Sergio Thompson UD-10 Ricardo Alvarez
Thompson (29-3, 26 KO) came into this fight with just nine days' notice after Omar Figueroa pulled out of the bout with Alvarez (23-3-3, 14 KO), and it's a good thing Golden Boy quickly found another fight for Alvarez, as this was bumped onto the PPV when Molina-Charlo was canceled. Without this, I guess the opening bout would have been Francisco Vargas vs Abner Cotto, which wouldn't have been so bad, really.
This was the most competitive bout of the PPV broadcast, which isn't saying much, and this wasn't that competitive either. Thompson was the clear winner, even though two of three judges would have had the fight a draw without a pair of knockdowns by Sergio, which in the end were the difference on the judges' cards. I had the fight 6-4 in rounds with the two knockdowns, so a 96-92 score, and I thought that was really as close as you could see it, and involved giving Alvarez a pair of debatable swing rounds. 95-95 without knockdowns seems stretching it in Alvarez's favor, but we saw that for his last fight, too, a majority decision win against Rod Salka in a fight many of us thought he'd totally blown.
This fight exposed the limitations of Ricardo Alvarez, perhaps even more than the Salka fight did. While Salka is not a fighter on the level of Thompson, this did figure to be a better style matchup for Ricardo, and he couldn't get the job done here, either. Salka was able to box circles around Alvarez for much of their fight, peppering him while Ricardo flailed and missed constantly as he loaded up for big shots, He did a lot of the same here, but Thompson was able to put him down twice, as he has a lot more power than Salka. Neither of these guys are defensive wizards or even competent defensively, quite frankly. It made for an entertaining enough fight, though, and that's really the most you can ask of a PPV opener. In terms of action, we absolutely got more with this fight than we would have with Molina-Charlo.
Jorge Linares UD-10 Nihito Arakawa
Linares (36-3, 23 KO) had no trouble with Arakawa (24-4-1, 16 KO), but it was a pins-and-needles fight until the end simply because Linares is so vulnerable with not just his chin, but his single-ply skin. The Venezuelan boxed beautifully as always, and pretty much took the cruder Arakawa to school. If Arakawa had a good straight left hand, this fight might have been different, but he's just a stubborn pressure fighter, really, and couldn't do enough damage to Linares to get him into any sort of real trouble, though Linares did cut again.
There is some talk now of doing Linares against Omar Figueroa for the WBC lightweight title. It's an interesting fight because Figueroa will be sorely outclassed by Linares in so many ways, but he's a better, stronger, and younger pressure fighter than Arakawa, too, which could make all the difference on fight night. But Linares gave a nice performance in this one and won going away against a tough guy.
Leo Santa Cruz UD-12 Cristian Mijares
This was an excellent outing for Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15 KO), who shut out the crafty southpaw veteran Mijares (49-8-2, 24 KO) and retained his WBC super bantamweight title. For an all-around effort, I think this was Santa Cruz's best fight to date. He's been more spectacular in breaking apart opponents in past TV fights, but Mijares was probably his best opponent to date, and certainly his trickiest.
Santa Cruz admitted before the fight that southpaws give him some trouble, but it looks like work in the gym paid off. Mijares did make it a bit easier than he would have liked, squaring up quite a bit, but Santa Cruz also came out blazing and set the tone of the fight very clearly and very quickly. He gave Mijares nothing to work with. Mijares is a good technician sort of fighter who likes a more controlled pace, and he never saw that tonight. Santa Cruz and his team scouted the opponent well, prepared well, and the fighter executed when it counted.
The next fight jabber right now for Santa Cruz is Carl Frampton, which is an excellent fight that I sincerely hope we see happen this summer.
Canelo Alvarez TKO-10 Alfredo Angulo
Right after Santa Cruz put on arguably a career-best performance, Canelo Alvarez followed with the same in the main event. Canelo (43-1-1, 31 KO) was far too good for Angulo (22-4, 18 KO) in this one, and even those who thought Alvarez would win handily mostly figured by a wide decision, outboxing the heavy handed but slow and cement-footed Angulo. Instead, Alvarez started way faster than normal, coming out to prove a point. He tore into "El Perro" immediately in rounds one and two, and it didn't take more than a minute for Angulo to look in over his head. Canelo ripped him to shreds in there.
The fight may have been the night's least competitive overall when you factor in the amount of damage done to Angulo, but it was also probably the most exciting. Not only did it have a great atmosphere due to a very rowdy audience that was split evenly or perhaps a bit to Angulo's side, but it featured the night's biggest punches, and an admirable losing effort by the underdog. The stoppage, to me, is a "nontroversy" -- I not only have no issue with the call, I think it was the right call. Angulo was getting smashed out there and pretty clearly had no hope of getting back into it other than some sort of miracle or perhaps a big-shot HollyWeird screenwriter coming in to give him the Rocky ending. This ain't a movie, dog. Perro. HA! Not even on purpose.
Allow Canelo to reintroduce himself.
Fight of the Night: Canelo-Angulo
Again, maybe the most one-sided fight of the night, but you have to admire Angulo's guts and toughness. I think everyone knew he was out of the fight by round six or so, save for the lingering doubter hoping and praying Canelo would tire himself out and give Alfredo the big chance. But he kept plugging away, which mostly involved getting his face smashed in and his head rocked back with increasingly uncomfortable frequency.
Compared to the rest of the card, this one had the hardest shots, the toughest opponent (which is saying something after seeing Arakawa), and it was easily the most significant of the bill. A star is reborn.
Best Performance in Defeat: Alfredo Angulo
First eliminated from consideration was Cristian Mijares, who was fighting to survive by the fourth or fifth round. It's not that the fight was boring, but it was over early and Mijares more or less gave up on the idea of winning well before the final bell sounded.
Second out was Ricardo Alvarez, who was gutsy and made a decent fight -- and the most competitive of the night -- but also had perhaps the single-worst actual performance of the night.
And last out was Nihito Arakawa, who did about all he could have with someone like Linares. Unlike Ricardo Alvarez, Arakawa was matched against someone out of his league. Alvarez had a legitimate shot, Arakawa had the hope that Linares would cut up, fold, or just get knocked out. Linares makes for a weird "puncher's chance," but he was a -900 favorite for a reason.
Angulo was the best of the guys who left the MGM in defeat. He stayed standing and had to be saved from himself by the referee, which of course he argued as unjust, because he's a warrior (not a word I throw around much despite being a boxing media dude). He was simply beaten by a better fighter tonight.
Fighter of the Night: Canelo Alvarez
I don't want to say it's not a big deal that Alvarez didn't make weight and wasn't killing himself to shed that extra pound on Saturday morning, because it matters. It particularly matters because Alvarez is the sort of guy who can get away with that. He's a Money Fighter, which opens up a lot of leniency from promoters and opponents, who need that guy to make their own money. Where else was Alfredo Angulo going to make $750K coming off of a loss to Erislandy Lara? And then to add another $100K on top of that to give up a pound? Of course Angulo was going to take it. And good for him getting that money. But it does send the wrong message, much like Floyd Mayweather blowing off the catchweight against Juan Manuel Marquez, or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr's constant raising of the limit before he fought Bryan Vera last year.
That said, Alvarez was phenomenal in this fight. Yeah, Angulo is a limited guy, but everyone knew that going in. If this was the fight where you learned that Angulo has a very clear ceiling for his abilities, I don't know what to tell you, but I think it's highly unfair to switch gears from thinking that Angulo had a shot against "overrated" Alvarez to now deciding that Angulo was nothing more than a gatekeeper with a name served up to Canelo on a silver platter. In reality, that's always what the fight was going to be. But Angulo did a hell of a lot better than this against Erislandy Lara last year, and he was even better getting worn out by James Kirkland than he was in this fight.
Alvarez is a damn good fighter. I've been saying it for a few years, but there are still holdouts who question his ability. He's a good boxer, he's got nice if not amazing power, and he showed tonight that not only can he work his normal pace and handle his business, but he can turn up the volume and outslug one of the best sluggers, too.
The Little Stuff
Brian Kenny was as usual the "host" of the broadcast, running the pre-fight panel with the three main commentators, some between-fights stuff, and he had an interview with Floyd Mayweather recorded earlier in the day. Remember when BK used to grill "Money"? Me, too. Ah, well. Highlight: Floyd saying Adrien Broner should focus on boxing and stop trying to rap.
The commentary trio of Mauro Ranallo, Paulie Malignaggi, and Al Bernstein were good as usual. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I know Mauro's bombastic persona rubs some people the wrong way, but I like the guy. He calls the action and he sets up his partners nicely. This team has meshed extremely well and they always sound far more like they're actually analyzing the fight in front of them than do their peers at HBO. I know some are still very partial to Jim Lampley, and I get it, but for me, this team has set the new standard, and HBO's storytelling approach sounds ridiculous in comparison. The real strength here is that Malignaggi and Bernstein behave purely as analysts, and not as cheerleaders pushing for the narrative they want. That's just how I see it.
Jim Gray is still the worst, and the back of his hair needs some attention. Yo, get a stylist, Jimbo.
They ran that Danny Garcia/Diddy "Coming Home" promo. Once was enough for me to kinda lose it. The second time I muted it. The song doesn't even fit except they say "I'm coming home."
Pay-Per-View Grade: B-
The main knock on this show now that it has come and gone is that we saw 41-plus rounds of pretty one-sided action. On my scorecards, I had Thompson 96-92 Alvarez; Linares 99-91 Arakawa; Santa Cruz 120-108 Mijares; and Canelo 89-82 Angulo at the time of stoppage. So overall, I gave 35 rounds to the night's four winners, and just six to the four losers, four of which were Ricardo Alvarez, and if anything that fight was wider than I had it scored by a round or two.
Still, there were no boring fights -- the worst offender was Santa Cruz-Mijares, and I was very impressed by Leo in that fight, enough that it held my interest even with Mijares giving up the ghost pretty quickly. But as few outright dull fights as there were, there was also no true standout fight. It was a pay-per-view that has come and gone, more or less, and the biggest news is that Canelo Alvarez bounced back from his first career defeat, though not without some deserved criticism for the weight issue on Friday.
What did you think of the show? Better than I thought, or am I being too kind?