No one can accuse Canelo Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 KO) of taking on weak opponents these days. The 23-year-old Mexican superstar is set to face tough Cuban contender Erislandy Lara (19-1-2, 12 KO) on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and it figures to be a significant test.
Lara is noted for his masterful boxing, and Alvarez is one of the sport's best boxer-punchers. This fight could stylistically be the closest thing to facing Floyd "Money" Mayweather in a rematch for Canelo.
How Alvarez performs in this fight could be seen as some indication of how well he'd do with a second crack at Money. Because of the compelling if/then scenarios and the clashing of two top-notch pugilists, this is one of the must-see fights of the year.
Here's how you can watch.
When: Saturday, July 12, at 9 p.m. ET
Where: MGM Grand in Las Vegas
TV: Showtime pay-per-view
Live Stream: BoxNation (subscription required and region restricted)
The Book on Alvarez
Still shy of his 24th birthday, Alvarez's best days are likely ahead of him. That's really a scary thought for those in his weight range. Alvarez has already accumulated invaluable experience in his 45 professional fights and performed under the limelight that only a bout with Mayweather can provide.
If you wonder why he's seemingly down for whatever when it comes to opponents, the experience and success have created a confident and capable monster. Alvarez is ready to take on all comers. It may sound cliche, but he clearly believes that his time is now.
Upon arriving in Las Vegas for the bout, Alvarez talked about the challenge and the glory of defeating a great fighter like Lara. Per Golden Boy Boxing, Alvarez said:
This fight will give me personal satisfaction. It's about fighting the best and beating the best. The media and the fans know that this is a dangerous fight and them knowing that will make my win that much better. It's a personal satisfaction to be fighting the best and beating the best.
Is Canelo biting off more than he can chew with Lara? We'll soon find out.
The Book on Lara
Trash talk makes fights these days, so no one can blame Lara for the way he grabbed Alvarez's attention for this bout.
Lara has been working Canelo for this opportunity since as far back as 2012. In the video below, Lara tells Elie Seckbach of ESNews Reporting that he'd KO Canelo in six rounds.
After beating Austin Trout—a fighter Alvarez struggled with—Lara says, via translator Luis DeCubas Jr., he believes Canelo will be too scared to fight him.
Then, during a pre-fight presser for Alvarez's bout with Alfredo Angulo—a fighter Lara defeated in a brutal clash in June 2013—Lara called out Alvarez in person.
Essentially, Lara forced Alvarez's hand. The 31-year-old Cuban has just one official loss on his record, but most would discount the lone defeat to Paul Williams in July 2011. It is by many accounts one of the worst decisions in recent boxing history.
Because of this, Lara has the aura of an undefeated fighter. His hand speed, power and defensive acumen could give Canelo issues.
What will he do with the biggest opportunity of his career?
Here's a legitimate question: Can Lara notch a decision win over Alvarez without a knockdown or doing definitive damage?
Trout doesn't think so. He told Jason Groves of the Las Cruces Sun-News: "I feel that Lara will out box him, but Canelo will take it. I don't see Lara getting a decision unless he puts (Alvarez) down and I don't think he can do that."
Unfortunately, Trout is probably spot-on with his analysis. Because of Alvarez's popularity and backing from Golden Boy, he could be in the catbird seat when it comes to a decision.
Because of this, Lara may press for a knockout. That strategy doesn't suit him best in this fight. While Lara does have decent power, he can't punch like Alvarez.
Staying in punching range just a second longer to land big shots will also leave Lara open to receive damage. Each fight is different, but seeing Lara down twice against Alfredo Angulo—a fighter Alvarez dismantled—is a clue of what happens when Lara gets too enamored with trading.
All of this could change if Lara chooses to fight a more elusive style. Yet somehow, that doesn't seem like the more likely approach. Expect Lara to box early but to try to make good on his prediction to stop Canelo after the first three rounds.
That will lead him into trouble. Alvarez will win after his body shots and cumulative punishment slows Lara. He'll take big shots from the slow-starting Alvarez and get stopped late.
Prediction: Alvarez by Ninth-Round TKO
Follow me on Twitter.