LAS VEGAS – Canelo Alvarez escaped by the narrowest of margins, surviving an upset bid by Cuban-born Erislandy Lara by claiming a split decision.
Judge Jerry Roth had it 115-113 for Lara, the same score as Yahoo Sports. But Roth was overruled by judges Dave Moretti (115-113) and Levi Martinez (117-111) for Alvarez in their non-title super welterweight bout before 14,239 at the MGM Grand Garden.
Alvarez landed the far harder punches, and was on the attack all night. Lara moved in circles, making certain to stay away from the powerful shots that Alvarez was winging at him.
Lara did well when he moved, but threw his jab and left hand behind it. But far too often, Lara moved in circles without letting his hands go, and that's probably what cost him the bout.
"I think 100 percent I won the fight," Lara said. "I was totally in control. It didn't seem like he was doing anything. I know one thing: I made him look bad in front of all his people."
Lara was standing on the top rope in his corner when ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. read Martinez' 117-111 card for Alvarez, which gave the fight to the Mexican star. Lara slumped down and sat on top of the corner, his hands over his heads.
In some ways, Lara blew the fight because he was giving Alvarez fits when he threw. Alvarez didn't seem to know how to cut the ring off and did little to get Lara to stand and trade. But far too often, Lara moved without punching and that allowed the on-rushing Alvarez to throw hard shots at him.
That, promoter Oscar De La Hoya said, is why he believes Alvarez won the bout.
"Lara was not my first option for this fight," De La Hoya said, grinning. "Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez is a fighter of pride. He's a fighter who wants to fight the very, very best. I don't blame him for doing what he wants to do. Lara wasn't my first choice, as I said, and you could see why. Lara was on his bicycle literally every single round."
Lara had said before the fight he'd send Alvarez to school, and Alvarez trainer Chepo Reynoso mocked him after the fight for that comment and the movement he showed.
"It wasn't a difficult fight because he ran," Reynoso said. "He just ran. If that's his idea of a school of boxing, it's a very poor school."
Lara's jab put a welt underneath Alvarez's left eye early in the fight. Alvarez returned the favor in the seventh when a left hand opened a small cut and caused a bit of a welt to pop up.
Lara may have tired a bit as the fight moved down the stretch, but in an odd way, it helped him. He wasn't on his bicycle quite as much, moving strategically and throwing more punches. As a result, he scored more frequently and was doing a far amount of damage.
Alvarez came out like he had something to prove when the 12th round began, firing powerful shots at Lara's body. Lara began moving again after the opening onslaught and started to pick Alvarez with a jab followed by the left.
The victory didn't do much to burnish Alvarez's reputation. Lara is a difficult boxer to face, and Alvarez deserves full credit for accepting the challenge when he didn't need to do so. But he often looked confused and frustrated and not like a guy who could deal with quickness, movement and a good jab.
But Alvarez is the star and he'll move on to bigger things. De La Hoya mentioned Miguel Cotto, James Kirkland and Gennady Golovkin as possibilities for his November bout.
"I came to fight," Alvarez said. "I didn't come to run. You don't win by running, you win by hitting. He definitely has a great jab, but you don't win a fight by running. He just ran. I wanted to leave a good taste in the mouths of fan fans and I came to fight."