LAS VEGAS – Saul Alvarez did what he was supposed to do against Josesito Lopez but the budding Mexican star did it so well he still impressive.
Alvarez was an overwhelming favorite to beat Lopez in the main event of his first major headliner in the U.S. and the young boxer-puncher proved the odds makers correct by brutally outclassing the gutsy underdog to a fifth-round stoppage in front of more than 14,000 raucous fans in the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday.
Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 knockouts) dropped Lopez in rounds two, three and four before cornering and pummeling the outgunned challenger in a corner where referee Joe Cortez stepped into spare the undersized fighter any more punishment.
The Showtime-televised knockout won’t earn the 22-year-old redhead nicknamed “Canelo” any accolades from boxing writers or hardcore fans but it made for good TV and thrilled the announced sellout crowd. That’s all Alvarez’s promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, is concerned about.
They believe they can help evolve the popular Mexican into a star in the U.S., and Saturday was a good start – especially given the fact that there was an HBO PPV-televised middleweight championship between Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. happening down the strip at the Thomas & Mack Center, which was also sold out.
It speaks well to the future of boxing and Alvarez that he was able to fill an arena in the same city and on the same night that the “other” young Mexican star – who lost to Martinez – was in action, and to do so against the proverbial “no-hoper.”
That’s not a dig at Lopez (30-5, 18 KOs), a 28-year-old veteran from Riverside, Calif., who is as tough and game as fighters can be. It’s simply the reality that he isn’t a junior middleweight. Alvarez, who defended his WBC 154-pound title, definitely is.
Lopez, a 140-pound standout who crashed the world welterweight rankings by upsetting former beltholder Victor Ortiz in June, admitted that after the fight.
“Canelo is a badass,” Lopez said in the ring. “I was definitely out of my weight. Size was a factor.
“I fought my heart out but it wasn’t enough,” Lopez added during the post-fight press conference. “I’m disappointed but the better man did win tonight. He’s a very strong fighter and he did what we knew he could do. We thought going in that we could do a little more with him but we came up short.”
Lopez should not hang his head in shame. His heart and will made the one-sided contest as entertaining as a beatdown can be. The first knockdown in the second round that Alvarez scored with a left hook to the liver would have kept most fighters down, including natural 154 pounders.
After the second knockdown a minute into the third (also courtesy of a left to the body), Lopez got up and had the look of someone who had absorbed 10 rounds of punishment, but he fought on and even landed some punches, not that anything he landed seemed to bother Alvarez.
Lopez had a decent round in the fourth, but Alvarez reminded him who the man was by putting him down yet again. Some fans criticized Cortez’s fifth-round stoppage because Lopez was still on his feet, but the recent hall-of-fame inductee made his last referee job a good one by not halting the fight too soon and not letting it go too long.
“I didn’t have any problem with the stoppage,” Lopez’s trainer Henry Ramirez said at the post-fight press conference. “I told Josesito between rounds that if he didn’t show me anything after the fifth round that I was going to stop it.”
Lopez did alright for the fourth choice of opponent for Alvarez.
He was a substitute for Ortiz, who was a substitute for junior middleweight contender James Kirkland, who had accepted to fight Alvarez but later declined citing unhealed injuries and money issues. Kirkland was a substitute for former welterweight titleholder and middleweight contender Paul Williams, who tragically suffered a motorcycle accident that ended his boxing career shortly after the bout was made.
Alvarez never seemed fazed or frustrated by the round robin of potential opponents for Sept. 15 that went on for months leading into the promotion. He knew all along that his opponent did not really matter. He is the attraction.
“What can I say? I’m very happy. I thought it was a great event,” Alvarez said through a translator at the post-fight press conference.
“I think Lopez is a great fighter and I wish him well in the rest of his career. He was tough but I took my time, I did my work. The left hooks to the body was part of the game plan. I threw combinations to the body in the first round and it worked so I stuck with it.”
It was appropriate that a Mexican attraction used Mexico’s signature punch – the hook to the liver – to win a big show headliner on Mexican Independence Day weekend.
Now that Alvarez has remained unbeaten and preserved his upward career trajectory, the two questions are what’s next and who’s next.
“Whoever my team wants me to fight, I’m ready,” Alvarez said. “I don’t know when my next fight will be. I’ll sit down and talk to my team and with Golden Boy Promotions and we’ll figure that out in a few weeks.”
When asked if there are dates available for a return to the ring before the end of the year, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said dates are never a concern when dealing with Alvarez.
“Canelo Alvarez is a superstar,” Schaefer told the media. “We had a sellout tonight. When he decides when he wants to fight, he fights, and it’s an event.”
If Alvarez, who admits that he’s still learning his craft, is the superstar that Schaefer claims then it is time for him to step up and take part in a “super fight.”
Miguel Cotto would make for such a mega-event. However, the Puerto Rican star has a Dec. 1 fight against undefeated Austin Trout, who could prove to be difficult to beat.
That leaves Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is currently without a dance partner for his next bout.
If Alvarez wants to take the U.S. by storm there’s no better way than to take on America’s No. 1 star. When asked if he believed he was ready for Mayweather, Alvarez replied:
“I was born ready.”
Photos / Tom Casino-SHOWTIME