Canelo Alvarez: Even those who believe Erislandy Lara should’ve been awarded a victory over Alvarez on Saturday in Las Vegas have to acknowledge that the Mexican acquitted himself well. This version of Lara – quick, focused and armed with a good game plan – was formidable. And Alvarez fought him on roughly even terms. The debate over the outcome, a split-decision victory for Alvarez, comes down to taste. Do you reward a slick boxer (Lara) who sticks and moves effectively for most of the fight? Or do you give the nod to an aggressor (Alvarez) who forces the action and lands his share of hard shots? I scored it 114-114, a draw. I think a score of 115-113 (seven rounds to five) either way would’ve been acceptable. Is that the type of result a fighter who sees himself as a star had hoped for? Of course not. Alvarez wanted and fully expected to dominate Lara in just another step toward becoming the dominant figure in the sport. That didn’t happen. At the same time, a victory over a very good fighter in peak form – even a controversial one – is a good night’s work. Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 knockouts) deserves credit for a job well done.
Erislandy Lara: The Cuban and his supporters can argue that he did enough to record the biggest victory of his professional career. The fact is he didn’t, though. The question now is this: Where does that performance and result leave Lara? In a good position. I don’t believe he took enough chances to win the fight, at least not clearly, but the former amateur star boxed beautifully and effectively against a marquee opponent before a large international audience. He certainly earned more respect than he ever had. Plus, he suddenly has allies. A high percentage of passionate fans seem to think he was cheated by the decision – 115-113 and a ridiculous 117-111 for Alvarez, 115-113 for Lara – based on comments on various websites. It always helps to have fans in your corner. The downside for Lara (19-2-2, 12 KOs) is that the hit-and-not-be-hit style he employed made for a less-than-exciting fight, although its competitive nature and magnitude made it compelling. Still, after a strong performance and a disputed result, I think fans will want to watch Lara’s next fight. That’s not a victory but it is a valuable consolation prize.
Kameda and Vargas: Tomoki Kameda (30-0, 19 KOs) and Francisco Vargas (20-0-1, 14 KOs) made strong impressions on the Alvarez-Lara card. Kameda, fighting in the U.S. for the first time, landed a liver shot against former 126-pound titleholder Pungluang Sor Singyu (46-3, 31 KOs) that was painful to watch and instantly ended their title fight in the seventh round. The Thai fighter went down in agony and was temporarily paralyzed, a striking image that will make people remember Kameda. Kameda, one of three brothers from Japan who box at an elite level, was defending his WBO bantamweight title. Vargas had defeated a series of good fighters but had never faced one like Juan Manuel Lopez, at least not in terms of name recognition. The former Mexican Olympian did well, pounding Lopez so badly in a brutal Round 3 that he couldn’t answer the bell for the next round. Lopez, who now has been stopped in four of his last eight fights, could finally be finished. That’s how it seemed when his cornermen indicated that he had taken enough punishment. Lopez (34-4, 31 KOs) never became the superstar some envisioned for him but he provided fans with one thrill after another. If it’s the end, he’ll be missed.
Levi Martinez joined the ignominious club of judges who evidently are in the wrong field. Martinez scored the Alvarez-Lara fight 117-111 for Alvarez, or nine rounds to three. Seriously? Alvarez spent a good portion of the fight chasing Lara in vain and eating quick, hard combinations for his trouble. To give Lara only three rounds is disgraceful. Martinez would argue that Alvarez controlled the fight with effective aggression, one factor in scoring a fight. That doesn’t mean you ignore the impressive work done by the opposing fighter, which Martinez apparently did. Lara deserved better. … Abner Mares (27-1-1, 14 KOs) made a so-so return to boxing after a 10-plus-month break following his knockout loss to Jhonny Gonzalez. The three-division titleholder defeated fringe contender Jonathan Oquendo (24-4, 16 KOs) by a unanimous decision in a 10-round featherweight bout but didn’t look sharp, although he did better as the fight progressed. Afterward, he acknowledged that he felt rusty. Bottom line: He got the job done but didn’t give us much of a glimpse of what the future might hold at 126 pounds. … Nathan Cleverly (28-1, 14 KOs) stopped Alejandro Valori (15-5, 11 KOs) in four rounds Saturday in Liverpool, England, his second consecutive cruiserweight victory since his crushing knockout loss to Sergey Kovalev at light heavyweight last August. That sets up a rematch with Tony Bellew (22-2-1, 14 KOs), who KO’d Julio Cesar Dos Santos (26-3, 23 KOs) on the same card in Liverpool. Cleverly defeated Bellew by a majority decision in a 175-pound fight in 2011.
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