When Saul "Canelo" Alvarez 43-1-1 (31) takes on Erislandy Lara 19-1 (12) this coming weekend, it'll mark the second time in his career where he'll be confronting an upper-tier world class boxer and technician. The last time Alvarez was in with an elite boxer, Floyd Mayweather, almost a year ago, things didn't go so good for him. In fact you could say with impunity that he was clearly in over his head and didn't win a minute of the fight, let alone a round of the 12 that he and Floyd fought.
The 23 year old supposed phenom looked lost and out of it with no hope of finding an answer very early into the bout. Mayweather's accurate and sharp punching totally stymied Alvarez and really kept him from getting off the way he needed to in order to have a chance to keep the fight close, forget about winning it. And Mayweather did that and was able to breeze through the fight without ever really putting much physical hurt on Alvarez, at least that we could see. In the main it was the clean punches he was nailed with every time he attempted to get near Mayweather that had Alvarez befuddled and in a trance for the duration of the fight.
After the bout Alvarez had the gall to say that he wasn't ready for Mayweather's tactics and didn't think that he would move and run so much. Which is a joke to anyone who saw the fight because Mayweather didn't run at all. What Floyd did was use a half side-step and basically out-boxed Alvarez from the waist up. The reality was there was no need for Floyd to run or move because Canelo wasn't doing anything that warranted Mayweather to move. Sure, it can be said that Mayweather is the best and most skilled boxer/technician in boxing today. But is he so great that Alvarez wasn't capable of winning a round or skilled enough to make Floyd a little uncomfortable at some point? And if he did, I certainly never picked up on it throughout the 12 lopsided rounds the fight drug on.
What does it say about Alvarez that Miguel Cotto, Robert Guerrero and Marcos Maidana, who represent three of Mayweather's last four opponents excluding Alvarez, competed with Floyd much better than Canelo was able to? Cotto and Maidana aren't as strong nor do they hit as hard or as accurately as does Alvarez. Yet they really forced Mayweather to work and fight in the midst of giving him two of the three toughest fights of his stellar career. And Robert Guerrero, who made his mark fighting between 126-130, who fought Mayweather at 147, actually won three rounds on all of the judges' scorecards. Does anyone really need me to highlight the fact that Alvarez is bigger, stronger, punches harder and more accurately than Guerrero? Aside from mental fortitude and toughness, Alvarez excels at everything a boxer must do to win a fight better than Guerrero. And as redundant as it is, Alvarez was one of Mayweather's easiest fights.
Perhaps Alvarez is really troubled by a good fundamental boxer. No, Lara isn't on Mayweather's level, but he's a little taller and longer and he is a southpaw. No, he doesn't have nearly the professional experience of Mayweather, but he uses his legs more and his deep amateur experience counts for quite a bit this time. And if he can punch and move without getting physically overwhelmed, he very well may give Alvarez some real trouble. Remember, we didn't learn anything from Alvarez's last fight against Alfredo Angulo, who he stopped in the 10th round. Angulo was tailor-made for Alvarez. He did everything just good enough to stay around for awhile so Alvarez could shine and sharpen up as the fight progressed. Alvarez didn't need any imagination and he didn't have to adjust for Angulo, who just came straight at him, something Lara will not do.
The 31 year old Lara is physically mature and hard having benefited from being a card-carrying member of the Cuban amateur boxing program. Granted, Lara isn't a life-taker when it comes to punching power, but nowhere in the book does it say one has to be in order to blunt and disrupt Alvarez from really trying to bring it. If Lara can land cleanly on Alvarez before he can get off with his patent two and three punch combinations to the head and body, he may be able to prevent the stronger Alvarez from walking him down and eventually working him over. Based on what we've seen from Lara against Austin Trout, Alfredo Angulo and Paul Williams, it's doubtful that Alvarez is just going to be able to cut loose at will and make Erislandy do what he doesn't want to on call.
Because of Lara's style, this is a very interesting fight for Alvarez. Everyone knows that he's the stronger fighter and harder puncher, but he sure didn't react well to getting nailed repeatedly by Mayweather, who only punches hard enough to keep his opponents off of him. If you take into account the physical advantages that Alvarez had over Mayweather last September, it's hard to digest why he was so out of the fight. Sure, I think he was bothered and weakened by the 152 pound catch-weight limit, but he was so non-competitive that he could've come in at 160 and I don't think it would've changed the outcome. One thought I have is, the size/strength advantage in favor of Alvarez might matter more this time than it did in the Mayweather fight. I think Canelo semi-panicked when he saw that, even without running, Mayweather was way too good for him. I don't think he'll freak out as much if things don't immediately go his way against Lara. Alvarez was unable to pressure Mayweather like he needed to, and Floyd had everything to do with that. If Lara can box him from the outside and disrupt his aggression, he should have a good night. However, if Alvarez should've picked up anything from losing to Mayweather, it is how he must improve at forcing the fight effectively. If he's not a deer in the headlights Saturday night after getting hit with some flush shots, he has the physicality and skill to overwhelm Lara.
The big money and establishment will no doubt be backing Alvarez this weekend when he fights Lara. As Muhammad Ali often said, Canelo has the complexion and the connection to take part in some of the future big fights that will happen in professional boxing in the near future. If he wins, I believe he'll abandon the junior middleweight division and will most likely be WBC middleweight title holder Miguel Cotto's next opponent. But first we have to find out if he has improved since losing to Mayweather and also whether or not he can adjust and impose his physicality and skill on a versatile and tough skilled boxer the likes of Erislandy Lara. Based on the last outstanding boxer he faced, it's not a given.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com