Lara vs. Alvarez: A New Beginning or the Beginning of the End?

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It's a classic crossroads bout when former super welterweight king Erislandy Lara takes on veteran Ramon Alvarez in a 154-pound world title showdown Saturday night on FOX.

One is a former long-reigning world super welterweight champion out to prove he’s still an elite 154-pounder. The other comes from a fighting family, the older brother of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, looking to grasp glory for himself while settling an old family grudge.

Both are at their career crossroads.

This Saturday, August 31, live from The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Erislandy “The American Dream” Lara (25-3-3, 14 KOs) meets Ramon “Inocente” Alvarez (28-7-3, 16 KOs) for the vacant WBA “regular” super welterweight belt in a twelve-round main event atop a PBC Fight Night card on FOX and FOX Deportes (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).

The Story

Lara is 0-1-1 in his last two bouts and, at 36 years of age, many believe that the accomplished, one-time slicker-than-slick native of Guantanamo, Cuba, is on the decline. It could be pointed out, though, that both recent contests—a split decision loss to Jarrett Hurd in a Fight of the Year war and a disputable draw with Brian Castano—could’ve easily gone in his favor.

Reunited with former trainer Ismael Salas, Lara is hoping to make a big impression in a must-win fight.

Guadalajara, Mexico’s Alvarez, at 32 years of age, will be taking a huge step up in class by facing even a past-prime Lara.

While always putting in a solid effort, “Inocente” has a spotty record battling second and third-tier opposition. He boasts wins over the likes of Jorge Paez Jr., Vivian Harris, and Ben Tackie, but has come up short against next-level opposition like Brandon Rios and Antonio Margarito.

The Stakes

While the WBA “regular” super welterweight title is on the line, both Lara and Alvarez also have their professional futures tied to the outcome of Saturday’s bout.

Lara, the former 154-pound kingpin, needs a win to not only recapture a world title, but to also reestablish his name among the elite in the super welterweight division. A loss, or even a poor winning performance, will push him down the ladder of contention and further the theory that his best days are behind him.

Alvarez, meanwhile, is fighting to establish his own identity as a prizefighter, working out from underneath the shadow of younger brother, Canelo Alvarez. A world title and a win over a name like Erislandy Lara would go a long way in turning Alvarez into something greater than “Canelo’s brother.”

There’s also a point of family pride in besting Lara, a fighter who many felt should’ve gotten the nod against Canelo back when the two met in 2014.

History could be in the making for the Alvarez family as a win on Saturday would make the Alvarez brothers—Saul, Rigoberto, and Ramon-- the first-ever trio of Mexican siblings to win world titles and only the second trio of brothers to do it.

The Matchup

At his best, the southpaw Lara is a master of pace and space, controlling the tempo and distance of a fight with a nearly unmatched ring IQ.

I won't underestimate him and that is why I am preparing well... Former World Super Welterweight Champion - Erislandy Lara

Cold, calculated, and intuitive on offense, the Cuban quickly assesses an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, then sets about dissecting him with quick and clean scoring shots. His best offensive weapon may be his straight left hand, but mostly everything he throws is sharp and effective. Although a boxer and tactician by nature, Lara has shown himself to be a fierce battler when pushed into a firefight.

In this upcoming contest, a seven-inch reach advantage can be added to the list of factors lining up in the former champ’s favor.

Blue-collar battler Ramon Alvarez is not as talented nor as skilled as Lara, but he’s every bit as earnest in his efforts.

Burdened with relatively slow hands and feet, he needs to keep the fight on the inside to be most effective. Offensively, he has good technique and throws short, tight punches that are not one-punch heavy, but are effective in wearing down opposition.

Always in shape and mentally focused, with a sturdy chin and a warrior’s heart to compensate for a lack of next-level natural talent, Alvarez is a serious foe for anybody at any level.

The Words

Erislandy Lara (via Boxingscene):

"I feel very good. Everything is going how we want it to go. I am working very hard here in the gym with Ismael Salas and I am very focused on the fight…Right now we are just bringing everything out of the memory banks. I had all that he taught me before in the archives of my brain and we are basically picking up where we left off.

"He [Alvarez] is a fighter that is hungry to win a title. He is coming to win and I have to be focused to get the victory. I won't underestimate him and that is why I am preparing well and training hard to make sure I get the victory.”

Ramon Alvarez (via ESPN Deportes):

"It is what fills me with the most enthusiasm, the possibility of making history and the desire to be world champion...The idea is to work by cutting off the ring in the event he wants to box, and if he wants to fight, we will also be prepared for that too. There are many who say that Erislandy is not the same as he was before, but I do not place my trust in that, I must be ready for anything.”

The Breakdown

For Alvarez to win this bout, he’s going to need some cooperation from Lara and Father Time. A slowed-down Lara who must fight on the inside and go toe to toe will give the Mexican his greatest chance to score an upset and take home the world title.

Alvarez is definitely a black-and-white kind of fighter and if Lara has any technicolor left in him, it’ll be a long night for the elder Alvarez brother.

Very early on in the contest it’ll be clear what’s what with the Cuban star. With Alvarez pushing forward, trying to engage in the only type of battle he knows, Lara’s hand will be forced. If the naysayers are right and Lara is in decline, fans could be in for a very entertaining inside war. If Lara is still Lara, however, a brutally beautiful virtuoso performance could be on tap.

For a closer look at Lara vs Alvarez, check out our fight night page. 

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