The first sound you heard after the scores were read aloud by Jimmy Lennon Jr. on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was a collective gasp by virtually everyone on the planet at the egregiousness of ringside judge Levi Martinez’s 117-111 score for Canelo Alvarez over Erislandy Lara.
That Alvarez was awarded the split decision was not outside the realm of possibility. But that he won nine of the 12 rounds in the fight was ridiculous.
But the second sound you heard on Saturday night, albeit a bit quieter but probably even more emotional than the first, was Oscar De La Hoya’s humongous sigh of relief after learning his fighter, Alvarez, had come out on top.
De La Hoya, president and founder of Golden Boy Promotions, needed Alvarez to win in a bad way, and the kid did it.
Already reeling from the loss of former CEO Richard Schaefer and perhaps punch drunk from Floyd Mayweather’s recent revelation that he’d prefer not to work with De La Hoya’s company moving forward, De La Hoya needed more than ever to solidify the star power of his company’s chief asset, Alvarez.
Normally, that’d mean doing everything possible to steer clear of a fighter like Lara.
But Alvarez is a proud man. Instead of toeing the company line and looking for less dangerous fare for his most recent bout, Alvarez was obliged to meet the challenge laid before him by the long-chasing Lara.
Lara, a southpaw from Cuba, had long been avoided by the best fighters in the junior middleweight division, and for good reason. Lara is lanky, crafty and hard to hit.
Moreover, the superstylist carries pop in his punch, particularly his long counter left that seems to find its mark in fights early and often.
It was no different for Lara on Saturday. Early in the third round, the punch had already developed a welt under Alvarez’s eye. But Alvarez bore down on Lara more than ever and moved forward with vigor and determination.
Unlike previous outings against slick boxers like Austin Trout and Floyd Mayweather, Alvarez showed a firm commitment to cutting off the ring against Lara.
He drilled body punches into Lara’s ribs all night long and had opened up a cut above Lara’s eye midway through the bout that seemed to keep the Cuban bothered throughout the rest of the night.
By Round 12, it was clear Alvarez had done enough to be fighting for the win. He came out aggressively and laid it all out for the world to see. Lara responded in kind, and the two finished the bout each believing himself the winner.
Two judges at ringside, Dave Moretti (115-113 for Alvarez) and Jerry Roth (115-113 for Lara), turned in sane cards. The aforementioned Martinez served as the tiebreaker with his 117-111 score in favor of Alvarez.
Regardless of Martinez’s shenanigans, Alvarez deserved the nod just as much as Lara. The two best junior middleweights in the world not named Floyd Mayweather proved they were evenly matched on the night.
According to Boxing Scene’s Mark Whicker, De La Hoya and company expect Alvarez to fight again in November against someone like James Kirkland, Miguel Cotto or Gennady Golovkin.
Any and all of those fights would make sense in some way. Alvarez vs. Kirkland would be a slugfest. Alvarez vs. Cotto would feature two of boxing’s biggest stars battling it out for the lineal middleweight championship of the world. Alvarez vs. Golovkin would be two of boxing's best up-and-comers standing toe-to-toe for boxing’s future.
All three ideas are solid.
Perhaps De La Hoya has proved to be a shrewder promoter than he’s given credit for, a talent he’ll need as he moves his company into its uncertain future.
Golden Boy’s youngest and perhaps biggest star has already faced boxing’s best, Mayweather, in one of the biggest pay-per-views of all time. He has defeated a slew of other good fighters in big-money main events and come out the other side of it in prime position to take over the 36-year-old Mayweather’s mantle as boxing's biggest draw—and all before his 24th birthday.
The sky is the limit for Alvarez, and that should keep Golden Boy Promotions in the thick of things for years to come.
Kelsey McCarson writes about boxing for Bleacher Report and The Sweet Science.