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July 10, 2014

By Stephen "Breadman" Edwards

Here is my prediction and breakdown for this weekend's Saul "Canelo" Alvarez vs. Erislandy Lara pay-per-view bout in Las Vegas:

What an intriguing fight. This is a match-up between the two best full-time super welterweights in the world [Fl;oyd Mayweather, of course, generally campaigns at weterweight] . This fight has it all: righty vs. lefty,  banger vs. mover; Mexico vs. Cuba. And maybe the biggest factor of all, Oscar De La Hoya vs. Al Haymon [De La Hoya promotes Alvarez, while the powerful Haymon is an advisor to Lara].

First let’s talk about the more well known Canelo Alvarez. He is, in my opinion, the best combination puncher in boxing. He puts them together better than anybody. His punch variation is also tops in the game. I have seen him land left and right hooks, left and right uppercuts, power jabs, straight right hands and looping right hands all with effective precision. People criticize his coaches but I think they are doing a great job with him.

The main reason for the criticism was Canelo’s loss to Floyd Mayweather last year. But Mayweather was on fire that night. I was there live. After re-watching it on TV, I thought Canelo did a little better, although he was “handled”. But Floyd is Floyd. Canelo is still a top class boxer. The problem for Canelo is he’s really a powerful boxer. He’s not a pressure fighter like people normally attribute to him. It’s not his thing to chug forward beat a guy up. He’s more James Toney than Ruben Olivares.

When I study Canelo and Lara's performances vs. common opponent Austin Trout, I lean towards predicting Lara to win on Saturday. When I study them against their other major opponent in common, Alfredo Angulo, I lean towards Canelo. Both fights showed weaknesses. Canelo’s most glaring weakness is his up-and-down energy levels. He’s blessed and cursed. Let me explain…

Canelo Alvarez has much more explosive muscle and reactive twitch fibers than the average Mexican boxer. He’s eye candy when you watch him punch, much like Oscar De La Hoya was. But the flip side to that is Alvarez has energy drop-offs. I think he prepares very well for his fights. I don’t believe it’s lack of preparation. I simply think his muscles don’t recuperate fast enough after an explosion. It’s almost as if they need too much maintenance. In this day and age, I am assuming with the resources Team Canelo has they have tried to solve this problem. Who knows if they have found something that makes him recover a little better for this fight?

Here is what I do know, and it will always be somewhat of a problem. Genetics are what they are. I do think Canelo can do certain things to simmer it down somewhat. He already monitors his punch output so the lactic acid doesn’t build up in his muscles so much. But he can improve his DEFENSE. If he plays good defense while he is stealing a rest, no one will see him literally waiting for the wind to resurge in his body. All great defensive fighters have good stamina. Those two traits go hand-in-hand, the reason being that you can rest without getting hurt or giving up too many points.

When I look at Erislandy Lara I see a boxer who is maybe underrated and maybe overrated at the same time.  I think he’s underrated in two areas. One is he’s fought some really good fighters: Paul Williams, Vanes Martirosyan, Austin Trout and Carlos Molina are a good display of styles to be exposed to in just over 20 fights. I also think he’s stronger physically and bigger puncher than people realize.

His arms are incredibly sleek and well proportioned. I saw him do these balance push ups that only an extremely strong man can do. He also hits you with his straight left hand and it gets your attention. Canelo is billed as the puncher in this fight but Lara can hit almost as hard for one shot. He just doesn’t throw them in bunches like Canelo.

I think Lara is overrated when people look at him as a defensive fighter on the level of Guillermo Rigodeaux or Floyd Mayweather. He has a good set of legs and he’s very smooth but he’s not a defensive wizard. Freddie Hernandez was able to do some good work in spots with Lara. And I’ve seen Hernandez up close. He’s as slow as molasses. Molina was able to do the same. So was  Martirosyan and so was Angulo. This is all not a coincidence.

Lara defends himself well from a distance because his legs get him out of trouble. But up close he does not. He covers up and he’s very vulnerable to the left hook to the liver. Angulo and Hernandez landed that punch often against Lara. Angulo landed it so much I thought he was on his way to stopping Lara.

The other detailed trait that stood out to me about both guys is this. Misperception by the media. I think sometimes fighters are “given” advantages because of how they are built and what race they are. Lara is very smooth and sleek but Canelo is actually faster than Lara. Just look at them punch. Lara covers more ground because he has the better set of legs. But as far as punching  speed, Canelo is the faster fighter.

I  have a few questions of my own. Does Lara fight to the level of his competition? That very well could be the case. He always seems to. Can Canelo overcome a huge length disadvantage? Lara only seems to be an inch taller but his arms are much longer and his legs cover more ground.

The pick here is Canelo. I think because of crowd going nuts everytime he “explodes” and because the explosions will give the perception that he is doing more. I don’t believe Lara’s crisp one- two will be enough to overcome that advantage. I think Lara fights a little “bent” over and this will allow Canelo to land that left hook to the liver.

I look for a close fight but a fight where Lara will be visibly hurt or dropped at least once. Canelo should win at least two or three rounds in this fight that aren’t swing rounds, that are clear rounds and that will be enough. The future of Golden Boy rests on this fight.

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