Boxing’s Golden Ticket gets it done

They say you have to risk the unusual or merely settle for the ordinary.

There is nothing ordinary about the way Erislandy Lara fights.

Canelo Alvarez took the risk on Saturday night and managed to outpoint his Cuban opponent via a split decision in a junior middleweight main event that was tougher to score than your average Hawaiian Tropic swimsuit competition.

There was no championship belt on the line at the MGM Grand Garden, but Golden Boy Promotions needed its Golden Ticket to win.

Maybe boxing did, too.

Alvarez has been anointed the sport’s next megastar and will certainly be its most compelling draw once Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao retire in the coming years.

Alvarez will be 24 next week and has now won consecutive fights since looking overmatched and ill-prepared in losing to Mayweather last year.

That defeat, a majority decision that, in all truth, Mayweather dominated, made many wonder how much of the shine might come off of the Alvarez brand. If those who were on the fence about his perceived greatness would quickly jump from the bandwagon.

He wasn’t ready for such a moment as the Mayweather fight, but it also wasn’t one he could have refused.

When the pound-for-pound king calls, you pick up the telephone.

“Canelo sold close to 400,000 pay-per-views (against Alfredo Angulo) after fighting Floyd,” Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya said. “That was his first pay-per-view headliner. It exceeded all expectations. He continues to be a major superstar.

“Canelo is exciting. People want to watch him. He has a sense of magnetism to him that draws people. It doesn’t hurt that he’s good-looking. When you add all that up, you have a superstar.”

What you had Saturday was this: A guy who said he wanted more than anything in the world to fight Alvarez spent 12 rounds running from him.

It also wasn’t that bad a strategy.

Lara wasn’t going to stand and throw against Alvarez, not when the latter stepped into the ring at 171 pounds for a 155-pound catch-weight bout. Lara rehydrated to 166, but he had no chance matching strength.

So the southpaw darted this way and that, moving laterally more than a basketball player during a four-quarter game. He was good enough at it to make scoring the fight an arduous task.

“I won that fight, 100 percent,” Lara said. “I felt like I was totally in control. It didn’t seem like he was doing anything. I know one thing — I made him look bad in front of all his people. Everyone knows I won that fight, no matter what they say. I didn’t respect him before the fight, and that hasn’t changed. I want a rematch.”

Please, no. Not if it’s another example of Lara making his case as the next great Cuban sprinter. His boxing skills are obvious — he actually threw more punches than Alvarez — but that shouldn’t translate to victory.

The official scores — 115-113 for Lara, 115-113 and 117-111 for Alvarez — told the story of fight that even those paid to judge it struggled coming to any consensus.

But the tape won’t lie when all those involve rewatch it.

Alvarez took the challenge personally. He was aggressive and intense from the opening bell, obviously not a fan of Lara, who showed up to the Alvarez-Angulo post-fight press conference and demanded Canelo give him this shot.

He did.

Lara responded by going for a really, really long jog.

“I came to fight,” Alvarez said. “I didn’t come to run. You win by hitting, not running. I came to fight and to leave a good taste in the mouth of my fans. He’s a great boxer. I respect him. But I’ll give him a rematch when he learns how to fight.”

The smile of De La Hoya’s face told the real story.

He needed this, another win for his Golden Ticket, a bright beginning for his company in the wake of its latest restructuring that included the resignation of former CEO Richard Schaefer and other key losses.

“It was a great performance by Canelo,” De La Hoya said. “He landed great combinations. It was difficult. Lara was literally running all night. He would not engage, and that sometimes makes it a dangerous fight for (the favorite).

“We’re going to let Canelo celebrate his birthday next week and then sit down with him and his team and decide what to do next. His (next fight) should be in November.”

Hopefully, it will be more fight and less track meet.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.