Tonight, the world of Boxing will watch closely as Mexico’s brightest star, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, attempts to solidify his position amongst one of the most hotly contested divisions in the sport. Standing in his way is a man who many have viewed as the “Dark Horse” for several years. He doesn’t bring the huge Mexican fan base or the mega-star personality, but if there’s one fighter in the sport who can officially put Cuba on the map, it’s Erislandy Lara, and tonight he’ll get his chance. As we prepare for this epic battle, we first take a look at “Keys to Victory”, “Four to Explore”, and an “Official Prediction”!
KEYS TO VICTORY – ERISLANDY LARA
For Lara, he’ll need to start fast and first, but one word will tell the tale of the night, and when the final bell sounds, that word will guarantee either victory or defeat. That word? Consistency…..and he’ll have to apply it all across the board, starting with his jab. A precision based jab will be vital – as it relates to him being able to blunt Canelo’s early onslaught – and it could effectively change the total dynamics of this fight. Aside from employing the jab, Lara will need to dedicate himself to body work, early and often. The jab and body work duo should be very effective, but neither will mean much without a killer instinct. To tie this plan together, Lara will need to be willing to walk thru the fire and go down to the wire! If he can do these things, victory is his, perhaps easier than many think!
KEYS TO VICTORY – SAUL ALVAREZ
For Canelo, this is a very dangerous fight. He’ll enter the ring with his typical beaming confidence, but there’s great cause for concern. Similar to Lara’s Key to Victory, Canelo will need to start fast and take the fight to Lara with consistent pressure. As solid of a talent as he is, Lara has proven to each of us that he doesn’t always handle the type of pressure known to keep a fighter on his back foot very well. Against Angulo he weathered the storm, but he came very close to suffering defeat and it all centered around pressure. Canelo will need to attack intelligently, and pick his spots to prevent from fading down the stretch. If he can rack up points early, he could be in position to coast late. Combination punching and a knockdown at any point, makes a loss impossible. This blueprint seals the deal.
FOUR TO EXPLORE – (CRITICAL GAME CHANGERS TO WATCH)
AGING AMATEUR or YOUTHFUL VETERAN?: At 23, Canelo has 45 fights with 299 rounds fought. At 31, Lara has only 22 fights with roughly 120 rounds fought. The numbers tell us that Canelo is the more experienced fighter, but when you narrow it all down, who really enters the ring with the most experience? The fighter who faced nearly 50 opponent, 30+ which had no amateur experience in the talent-thin ranks of Mexico’s underground stable? Or the fighter with over a decades experience in a Cuban Amateur system that breeds pure fundamentals? Logic says the “aging amateur” could hold the key. History says youthful ignorance in a veteran who’s old enough to see caution, but too young to exercise it could make the difference. How will this “experience factor” all play out?
RISE or FALL?: Erislandy Lara has shown us two things over his short 6 year career: (1). He has great skill. (2). He doesn’t always show it when he needs to. Against Vanes Martirosyan and Carlos Molina, Lara fought to a Draw on the official score cards in two fights that his talent would suggest he should have won. Against Paul Williams, he did a very solid job, but not quite enough to put his stamp on it and engrave an impression in the mind of the judges. On the greatest stage of his career thus far, which Erislandy Lara will show up? Does he “rise” to the occasion? Or does he “fall” without his guns blazing….again? Stay tuned.
WITHIN REACH or OUT OF TOUCH?: One of the least talked about attributes in Erislandy Lara’s arsenal is his 75 inch reach. The fact that he anchors that reach with a southpaw stance is a thing of beauty, but against a fighter like Canelo, how much will this be a factor in the end? Will Lara be active enough with his hands to keep Canelo at the end of that 75inch wingspan? Or will he nullify his own strength (and his chances at victory) by limited activity and limited risk? His activity rate could tell the tale. Stay tuned.
BUZZ-KILL: Most experts expect this to be a closely contested fight on the scorecards, so one knockdown could very well be the deciding factor in the end. Both men are expected to have their moments, but which man can fans expect to gain an edge on the cards (or lose one) by way of a knockdown? History has shown that both men can be buzzed, but in the case of Canelo, despite the range of power punchers he has faced, he has only been seen buzzed once (Jose Miguel Cotto). In the case of Lara, it has been several fights, with Angulo achieving multiple knockdowns. It’s safe to assume both men could find themselves buzzed at some point, but man that touches the deck will probably “kill” his chances at victory. Who will that man be?
OFFICIAL PREDICTION & UPSET BAROMETER (SCALE 1 – 5)
This is a showdown that most fans felt we would never get the opportunity to see, yet here we stand, only a few short hours from seeing these two warriors enter the ring to square off. There have been several subplots and storylines, but none will ever speak louder than the headlines printed throughout newsrooms around the world tomorrow morning. There are no certainties for either man, yet there is one for the fans: this fight will rival Mayweather vs Maidana as a potential Fight of the Year. Both men will have their moments and it’s safe to assume that neither will go away quietly, but when the smoke clears, this is what we can probably expect:
Lara has every skill necessary to defeat Saul Alvarez. He has speed, he’s crafty, he’s cerebral, he has heart, and he’s hungry. He has every one of those attributes at his disposal and they’ll all be necessary. Where things become a problem for him is that he has never been able to tap into each of those attributes simultaneously while handling someone in the likes of a talent as dynamic as Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. Lara will test Alvarez like no other fighter we’ve seen, to include Floyd Mayweather. But in the end, only one man can win. And when the lights shine brightest, only one of these men have shown the ability to consistently elevate his game. Will Canelo demonstrate why he is believed to be the sports torch bearer? Maybe. Will Lara perform better than ever under the bright mega fight lights? No.
SAUL ‘CANELO’ ALVAREZ via RAZOR THIN SPLIT DECISION
(UPSET BAROMETER PEAKS AT 5 of 5 – IF LARA CAN PRESS FOR 12RDS HE WILL WIN)
(Vivek “Vito” Wallace can be heard every Tuesday night on “Left-Hook Lounge Radio”. He can also be reached at 954.770.9807, [email protected], Twitter (@vivekwallace747), Instagram (ViveksView), and Facebook).