The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of July 7
It’s fight week in Las Vegas.
Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara are set to meet in a huge non-title fight on Saturday night at the MGM Grand, and the questions heading into the bout are plenty.
Has Canelo bitten off more than he can chew against the awkward, tricky southpaw Lara?
Is Lara ready to take Canelo’s spot and become a superstar on Saturday night?
Will the winner be the best 154-pound fighter in the world?
In other news, Mayweather Promotions has acquired a promoter’s license in New York.
Does this make it more likely that the pound-for-pound king will fight in the Big Apple before his career is done?
We ask these questions and more—pondering the potential answers—in this week’s edition of the hottest storylines in boxing.
Has Canelo Bitten off More Than He Can Chew?
Canelo is a fighter seeking to uphold the proud tradition of Mexican warriors that have come before him.
The 23-year-old desires to be nothing short of the best fighter in the sport, and he understands that the road to that goal isn’t meant to be easy.
The only way to get there is by fighting the best, and that’s exactly why he’ll be stepping into the ring with Lara on Saturday night.
“I’ve always wanted to fight the best, and I believe that Lara is one of the most, if not the most, dangerous fighters at 154 [pounds]. A lot of people wanted to see it. My goal is to give the fans what they want to see, and that’s the best fights. The best fighting the best. And that’s my philosophy. That’s what I want to do,” Canelo told Bleacher Report.
You can’t help but admire his philosophy.
In a boxing era where the best fighters in the world spend more time finding reasons not to fight, Canelo stands out for his willingness to reach for difficult, challenging opponents.
But has he bitten off more than he can chew?
Lara was the one fight that many in the boxing community felt that Canelo and his team would avoid if possible.
The 31-year-old Cuban is a tricky southpaw who has developed a reputation as one of boxing’s ultimate high-risk opponents. He’s fundamentally sound, hard to hit and a ludicrous—borderline criminal—decision defeat to Paul Williams away from being undefeated.
Most junior middleweights avoid him like the plague, but Canelo, to his credit, has stepped straight into the firing line.
A win would be huge—Canelo is already Mexico’s biggest boxing attraction—and would probably elevate him even beyond the heir apparent station he held before losing to Mayweather in boxing’s richest fight last September.
But it’s not going to be easy.
Not even close.
Can Erislandy Lara Become a Star?
Lara is one of those fighters who might just be too good for his own good.
A southpaw boxer with good speed and power, Lara has made almost every opponent he’s faced look bad in the ring, prompting most big-name fighters to pass him over, viewing him as too high risk and low reward.
Lara captured an interim championship at junior middleweight last June with a stoppage victory over Alfredo Angulo, defending it once—a wipeout beatdown of the also avoided Austin Trout—before being elevated to full-champion status earlier this year.
But despite his cult-like following, Lara has struggled to find much traction beyond the hardcore boxing community. Much of that is for reasons we’ve already discussed, primary among them being difficulty finding his way onto the biggest stages in the sport.
He has a huge opportunity to change that—in a big way—this coming Saturday night against Canelo.
The opponent, moment and event are all aligned to create the opportunity of a lifetime.
Alvarez is still considered one of the fastest rising young guns in boxing, despite losing a lopsided decision to Mayweather last year, and it will be pretty hard to avoid him—without at least being called out on it—if he knocks off the cinnamon-haired superstar.
Would it make Lara a star?
Some would argue that he already is one, but this type of exposure, combined with a victory, certainly won’t hurt.
Does that mean he’ll get more meaningful fights in the future?
That remains a murkier and harder to answer question.
Is the Canelo vs. Lara Winner the Best Junior Middleweight in the World?
While it’s true that Canelo vs. Lara will technically be contested at one pound above the junior middleweight limit—a maximum contracted weight of 155 pounds was negotiated since no title is on the line—most fans will view the fight as a battle for 154-pound supremacy.
With Mayweather, the undisputed pound-for-pound king, currently campaigning at welterweight—he will reportedly face Marcos Maidana in a championship rematch this September, via Martin Domin of the Daily Mail—that leaves the throne of junior-middleweight king wide open.
Canelo was knocked down a few pegs against Mayweather last year, but he rebounded well, stopping the always tough “Perro” Angulo in March and generating solid pay-per-view numbers.
His star certainly wasn’t diminished by his first career defeat.
Lara should be undefeated.
His only loss, against Williams in 2011, was the result of a decision so putrid that most people dismiss it on its face.
The Cuban southpaw has a reputation for being one of the most technically sound fighters in the sport—unlike his compatriot Guillermo Rigondeaux he isn’t saddled with the boring label—and a win would thrust him into the pound-for-pound conversation.
Would the winner automatically jump to the front of the line in a deep and talent-laden junior middleweight division?
With Mayweather abdicating the throne—he hasn’t fought at 154 since September and likely won’t until at least next May—there is little doubt.
Mayweather may well decide at some point to venture back up and defend his realm, and Miguel Cotto—fresh off a dominant middleweight championship victory over Sergio Martinez—could drop back down, but, for now at least, the winner of Canelo vs. Lara will be the man at 154 pounds.
Is Floyd Mayweather New York Bound?
Last week, Mayweather made news by announcing a welterweight rematch with Maidana in September, but it’s what flew under the radar that might be the biggest news of all.
Mayweather Promotions, per Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News, sought and was granted a promotional license by New York State last week, leading many to speculate that his next—or possibly a future—fight could well be heading to the Big Apple.
If that does wind up happening, it would obviously be big news.
Mayweather, who lives in Las Vegas and has a permanent ad on the side of the MGM Grand proclaiming it the "Home of the Champion," has hosted each of his last nine fights at the MGM, generating countless millions of dollars in revenue for the casino and city.
But with his career winding down to its conclusion, is Mayweather ready to make the jump and fight in the biggest media market in the world?
It seems like a definite possibility, but a lot of things need to go right.
The Barclays Center—Brooklyn, New York’s new arena which has become a major boxing player in the years since its opening—made a big push to land Mayweather vs. Maidana in May, losing out to the MGM.
Given this development, it’s sure to be in the mix again for the rematch, but financial terms will need to be worked out.
One of the benefits to Mayweather of fighting in Las Vegas is that the taxes are very low. Nevada doesn’t have a state income tax on individuals.
Forbes reported late last year that New York taxes—8.82 percent for individual income tax and an additional four percent for unincorporated business tax—would total nearly 13 percent of Mayweather’s earnings for a fight, and that is the single biggest deterrent that could keep him away.
New York City could certainly afford the rich ticket prices that help line the pound-for-pound king’s pockets—New York is no stranger to tickets for premium events running into the thousands of dollars—but something would need to be done to ease the tax burden for Mayweather to seriously consider taking his show on the road.
Various offsets and diversified revenue streams could be created to ensure Mayweather makes his bottom line, but that makes any deal complicated.
No, but complex.
Can it happen?
But it’s going to take some creative accounting.
Has Abner Mares Recovered from Devastating Knockout?
Abner Mares was on the rise through the pound-for-pound ranks when he met up with former champion Jhonny Gonzalez in a featherweight title defense last August.
Gonzalez, a fellow Mexican with a reputation for punching power, was considered by most to be too shopworn and past his best to really give the then-undefeated Mares much difficulty.
That logic was blasted right on its head in the opening and only round of the fight.
Gonzalez absolutely blew Mares out, dropping him twice in Round 1, prompting referee Jack Reiss to halt the contest. It was a shocking result—not just for Gonzalez’s victory, but for the stunning ease with which he took it—and Mares has not been in the ring since.
Mares will return to the ring for the first time in nearly a year on the Canelo vs. Lara undercard, facing the—by all accounts—decent but unspectacular Jonathan Oquendo.
He’ll also be making his first appearance in the ring under the tutelage of new trainer Virgil Hunter.
Mares hired Hunter to run his corner in May, likely to help him improve his defensive abilities, and it will be interesting to see if he can recapture some of his pre-Gonzalez form. He’s still young and has a ton of upside.
The real question is how much the Gonzalez knockout and long layoff took out of him.
Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report and an auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). You can follow him on Twitter @McRaeBoxing.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.