Sunday, July 13, 2014

Is judging really a matter of perspective?


Is judging really a matter of perspective? On Saturday night we got that question after the Erislandy Lara/Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez main event at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. The fight, which was a close one, ended in a split decision victory for Alvarez.

Though I thought Lara (19-2-2, 12 KO's) narrowly won 115-113 or seven rounds to five, I have no problem with the decision to give it to Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 KO's). The problem I have is with the third judge Levi Martinez who scored it 117-111 for Alvarez or nine rounds to three. I have always said judging is a matter of perspective, especially in a fight between a boxer and a puncher; but this one left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

My reasoning is simple in that clearly and without question in any one's opinion, Lara won the first three rounds of this fight. He used constant lateral movement and boxed beautifully as he peppered Alvarez with his jab continuously. He had Alvarez so off balance that at times 'Canelo' looked amateurish as he was head hunting and swinging wildly at air. Thus, that means if Martinez saw the first three rounds like everyone else in the world, and I cannot imagine he didn't, he gave Alvarez the final nine rounds; this I have a problem with.

In round four Alvarez made a smart strategic move that finally turned the fight around and gave him momentum. He realized he wasn't going to catch Lara by trying to cap off his head, so he just started body punching. Whenever he was able to corner the Cuban for a second or two he would dig into his ribs, chest and even his arms with clubbing blows. His left hook to the body was especially devastating as it hurt me while watching whenever he threw it.

As expected the body punching began to slow down Lara's movement immensely, thus Alvarez was able to catch him a bit more frequently than early on. However, it did not stop his movement completely and more importantly, it did not stop Lara from boxing. He continued to pop those jabs and quick one-two combinations, even in retreat; so much so that there were clearly rounds where he out boxed Alvarez. Obviously I think so as I gave him four of the final nine rounds; but even if you only gave him two, that still makes it 115-113 for Alvarez.

In Martinez's defense, I will say that this fight eerily reminded of a fight that continues to spark debate anytime it is brought up, even 27 years after the fact. The fight is none other than Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs. Sugar Ray Leonard, the "Superfight." In that fight, Hagler played Alvarez as he was constantly the aggressor, stalking down his opponent and digging into the body when he could. Meanwhile Leonard was Lara, as he stayed on the outside, constantly moving in and out as he tagged Hagler with quick hitting combinations.

In the end Leonard won a close split decision, which I also narrowly scored for Leonard. Similar to this fight, two judges scored it 115-113, one each for Hagler and Leonard; but the third judge had it 118-110 Leonard. What fight was he watching?

In a fight that features a boxer versus a puncher you are always going to have different opinions. I always favor the boxer in these fights because I believe boxing is called 'The Sweet Science' because the objective is to hit, while not getting hit. However, there are those that believe heavier punches deserve more credibility. As stated previously, I have no qualms with Alvarez winning a close decision; my problem is that according to one judge it wasn't close. Thus, it leaves me scratching my head asking, is judging really a matter of perspective?

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