The much anticipated fight between Erislandy Lara and Saul Alvarez tonight has been hailed as the fight to decide the king of the Junior Middleweight class, which in many ways, it will. While no title is on the line, and Floyd Mayweather has managed to dominate all his opponents pretty thoroughly at the weight, including Alvarez, these two fighters are more representative of the weight. Not only are they bigger and extremely successful in their careers, but their talent matches their success. The one blemish on Canelo’s record being the Mayweather fight, which, to be fair, was a domination, and perhaps the only one on Lara’s being a lack of impressive competition. He lost a highly disputed fight to the great Paul Williams, but many fans discount the loss, and he’s found great success against near elite opponents such as Austin Trout and Alfredo Angulo.
Lara’s self-declared status as the American Dream references his struggle to escape Cuba to become a success in the land of the free, while Alvarez seems to have struggled only to contain and channel the success he’s found since the beginning of his career. Will tonight’s match up, driven by Lara’s dogmatic pursuit of the Mexican star through social media and finally a post-fight media conference, be an early birthday present for the young Alvarez? Or another chapter in the book of the purportedly avoided American Dream? I expect a truly great fight based on the talent and the potential to secure a legacy of both fighters, but I can’t help being biased toward my favorite active fighter. I watched Alvarez win a title at only 20 years old, and since then, he’s proven to be the real thing, more genuinely pursuing the absolute best competition available than any other fighter you can name, save for Mayweather. I think we’ll see Lara hurt and truly frustrated for the first time in his career, and Alvarez pushed to his limits.
Another recent fight that featured incredible talent and explosive competition has drawn less attention than one would expect of such an epic confrontation. Terence Crawford’s destruction of Yuriorkis Gamboa was a thrilling, back and forth brawl that displayed the talent of both fighters and the value of patience and persistence in the slight advantage Crawford was increasingly able to carve out as the fight continued. The action had announcers comparing the clash to the hallowed Hagler-Hearns scrap, and with good reason. Crawford met Gamboa’s machismo with commensurate firepower but just a little more restraint and commitment to technique. This resulted in an unexpectedly dominant conclusion that will change Gamboa’s career forever, and paint him as a target for boxer-punchers in the lightweight division, while elevating Crawford to a status no one thought possible just weeks earlier. Truly deserving of commendation, both fighters will continue on to provide an extra injection of enthusiasm for the division and possibly change the perception of this undervalued weight class.
On the other side of the spectrum, the rematch between Argenis Mendez and Rances Barthelemy after years of parallel match-making was a grievous disappointment, both fighters behaving as if nothing was at stake. Sadly, nothing much may be in the future for either one, having squandered a valuable opportunity on the big stage.
Weigh in on tonight’s fight and let me know your prediction.