Saul Alvarez announced that he is “fighting for the pride of my country” of Mexico and Erislandy Lara pledged to fight “for my family, to put food on the table for them” during Tuesday’s grand arrivals at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, site of their junior middleweight clash on Saturday on Showtime Pay-Per-View.
“Right now, ‘Canelo’ is my enemy and this is war now,” said Lara, 31, who is Cuban. “I’m fighting for my family, to put food on the table for them. No one can take that away from me.”
Meanwhile, Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 knockouts) has vowed to exact revenge on Lara for perceived trash talking about his abilities.
“Erislandy Lara insulted me and my country. He insulted my ability to box and I take that seriously,” said Alvarez, who turns 24 six days after facing Lara (19-1-2, 12 KOs).
“This is more than just a fight for me. On Saturday, I’m not only fighting for my honor; I’m fighting for the pride of my country. Lara can get motivated however he wants, talking or not.”
Alvarez has bracketed wins over Austin Trout and Alfredo Angulo around a majority decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. last September in which Alvarez lost his RING and WBC 154-pound titles.
“This fight will give me personal satisfaction. It’s about fighting the best and beating the best,” said Alvarez. “The media and the fans know that this is a dangerous fight and them knowing that will make my win that much better. It’s a personal satisfaction to be fighting the best and beating the best.”
Before facing Mayweather, Angulo and Trout, whom he dropped in the seventh round in April 2013, Alvarez had been criticized for largely taking on undersized competition such as Josesito Lopez and Alfonso Gomez and for facing post-prime fighters such as former welterweight beltholders Shane Mosley, Carlos Baldomir and Kermit Cintron.
Nine months before Alvarez stopped Angulo in the 10th round, Lara did the same, rising from two knockdowns to do so. Lara then dominated Trout in December, dropping and nearly stopping him in the 11th round of a unanimous decision in December.
“When I arrived to the United States from Cuba, times were tough. I’ve built what I have from nothing. I take pride in the opportunities that this country has given me. And I’m not about to let this one go by,” said Lara, a former Cuban amateur who called Alvarez “a baby” for not having faced him.
“On Saturday, I will trudge through the doors that my boxing skills have opened up for me and the world will know who I am. I feel very special to be here right now. I don’t feel any pressure because I am ready to fight. They can say what they want; Canelo is Canelo. I’m ready to fight because I believe the best should fight the best.”
In support bouts on the pay-per-view portion of Alvarez-Lara, three-division titlist Abner Mares will face veteran Jonathan Oquendo in Mares’ first fight under trainer Virgil Hunter; junior welterweight contender Johan Perez will battle former title challenger Mauricio Herrera; and former two-division titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez will clash with Francisco Vargas in a 130-pound bout.
Mares was previously in consideration for the June 21 Showtime card at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., that featured Vasyl Lomachenko dominating Gary Russell Jr. by unanimous decision for the WBO featherweight title, as well as Robert Guerrero and Devon Alexander winning unanimous decisions over Yoshihiro Kamegai and Jesus Soto Karass, respectively.
But given that Mares, THE RING’s number two-ranked featherweight, had recently made the difficult decision to transition from longtime cornerman Clemente Medina to Hunter, the 28-year-old contender felt he needed time to adjust.
“This fight is no walk in the park,” said Marez. “Jonathan is a warrior and that’s why I trained very hard. I’m here to make a statement.”
Mares was last in action in August, when he lost his WBC featherweight title by first round knockout loss to Jhonny Gonzalez. Mares later suffered a rib injury in Mexico City that scuttled his rematch with Gonzalez, slated for February. He was similarly injured in June 2012, when rib damage led to the cancelation of a clash with bantamweight Christian Esquivel.
Oquendo was last in action for a unanimous decision over Guillermo Avila in March that represented his second consecutive win since falling by seventh round knockout to ex-beltholder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in October 2012.
“I’m not going to lie; I have a lot of respect for Abner Mares but don’t let that fool you. I don’t feel any pressure. He’s a great champ but there will be blood in the ring on Saturday and it won’t be mine,” said Oquendo, who is Puerto Rican while Mares is of Mexican descent.
“We have great fighters from Puerto Rico and this is for those fans who will see something great Saturday. The knockouts come naturally to me. If it presents itself, I will definitely knock him out.”
Mares welcomes the challenge.
“I’m glad he has the mentality of the knockout but on Saturday, it is going to be my night in the ring,” said Mares. “The Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry lets you know this is going to be a great fight.”
Lopez, who turned 31 on June 30, was last in action against Daniel Ponce de Leon in March, rising from the canvas to twice floor the ex-titleholder on the way to a second round stoppage win.
Their bout was a rematch of Lopez’s first round knockout of Ponce de Leon in June 2008. Ponce de Leon was the last man to defeat Jhonny Gonzalez in an eighth round technical decision in September 2012, ending Gonzalez’s 12-fight winning streak which included 11 knockouts.
“I feel good and very confident. I’m simply a better fighter. Come Saturday night, Puerto Rico will school Mexico. Vargas better watch out,” said Lopez, who is Puerto Rican. “Everything I did in the gym takes the pressure away and makes my confidence rise. We’ve got two great countries, Puerto Rico and Mexico battling it out and I just want to prove Puerto Ricans can fight.”
The 29-year-old Vargas is coming off three impressive wins, the most recent being a unanimous decision over Abner Cotto in March. Before facing Cotto, Vargas earned consecutive unanimous decision victories over previously unbeaten Brandon Bennett and Jerry Belmontes in August and December, respectively.
“I’m ready for war; ‘JuanMa’ better be ready to fight a true Mexican warrior,” said Vargas. “I don’t feel any pressure. That stuff just motivates me. I’m glad to have all my countrymen here and we will give them all a war.”
Herrera is coming off a disputed majority decision loss in March to unbeaten RING 140-pound champ Danny Garcia. Herrera also has decisioned former WBO titleholder Ruslan Provodnikov and suffered narrow decision losses to Karim Mayfield and Mike Alvarado, who was dethroned by Provodnikov following a 10th-round stoppage loss in March of last year.
“I’m coming off of a controversial loss and I’m not about to let that happen again. I’m going to come out victorious on Saturday night and no judge will think otherwise,” said Herrera, 34.
“We’re going to go through Johan first before worrying about another chance at Danny Garcia. Johan is the guy in front me and I’ll show all of you a great match on Saturday.”
Perez, 31 , has won four straight fights since falling by seventh round technical decision loss to Pablo Cesar Cano in July 2012 and was last in action for a 10th round stoppage of Fernando Monte de Oca on May 10.
“I know what I have in front of me. Mauricio is a tough, aggressive fighter,” said Perez. “We’re going to give a great fight. Make sure you don’t miss my fight Saturday. I’m going to be his problem, not Danny Garcia.”
Also, on the Showtime network during Countdown Live, Tomoki Kameda will defend his WBO bantamweight title against Pungluang Sor Singyu prior to the four-fight pay per view.
Kameda turns 23 on fight night and hopes to celebrate by ending a winning streak of three consecutive knockouts by Pungluang, 26, who was dethroned as WBO titleholder following a unanimous decision loss to Paulus Ambunda in March 2013. In his following fight five months later, Ambunda lost his WBO belt to Kameda by a wide unanimous decision. Both Kameda and Pungluang will be making their U.S. debuts at the MGM.
Also on the undercard are Brazilian Olympian Yamaguchi Falcao, Ireland’s Jason Quigley, Cuba’s Yoandris Salinas and Puerto Rico’s John Karl Sosa.
A 26-year-old southpaw and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist living in Los Angeles, Falcao will face Puerto Rico’s Jesus M. Cruz. In a clash of middleweights, Quigley, 23, will make his professional debut against Florida’s Howard Reece (2-6, 1 KO).
Junior featherweight Salinas, 28, returns against Enrique Quevedo in an attempt to rebound from
a draw with Scott Quigg in October, and Sosa will be matched against Mexico’s Luis Bello in a welterweight match-up.
“Fights like these are all for the fans. That’s why we’re in this business. The match-up between Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara is going to be explosive and everyone in attendance and watching on television will witness the heart and will of two true champions,” said Oscar De la Hoya, President of Golden Boy Promotions.
“When the final bell sounds on Saturday night, there will not only be a winner in the ring but the fight fans will walk away the winners as well because they will have seen boxing at its best. Make sure you get there early for fireworks in the ring. Top to bottom, this card is going to be explosive.”