Canelo Alvarez narrowly defeated Erislandy Lara over the weekend at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to keep hope alive that he’s the next big superstar in boxing.
Moreover, the win put Alvarez in prime position to lock down a bout against middleweight king Miguel Cotto in what would be the most intriguing and compelling fight of 2014.
Cotto dethroned Sergio Martinez for the lineal middleweight title in June at New York's Madison Square Garden to become the first four-division title-winner in Puerto Rican history.
A bout against Mexico's Alvarez would not only pit two of the biggest brand names in boxing against each other but would also add another historical chapter to the long-running boxing rivalry between their two nations.
According to RingTV.com’s Lem Satterfield, Alvarez’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, is interested in making the fight happen:
Canelo wants to fight the very best and he’s going to continue to do so. Our options are wide open. Obviously, Cotto’s on the list. ...
Canelo is hungry right now and he calls the shots. I’ll be sitting down with Canelo and we’ll be going over strategy on what Canelo wants. Canelo has all of the options out there. I’m opening the door for everyone.
Well, not everyone. According to the El Paso Times’ Matthew Augilar, De La Hoya is not interested in pitting Alvarez against Lara again anytime soon: "Nobody wants a rematch. There's 10 guys in line. Lara just lost, and now he has to wait in line. That's the way this works. Canelo won tonight and now we have to move on."
The fight with Lara was close and hotly contested. While Alvarez was the aggressor and moved forward throughout the 12 rounds of the fight, Lara used good movement and sharp counters to ultimately outland Alvarez over the course of the fight.
Judges rendered a split-decision verdict for Alvarez. Dave Moretti scored the bout 115-113 for Alvarez, while Jerry Roth had it 115-113 for Lara. Levi Martinez scored the bout 117-111 in favor of Alvarez.
Regardless of Martinez’s wide score in favor of Alvarez, the 23-year-old Mexican was in deep against Lara in a bout which many insiders questioned was wise for him to take in the first place.
But Alvarez edged past the slick and crafty Lara in fine fashion, setting up a potential showdown with Cotto.
The Canelo-Cotto promotion couldn’t come at a better time for either fighter. Alvarez has not made the junior middleweight limit in his last two outings and is ripe for a move up to the middleweight limit of 160 pounds.
Meanwhile, Cotto has but one career win at middleweight, his shellacking of former 160-pound kingpin Martinez in June.
Both fighters are huge stars and frequent pay-per-view attractions. The fight would be a sellout whether it was fought in Cotto’s preferred Madison Square Garden or somewhere more cavernous like the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, where Alvarez’s bout against Austin Trout drew over 40,000 Canelo-adoring fight fans last year.
Better yet, both fighters are aggressive and skilled punchers who have plied the majority of their trade at lighter weight classes. Neither man likely wishes to fight a full-fledged middleweight anytime soon.
Cotto’s resurgence under the tutelage of famed trainer Freddie Roach is nothing short of remarkable. In his last two fights, the 33-year-old veteran has looked better than ever. His left hook to the body is as ferocious a punch as any in boxing, while his improved defense has made him a tough out for anyone.
Alvarez has steadily improved over the same course of time. After being manhandled by Floyd Mayweather last year, the resilient Mexican has looked like a new man in wins over 154-pound division stalwarts Alfredo Angulo and Lara.
Against Lara in particular, Alvarez showed improvement in cutting off the ring against a fleet-footed boxer as well as a special attention to working his opponent’s body.
The bout is nowhere near being signed, sealed and delivered. After Alvarez-Lara, De La Hoya mentioned other candidates were in the mix to fight Alvarez as well.
In fact, according to Boxing Scene’s Mark Whicker, James Kirkland and Gennady Golovkin are also possibilities for Alvarez this fall.
And while both De La Hoya and longtime promotional rival Bob Arum have made nice of late to bury the hatchet and end boxing’s cold war, the two haven’t yet made a fight together, making their efforts seem like nothing more than lip service right now.
Moreover, as noted by Phil D. Jay of World Boxing News, the two would have to sort through a myriad of issues involving television partners and sponsors in order to co-promote an event like Canelo-Cotto.
But the fight makes so much sense and would make so much money that it seems appropriate to be hopeful it can be made in relatively short order.
There’s simply no better time than now for Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto to meet in the ring.
Kelsey McCarson is a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a not-for-profit initiative to provide boxing with authoritative top-10 rankings, identify the singular world champion of every division by strict reasoning and common sense, and to insist on the sport’s reform.