With boxing stalwarts Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao’s inevitable retirement from the sport looming, boxing will need a new face, a new star.
While many have been pinned the next “it” guy in boxing, no one has really stepped up to the plate and been a force to the magnitude that Mayweather and Pacquiao have been over the last decade.
Then, Mexican junior middleweight Saul Canelo Alvarez came along.
Alvarez has become Golden Boy’s premiere boxer over the past couple of years, and they have undoubtedly been grooming Alvarez to replace Mayweather as the sport’s biggest main event draw.
Even as Alvarez has been a monster in his early career, winning 44 of his 46 fights, he still appeared to be in the shadow of boxing’s two biggest names.
However, after Canelo’s victory over Erislandy Lara last Saturday in Vegas, there shouldn’t be any doubts as to who will be boxing’s next big superstar.
It wasn’t necessarily the fashion in which Canelo topped Lara, because it was a fairly close fight.
The judges scored it a split decision win for Canelo, with two scorecards reading 115-113 and 117-111 for Alvarez, while the other read 115-113 in favor of Lara.
But, it was the way that Canelo stayed poised not only during the fight, but before and after the bout as well.
First off, he accepted the challenge from Lara after months of being publicly called out to face him. Despite Oscar de la Hoya’s objections, Canelo stepped up to the plate.
Then, he handled his business in the ring. Despite the frustrating tactics from Lara, who opted to constantly move around the ring and never stay in one spot and fight, Canelo was able to overcome it.
Canelo chased Lara around the canvas, as he went sideways and backwards, forcing Alvarez to bring the fight to him. Alvarez initially had trouble cutting off the ring, throwing some wild punches that weren’t landing in the early rounds.
But, Canelo’s relentless pressure ultimately was successful for him even though Lara refused to stand and trade punches. Alvarez was able to land some clean punches, with his best punch probably in the seventh round, a left uppercut that cut Lara’s right eye.
Lara, who only had one loss entering the fight, managed to take some of the later rounds using his counterpunching technique, landing left hands after Canelo would swing and miss with rights.
But Canelo stayed the course and ultimately had the more powerful and memorable punches that resonated better with the judges compared to Lara’s counter and get out of trouble method.
After the fight, with Lara continuing his trash talking, Canelo simply responded by saying “I’ll give him the rematch when he learns how to fight.”
It’s that maturity and ability to refrain from back-and-forth jawing that ultimately proves just how much Canelo has grown recently. The loss to Mayweather was a big learning experience for Canelo. He matured as a fighter and as a human being.
He chose not to get into a verbal sparring match with Lara, instead taking the “prove it in the ring” approach.
On top of that, Alvarez’s willingness to choose a dangerous opponent in Lara shows his superstar mentality. While Mayweather has a tendency to shy away from the biggest fights, Canelo has embraced them and seemingly takes on the best opponents whenever they challenge him.
As boxing is close to losing two of its marquee stars, they can relish the fact that a new one was born last Saturday.
The era of Canelo has begun.