Mexico's Saul "Canelo" Alvarez would like another crack at Floyd Mayweather Jr., and tonight he faces a fighter whom he and others believe represents a good proving ground before a possible rematch next year.
In Cuba's Erislandy Lara, a slick, skilled boxer raised in his native country's impressive amateur system, Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 knockouts) is expected to deal with a quicker, defensive-minded foe who represents a more complex junior-middleweight test than Alvarez's most recent opponent, forward-charging Alfredo Angulo.
Alvarez is expected to enter the ringer heavier and attempt to impose pressure on Lara (19-1-2, 12 KOs), trying to force him to the ropes and land heavy-handed punches.
The Times will have full round-by-round coverage of the bout from ringside at MGM Grand.
Here is the round-by-round coverage (scoring is unofficial; actual judges scoring at bottom):
Round 1: Alvarez, dressed in orange and black trunks, was followed into the ring at introduction by Mexican soccer goalie Guillermo Ochoa. Lara, a southpaw, jabbed to start. Alvarez lobbed back a few. Lara backs away from a hook. Alvarez lands a right to the chest. More Lara jabs and an Alvarez left to the ribs. Lara backs under a rope. It's a feeling-out round. Canelo tries to pressure more. Alvarez wins round, 10-9.
Round 2: Lara slips while backing up. Crowd roars. Alvarez throws a barrage. Alvarez with a left to ribs. Lara combination. Alvarez leads with a left, Lara blocks and then follows. Alvarez picks up Lara charging in on him. Good right to face by Alvarez; Lara complains about a shot to the back. Alvarez wins round, 10-9. Alvarez leads fight, 20-18.
Round 3: Alvarez uppercut counters a Lara punch. Lara now backpedaling, Alvarez pursuing. Good left by Lara, who's patiently waiting for openings, while Alvarez seems overly eager for action that isn't coming. Lara wins round, 10-9. Alvarez leads fight, 29-28.
Round 4: Good right by Alvarez. Now his power punches are striking flesh. He holds Lara and hits him. Jab and a right by Alvarez. More Lara retreating. Clean left by Lara to face of Alvarez, who counters with a right to the gut. Alvarez's right eye is swelling. Lara jabs again. Alvarez swings and misses. Alvarez wins round, 10-9. Alvarez leads fight, 39-37.
Round 5: Big right by Lara rocks Alvarez's head, and he delivers another pair of scoring blows. Alvarez jabs, looking to land bigger blow. Alvarez works the body. Lara gets in a one-two to face of Alvarez. More Lara jabs. Lara wins round, 10-9. Alvarez leads fight, 48-47.
Round 6: Lara jabs, then Alvarez lands a right. Alvarez looking to corner Lara, which is easier said than done. Lara backs away from Alvarez's whipping lefts. The retreating ignites some boos. There's an exchange of punches. Alvarez goes to the body, Lara holds. More action from Alvarez, who wins round, 10-9. Alvarez leads fight, 58-56.
Round 7: The fighters lock arms. Alvarez pressures Lara, gets in an uppercut. Another Alvarez uppercut. Alvarez gets in lefts to head and body of Lara, who has a cut near his right eye. Alvarez pounds Lara's body. Good Lara right-left combination. Alvarez connects to the body. Alvarez wins round, 10-9. Alvarez leads fight, 68-65.
Round 8: Lara's eye was salved between rounds. Good right by Alvarez is set up by a jab. Lara sneaks in left. Lara shortening the fight by retreating, but he gets hit and backs up twice more. A Lara left lands. No punches thrown in final 25 seconds. Alvarez wins round, 10-9. Alvarez leads fight, 78-74.
Round 9: Ringside scorers are having a tough time with this one because of extended bits of retreating and angling. Alvarez lands a left to the body. Lara's jab continues to land. If you love the jab as a judge, Lara might be winning. Combination by Lara. An Alvarez right backs up Lara. Clean left by Lara, who later slips in Alvarez's corner. Lara wins round, 10-9. Alvarez leads fight, 87-84.
Round 10: Combination by Lara to open round. Alvarez swings a left. Another combination by Lara. Alvarez works the body; Lara holds. A Lara left is followed by an Alvarez right. Alvarez's left finds Lara's face. Alvarez later misses a big right. Lara wins round, 10-9. Alvarez leads fight, 96-94.
Round 11: Canelo with a glancing blow to Lara's ribs. Alvarez is just not getting to the Cuban as he wanted. Right to body by Alvarez. A good combination follow by Lara; Alvarez absorbs the blows then misses a step. More boos. Alvarez urging action, belts Lara with good right to jaw. Alvarez lands a left to Lara's body. Alvarez wins round, 10-9. Alvarez leads fight, 106-103.
Round 12: Alvarez goes on the attack, working to body. He pounds Lara's body and gets to his head. Lara retreats. Alvarez lands a combination to the body. This is what he said he'd do in the fight. Alvarez fighting like it's anyone's fight. Good left-right-left to body by Alvarez. Lara covers. Good right backs up Lara. Alvarez and Lara hold up right hands at bell. Alvarez wins round, 10-9. Unofficially, Alvarez wins, 116-112.
The judges rule it a split-decision victory for Alvarez. Dave Moretti scores it 115-113 for Alvarez; Jerry Roth scores it 115-113 for Lara; Levi Martinez scores it 117-111 for Alvarez.