Photos: Ed Mulholland
By Kieran Mulvaney
LAS VEGAS – Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Canelo Alvarez entered the ring at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night to a deafening chorus of screams and cheers from competing tribes of partisans. They ended their 12-round contest to boos, surely directed primarily or perhaps exclusively at Chavez, who once again fell far short of expectations and aspirations on the big stage. Whether because of the weight he had lost and then regained, or simply the result of a vast gulf in class, he never even threatened to put up much of a fight in what had been billed as a battle for Mexican bragging rights. Alvarez, in contrast, entered with a game plan that he executed with maximum efficiency, if not always enormous excitement, and there could not be even the slightest argument when all three judges scored the fight 120-108 in his favor, awarding him every round.
From the beginning, Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) stalked forward toward the taller, rangier Chavez, who circled away behind a long jab. A pair of sharp left hands that landed in that opening frame signaled Canelo’s intent and game plan, one that he stepped up a gear in the second, landing with an uppercut/right hand/left hook combination early in the round, and another three-punch combo toward the end.
Canelo’s plan was clear: to use a stiff jab to get close enough to Chavez to uncork power punches, particularly uppercuts that took advantage of the Chavez tendency to lean forward as he covered up, and fierce left hooks and overhand rights to body and head. The Chavez plan, if there was one, was more opaque, and seemed to be mostly a matter of survival. By the end of the third, Chavez was bleeding from the nose and reddening around the left eye. Encouraged by his success, Alvarez stepped forward into his punches with greater authority in the fourth, actively pursuing Chavez and backing him up with a series of combinations. A hook and right hand appeared to hurt Chavez (50-3-1, 32 KOs), who looked bereft of ideas or hope.
The Alvarez uppercut landed with authority again in the fifth, and a pull counter right hand knocked Chavez into the ropes. A blistering Alvarez combo ended with a solid right hand, and an uppercut and right hand knocked Chavez off balance again. By the sixth, they were fighting at closer range, perhaps a result of Chavez no longer being able to keep his rival at the distance he needed to be effective. But the closer quarters served only to be yet more effective for Canelo, who raked his opponent with two-or-three-punch combination after combination. At one point in the sixth, Alvarez backed to the ropes – the first time of several he would do so over the second half of the fight – and Chavez, sensing an opening, fired a few punches to Canelo’s body. It caused the Chavez cheering section to react with enthusiasm, but it was a mirage; Alvarez was both taking a slight breather and using the opportunity to suck Chavez into close range, at which point he uncorked a right hand-left hook sequence that snapped back his opponent’s head.
By the halfway point, Canelo had outlanded Chavez by 120 punches to 33, and the picture would not look much brighter by the end. When the final bell rang to put Chavez out of his misery, he had thrown 302 total punches, and landed just 71. Alvarez threw exactly twice as many and landed 228.
In rounds seven and eight, Alvarez again retreated periodically to the ropes, but the excitement of Chavez fans at these developments diminished each time their man failed to make his mark, until by the end of round 9 both fighter and fans acknowledged the game was up. When Alvarez laid on the ropes at the end of that frame, he waited in vain for Chavez to step forward and hit him, and when that didn’t happen, Canelo stepped forward and fired off a combination anyway.
The final three rounds were target practice. Chavez hardly threw a punch and retreated as Alvarez chased after him, able to get in range often enough to fire off a one-or-two punch combination because Chavez backed away again. The mood, once festive, was turning hostile at the lack of activity; the end, when it came, was merciful and the result a formality.
“Canelo beat me, he beat me at the distance. He is a very active fighter—he's very good and he beat me,” said Chavez. “I wanted to box but he went to the ropes and I just needed to throw more punches. If I would've attacked more, I would've been countered by his punches. The speed and the distance was the key. I didn't feel that much power. Because I felt dwindled, I couldn't throw as many punches as I wanted. My father kept telling me to throw more punches from the ringside.”
“Tonight I showed I could move, I could box, I showed as a fighter I can do all things,” said Canelo. “I thought I was going to showcase myself as a fighter that could throw punches, but he just wouldn't do it.” As attention turned immediately to his next opponent, Gennady Golovkin, Alvarez declared that, “I've had difficult fights, and that will no doubt be a tough fight. But, I always say, Canelo Alvarez is the best because I fight the best.”