You can look on the sad side, and bemoan the fact that the undercard to the Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley fight at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night was less than stacked. No meaningful title shots, no high stakes eliminators, definitely not a Don King special. Or you could look on the bright side, and say you were there–or, at least-watching on the tube–when Mexican future star Saul Alvarez arrived on the radar screens of fight fans.
Alvarez looked, if not like a slam dunk superstar of the future, than a more than solid prospect with an impressive skill set for a peach-fuzzed cheek kid two years away from being able to order a legal beer in a US bar. In the ninth round of a ten scheduled tenner, Alvarez stepped on the gas, and stepped on Jose Miguel Cottos throat. With power shots coming from both hands, and with a veterans cool, he whaled away at Cotto, Miguels older brother and by no means a stiff, forcing ref Tony Weeks to step in and save the Puerto Rican.
Did the showing lessen the sting of the lengthy break between the main support beef and the main event. Not so much. But thats another issue, a rant for another day. Maybe tomorrow, in fact…
Alvarez (age 19; pro since age 15; from Mexico; 31-0 entering) was 150 pounds, while Cotto (age 32; 31-1-1 entering; from Puerto Rico; Miguels older bro) weighed 149 pounds at the weigh in.
In the first, Alvarez was seriously wobbled by a left hook, and follow ups. But Alvarez got his wits back, and tried to fight back, rather than clinch. Manny Steward smartly pointed out that his left was up for protection, but up by his ear, leaving his chin exposed. Young fighters, take note…In the second, we noted that Alvarez doesnt always pump the jab hard, and often backs straight up. Cotto ate a counter right, which sent one of his gloves to the mat, as he tried to keep his balance, to end the second. It was a right uppercut, after a lunging right from Cotto. In the third, Cotto kept on stalking the kid. He didnt get awed by the youths power, and fight scared. Alvarez didnt take advantage of extra pudge on Cottos gut, not near enough through three. In the fourth, Cotto hooked to the body with both hands. He was definitely making the kid work hard in his big stage debut. Alvarez bothered Cotto with body work in the sixth. The Mexican made the ref look hard in the ninth. Finally, after Cotto ate shot after clean shot, Tony Weeks stepped in. The time was 2:51.
Daniel Ponce De Leon (age 29; 125 pounds; 38-2 entering; from Mexico) met Cornelius Lock (age 31; 19-4-1 entering; from Michigan; 125 pounds) in a scheduled tenner. The lefthanders sized each other up in the first. ponce has been trying to recast himself from a slugger into a more complete pugilist. He jabs more than he used to, for sure. He sometimes leans in too much, and gets off balance and lacks fluidity in his feet, still, however. The transition didnt look seamless through two. But he was the aggressor, and that alone gets him points. Ponce went more to the body in the third, and Lock didnt have a working plan to get into the bout. Looked to me like Lock couldve/shouldve used a mobility edge, making Ponce work harder to find him. But that takes mucho effort and discipline….Ponces left eye was cut and swollen in the fourth. Would Lock target it, take advantage? He did try to be first more heading into the sixth and seventh. But hes a counterpuncher at heart, and will never change his spots. Or would he? Lock landed hooks, and a solid straight right, blasting Ponce back into a corner, with under a minute left. Lock isnt a rare breed, a guy who steps it up, and shows apt urgency only when its really too late in the game to mean much. Wed go to the cards. Locks corner told him he won the bout. They were wrong. 96-94, 97-93, 96-94 were the scores, for Ponce. A couple hundred more people were present for the call than the Saldivia-Ouali match, and some clapped politely.
In the PPV opener, Hector Saldivia (age 26; 33-1 entering; 147 pounds; from Argentina ) took on Said Ouali (age 30; 146 pounds; 26-3 entering; living in Las Vegas; trained by Roger Mayweather) in a scheduled tenner. The lefty Ouali went down twenty seconds in, from a right hand. Saldivia then went down off a left hook 1:45 in. A right hook right after that sent him to the mat again, and he was beyond unsteady when he got up, causing the ref to halt the scrap. The time of the finish was 1:47 of the first. Not a bad way to kick off the show; too bad there were only a few hundred people, it looked like, in the arena. Man, fight promoters could really learn from UFC; no reason for the ambience to be so listless. It sends a bad message to anyone tuning in. But what do I know? I havent convened focus groups on the subject.
SPEEDBAG Jim Lampley referred to the headline bout as the biggest non heavyweight bout since De La Hoya met Felix Trinidad in 1999. Agree, or disagree, fight fans?
–Manny Steward said hed like to see his guy Wladimir Klitschko fight David Haye, maybe in September, if Haye wants it. But he said Haye seems hesitant to make a deal, and is letting his manager talk for him, after being very vocal about wanting the bout last year. He pulled out after it was booked for last summer, citing an injured back.
—I dont know of a better rep for their man in a trainer than Naazim Richardson. He caught Antonio Margarito and Javier Capetillo cheating in his last fight, and before this scrap with Mayweather, told ref Kenny Bayless to look out for Mayweathers habit of pushing off and shoving with his forearm and elbow.
–Muhammad Ali showed up, and took a seat before round five of the Alvarez-Cotto bout.
–Steward said Richardson should have wrapped Shanes hands waaayyy before the ninth round of the final prelim bout.