is going to have a lot harder time convincing the masses to click “Buy” on their remotes.
Though his approach was hardly less violent than Chris Algieri’s against junior welterweight terminator Ruslan Provodnikov a few weeks back, people gave Algieri full props because he got off the deck twice and fenced through the final 11 rounds with an eye that had swollen to tennis ball dimensions.
And let’s not forget, that fight was on “regular” premium cable, not pay-per-view.
When it comes to the upper echelon, the most successful players in the game are often the ones who can either provide jaw-numbing levels of concussion or inspire a tangible rooting venom.
The Cuban, at least for 36 minutes on Saturday, delivered neither.
Just as it was clear early on that Alvarez’s street cred wouldn’t be hurt against a non-combative foe, it was equally evident that even a wide win in that style would do Lara no more good than harm.
I tweeted after three rounds Saturday that a 10-2 win with that style would prompt no one to demand a Mayweather fight, and once the sure W was yanked off the table, so was any real reason for Lara to follow-through on a promise to crash “Money’s” post-fight press conference this September.
He may not have liked being the guy no one wanted to fight.
But he’ll find it hurts far worse to be the one nobody wants to watch.