Canelo vs Lara: Scoring controversy

Lee Cleveland Updated
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In a non-title affair fought at a catchweight of 155 lbs, former jr middleweight champion Saul Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 KOs) won an arguably controversial split decision over WBA super welterweight champion Erislandy Lara (19-2-2, 12 KOs) last night. The scores were 115-113 and a mind-numbing 117-111 for Alvarez and 115-113 for Lara whose title was not on the line.

(Image courtesy of Showtime)

Lara started fast and may have won the first three rounds in the eyes of some by utilizing superior speed, effective combinations and brilliant footwork. At certain points, Lara had Canelo flailing, missing and looking sloppy.

But Alvarez was composed and roared back in the fourth stanza, viciously ripping Lara's body.

The body work slowed Lara who became more stationary and a much easier target.

Now, Canelo was beginning to land to good effect and the Mexican would eventually cut his foe over the right eye in Round 7.

Rounds 8 and 9 were all Canelo and the tide had shifted... Or so it seemed.

In Round 10, Lara mounted a comeback of sorts of his own, blasting Canelo with eye-catching shots while avoiding Alvarez's assault. The Cuban appeared to decisively take the round and the winner of the championship rounds would seemingly determine the outcome.

Rounds 11 and 12 were action-packed and close, and Canelo fought the final stanza like a man who thought the outcome was still in the balance while Lara appeared less desperate.

In the end, two of the three the judges preferred Canelo.

“I came to fight,” said Canelo after the fight. “If he wants to run then go to a marathon. You don’t win a fight by running.”

He added, he'd rematch Lara "when he [Lara] learns to fight."

Lara stated, “I did my fight and I won this fight. I made him look bad in front of his crowd…I still have no respect for him and I want a rematch.”

In many scoring controversies, one fighter lands far more power shots while his opponent employs a higher workrate and connects on more overall punches. In this case, however, both fighters landed hard leather and were relatively equal in overall punches connected.

Lara outlanded Canelo by only 10 punches while Alvarez connected on more power shots (non jabs) by a higher margin.

So despite being 'on his bicycle' most of the fight, Lara's performance was anything but a jab-fest. The Cuban frequently snapped Canelo's head back with hard lefts - The same left-hand power shots that felled Alfredo Angulo.

In the end, even the Showtime broadcast team was split and, in all fairness, a case can probably be made for both fighters. 

Do you prefer the aggression and grit of Canelo or the defensive hit-and-don't be-hit style of Lara?

Were Canelo's powershots much harder than Lara's?

Some insist Lara gave Canelo a boxing lesson while others assert the Cuban's incessant retreating cost him points in the scoring, especially in the middle rounds where he appeared to be in survival mode. 

The bottom line
The uncomfortable truth is, Canelo, as the A-side fighter and superstar, entered the bout with a scoring advantage before the fight started.

To beat a popular foe in boxing, the "opponent" usually must win decisively i.e. leave no doubt.

...It's always been this way in boxing.

Also, Canelo's punches, regardless of whether they landed, drew the louder cheers. As a result, Alvarez's shots appeared more consequential. Judges are not supposed to take the crowd into account but they are human.

And yes, the judges were well-aware one fighter was labelled as a crowd-pleaser while the other is considered a bit boring and overly tactical. Although Lara's activity rate was higher, the judge who favored Canelo by an unfathomable 117-111 may have subconsciously over-rewarded Alvarez in the areas of effective aggression and clean and effective punching. 

Boxing stars, such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Evander Holyfield, have usually enjoyed certain amenities as they relate to scoring.

But regardless of star power, a strong A-side fighter will almost always win the close ones, especially when they have the crowd's backing and are facing a non-star with a limited fanbase.

Danny Garcia vs Mauricio Herrera... Brandon Rios vs Richar Abril... James Toney vs Dave Tiberi.... De La Hoya vs Sturm... Canelo Alvarez vs Austin Trout. I can go on and on.

And while an unpopular Frankie Randall defeated superstar Julio Cesar Chavez in their first encounter, don't forget he needed a knockdown and two point deductions just to eek out a victory in a bout he should have won convincingly.

So while there are "some" surprises (such as Ruslan Provodnikov's recent upset loss to Chris Algieri) where the strong A-side fighter loses a close battle, those situations are few and far between. 

Certainly Team Lara must have known it would have been in their best interest to 'leave no doubt,' -  a la Marcos Maidana vs Adrien Broner - in order to win last night.

And in the eyes of some, Lara did.

... The keyword is "some."

I scored it 115-113 for Lara but given there's a relatively strong albeit (seemingly) minority contingent who believe Canelo's victory was just, Lara, unlike Marcos Maidana against Broner last December, failed to 'leave no doubt.' 

Alvarez earned $1.5 million and Lara $1 million for the fight.

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