The world title he had just won seemed like a secondary feat. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez now believes he has the platform to become boxing’s top attraction.
Combining adept power punching and solid boxing skills, Alvarez scored a lopsided unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto in their middleweight-title bout late Saturday in Las Vegas.
“This is a feeling that I can’t describe,” Alvarez said. “I have always respected Miguel Angel Cotto. He is a great champion, but now this is my era.”
Alvarez, 25, looks to fill the void of must-see performer considering that the sport’s top attractions of the past decade have ended or soon plan to finish their careers. Floyd Mayweather Jr. retired after his last fight in September, and Manny Pacquiao anticipates a ring exit next year.
Hugely popular in his native Mexico, Alvarez (46-1-1) landed the heavier shots against Cotto, the sport’s third best pay-per-view draw behind Mayweather and Pacquiao. A four-division world champion, Cotto (40-5) was efficient with lead left jabs and rights to the head and body. Alvarez matched Cotto with similar shots but with additional potency.
All three judges scored the bout for Alvarez 117-111, 119-109 and 118-110.
“From the first round, I felt superior in punch, and I also felt that pressure to win,” Alvarez said. “As the fight progressed, I felt I landed the better punches.”
Miami resident Guillermo Rigondeaux fought on the Alvarez-Cotto undercard. Although Rigondeaux (16-0) won a lopsided decision against Drian Francisco, the crowd jeered throughout the super-bantamweight bout for its lack of action.
In his quest for professional stardom, Erislandy Lara sacrificed many pleasures dear to his heart.
A native of Cuba, Lara left the comforts of Miami and resettled in Houston, where his trainer, Ronnie Shields, lives. Moreover, as he ascended the super-welterweight rankings and eventually became a world champion, Lara returned to South Florida only for visits but never to fight.
For Lara, the long-drought between local ring appearances will finally end Wednesday night. Lara will defend his two sanctioning body 154-pound titles against former welterweight champion Jan Zaveck in the main event of a card at Hialeah Park and Casino.
“I can’t wait for Wednesday and the chance to receive the warmth and support from my fans,” said Lara, who has not fought in South Florida since 2009. “Every time I stepped into the ring these past few years I felt a bit sad because I couldn’t fight before my people in Miami. But for my career to prosper this was the right decision.”
Lara (21-2-2, 12 KOs) also realizes the emotional trappings that could occur when fighting before a supportive crowd. Recognized as one of the top boxing-minded stylists in the sport, Lara can’t afford to deviate from his usual ring performances.
“You can’t lose your focus just because you want to impress more than you should,” Lara said. “I will be completely focused on what I need to do to win and not abandon my strategy.”
Zaveck (35-3, 19 KOs) enjoyed a two-year as welterweight titleholder that ended with a TKO loss against Andre Berto in 2011.
Wednesday’s bout will be the first world title fight in South Florida since Rances Barthelemy defeated Argenis Mendez for a junior-lightweight belt in July 2014 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Wednesday (6:30 p.m., at Hialeah Park and Casino, 2200 East 4th Ave., Hialeah): Announced seven-bout card, headlined by Erislandy Lara vs. Jan Zaveck, 12, for Lara’s WBA and IBO super-welter- weight titles; tickets range between $25 and $100; 1-877-840-0457.