It was a festive night for fights in the Fight Capital of the World Saturday as two major boxing cards took place in Sin City. Hispanic fans showed up in full force to celebrate a pair of Mexican stars, as well as Mexican Independence Day weekend.
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez—the red-headed, freckled-face 22-year-old phenom—punished Josesito Lopez through five rounds of a dominating victory in front of 14,000-plus fans at the MGM Grand, while Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the much-celebrated son of boxing legend Julio Cesar Chavez, nearly pulled out a 12th-round upset of Sergio Martinez as a sold-out crowd of 19,186 fans, an arena record for boxing, watched a couple miles away at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“It was a special night for boxing,” Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer said, after watching Alvarez rip up Lopez to defend his WBC 154-pound title and thrust his rising name into the ring amongst boxing’s biggest stars.
Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs) knocked Lopez down in the second, third and fourth rounds with a series of damaging body shots, before finishing the 12-to-1 underdog with five seconds remaining in the fifth.
The victory makes Canelo Mexico’s biggest boxing star and sets up possible big payday fights against the likes of Floyd Mayweather.
“I think I’m improving with each fight,” Alvarez said. “I had a big responsibility tonight to all my fans watching around the world, and I think I did my job. I want the big fights now. (Miguel) Cotto, (Floyd) Mayweather, I’ll fight them all.”
After getting dominated for the first 11 rounds, Chavez Jr. nearly pulled out a page from his father’s famous playbook with a final round surge that saw him knock Martinez down twice.
However, unlike his father’s 1990 victory over Meldrick Taylor in Las Vegas—where Chavez Sr. stopped his opponent with two seconds left in the bout, Chavez Jr. lost for the first time in 48 fights when Martinez held on for a unanimous decision.
“I was 20 seconds away from knocking him out,” Chavez Jr. said. “I just started way too late. I thought I could do the whole fight what I did the last round.”
The exciting ending had promoters talking about an immediate rematch, perhaps at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
But on this night, despite a hobbled economy or struggling sport, one that critics have long labeled as being on life support, Las Vegas showed once again its still the king of the fight game.