LAS VEGAS — Canelo Alvarez wants to be known as a fighter who never ducked anyone, one reason he paid particular attention when Erislandy Lara started calling his name.
Alvarez could have taken on a less risky opponent in a pay-per-view show Saturday night, but didn’t. He listened to Lara call him out and responded by offering the Cuban a fight that holds a lot of promise for both boxers.
“I pick the most dangerous, the best fights, because at the end of the day I fight for the fans and I want to give them the best fights out there,” Alvarez said. “By fighting the toughest fights, by fighting the best fighters out there, that’s how I fulfill myself.”
Alvarez continues his comeback from his loss last year to Floyd Mayweather Jr., in a 154-pound fight most sluggers would try to avoid. Lara, who fled Cuba to begin a pro boxing career, is a prototypical Cuban southpaw who excels in making opponents miss before hitting them with counter shots.
But Alvarez heard the challenge, and heard Lara talk about how he would have an easy time beating him. He didn’t hesitate to give Lara a chance, and said he won’t hesitate to give him a beating.
“He’s a good fighter but he talks a lot,” Alvarez said. “He’s offended me. I’m going to have an answer for everything he has said. I’m going to shut him up once and for all.”
A lot is at stake for Alvarez in his second fight since losing a lopsided decision to Mayweather in the richest fight in boxing history. The 23-year-old rising Mexican star was impressive in stopping Alfredo Angulo in March, but the Mayweather fight raised questions about his ability to handle a slick boxer.
Promoter Oscar De La Hoya said he believes Alvarez knows what he is doing, but said that Lara presents some challenges.
“As a promoter this wasn’t my first choice,” De La Hoya said. “But you have to go with what the fighter says, with what the fighter feels. And this is what is most admirable of Canelo Alvarez is that he wants to please the fans.
“He wants to give the fight fans the most difficult fights out there.”
Alvarez (43-1-1, 41 knockouts) has a lot to lose, should he indeed lose. The charismatic redhead has been touted the last few years as boxing’s next big superstar, and even his loss to Mayweather hasn’t stopped talk about him being a lucrative attraction for years to come.
De La Hoya — who did some $700 million in pay-per-view buys in his career — said this week he expects Alvarez to become the biggest pay-per-view draw in boxing, and make even more money in his career than Mayweather. Alvarez, meanwhile, says he wants to take over the traditional Mexican holiday weekends in May and September in Las Vegas now occupied by Mayweather fights.
“I want to retake those dates and bring them back,” Alvarez said. “Those dates are Mexican dates, they’re Mexican independence dates, and yes, for next year I will be fighting, I want to be fighting on those dates.”
The 31-year-old Lara, who didn’t begin his pro career until 2008 after fleeing from Cuba, last fought in December, when he won a decision over Austin Trout. Alvarez also beat Trout, and both fighters claim stoppages of Angulo on their records. Lara (19-2-2, 12 KOs) campaigned hard for the Alvarez fight, and sat ringside at his win over Angulo to personally call him out.
“I wanted to come to this country and fight the best. That’s what I wanted to do since my seventh professional fight,” Lara said. “I was asking to fight for a world title. And championships come and go, but these are the types of fights that will leave history.”