Mexican hero Canelo Alvarez dismissed a heated rival on Saturday night, winning a contentious and narrow split decision over Erislandy Lara in the 12-round main event atop a Showtime pay-per-view card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Alvarez won the fight based on the scores of judges Dave Moretti and Levi Martinez, who gave it to him by counts of 115-113 and 117-111 – giving him seven and nine rounds, respectively – to override the dissenting score of Jerry Roth, who had it 115-113 for Lara.
CBSSports.com had it 115-113 for Lara, as well.
The styles were drastically different and contributed to the vast contrast in the post-fight comments from the two fighters, each of whom predictably believed they won. Lara spent most of the fight moving laterally and attempting to land combinations to the head, while Alvarez perpetually moved forward and, on occasion, struck Lara with a flurry of heavy shots to the body.
“I came to fight. I didn't come to run,” said Alvarez, who improved to 44-1-1 in a career that began in 2005 when he was 15 years old. “If he wanted a marathon, let him run a marathon. You don't win a fight by running, you win it by hitting.”
Lara, who fell to 19-2-2 in a 23-fight pro career, saw it differently.
“One-hundred percent,” he said when asked by Showtime's Jim Gray if he thought he'd deserved the win. “I did my fight. I was controlling all the rounds. More than anything, I made him look bad in front of his people.”
Lara opened strong and controlled the first three rounds with a good mix of movement and clean shots, before Alvarez rallied in rounds four and five with the strong body work that became his clear strategy as the fight wore on. Lara seemed significantly troubled by the body work and a cut that opened over his right eye as the middle rounds evolved and Alvarez looked poised to take over late, but Lara himself rallied with quicker hands and cleaner shots in the 10th and 11th.
Alvarez, perhaps sensing a tight result, carried the flow again in the 12th.
“He started running more when he got cut,” Alvarez said. “He didn't come to fight, he came to run. He's a great boxer and I have respect for him, but he has to know how to throw punches.”
Lara, who got the fight in the first place after challenging Alvarez at a press conference earlier this year, demanded a rematch because of the closeness of the result. But Alvarez demurred, saying, “When he learns how to fight, that's when I'll give him a rematch.”
On the televised undercard:
• Abner Mares (27-1-1), who lost his share of the world featherweight title in a single round nearly a year ago, returned to the ring for the first time since and scored a unanimous decision defeat of Jonathan Oquendo (24-4) in a 10-round featherweight match.
Mares earned 98-92 margins on two scorecards and 96-94 on the other.
• Former two-division world champion Juan Manuel Lopez (34-4) may have reached the end of the career line when referee Vic Drakulich intervened at the end of the third round against unbeaten Francisco Vargas (20-0-1) in a scheduled 10-rounder at junior lightweight.
Lopez was floored once and has gone 4-4 with four KO losses since starting his career at 30-0.
• Recent world title challenger Mauricio Herrera (21-4) bounced back from a disappointing loss to Danny Garcia with a majority decision defeat of Johan Perez (19-2-1) in a 12-round junior welterweight match.
Herrera earned scores of 116-112 on two official cards, while the third had it even at 114.
On the non-televised undercard:
• California-based middleweight Yamaguchi Falcao (2-0) won his second consecutive pro fight with a fourth-round TKO of Jesus Cruz (1-2-1). Falcao controlled the first three rounds before Cruz was unable to answer the bell for the fourth.
• Tomoki Kameda (30-0) retained his World Boxing Organization bantamweight title for the second time with a sudden seventh-round TKO of Thai challenger Pungluang Sor Singyu (46-3), stopping his man with a single left hook to the body at 1:35.
• Irish-based middleweight Jason Quigley (1-0) was a winner in his professional debut when he stopped overmatched Ocala, Fla. resident Howard Reece (2-7) after just 82 seconds of action in a scheduled four-rounder.
• Miami-based 122-pounder Yoandris Salinas (20-1-2) was shocked en route to the first loss of his career, which came via fifth-round TKO against journeyman Enrique Quevedo (16-7-1) after he was dropped three times to prompt the stoppage at 2:56.
• The show opened when unbeaten Puerto Rican welterweight John Karl Sosa (12-0) earned a six-round split decision over Luis Bello (5-2). The 21-year-old was given winning scores of 59-55 on two official cards, while the third went to Bello by the same tally.