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Remember the Alamo(dome)

(Photo © Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)
(Photo © Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)

I’ll say this right now, if I lived in San Antonio I’d be 30 pounds heavier. Because while Tex-Mex cuisine is to be found everywhere, locating an LA Fitness or 24 Hour Fitness is harder to find than someone wearing a Derek Fisher jersey in this city. Seriously, I was there from late Wednesday afternoon to Sunday and I literally didn’t see one workout facility during my stay there. I spent plenty of time at the famed Riverwalk and ate at a Bill Miller Bar-B-Q and had carne guisada (not be confused with carne asada) at local institution, La Tijera. But the main reason I was there was to cover the highly anticipated jr. middleweight unification contest between Saul Alvarez and Austin Trout at the Alamadome.
It was a solid prizefight and a spectacular event on the night of April 20th.
Here’s some random thoughts and musing from my time in San Antonio.....

- I’ve seen Alvarez-Trout twice (once at ringside, and once on television) and both times I came away with the same impression: this was a close fight that was won by ’Canelo’. I had it 114-113, with the red-head from Jalisco landing the harder and more meaningful blows. But what was really eye-opening was how he was able to evade many of Trout’s volleys with deft head movement and slipping of punches. And while his offensive at times was sporadic, he showed a solid power jab and a few well-placed right-hand uppercuts made Trout very cautious. Yes, the southpaw was busier, but honestly, most of the time it seemed like he was pulling away from his punches as soon as he was throwing them. In other words, he wasn’t fully committing to his punches and not stepping into them.
Trout, is more comfortable counter-punching and he expected Alvarez to come straight at him and pitch fast-balls. Instead, Alvarez threw him change-ups. "(Alvarez) shocked me tonight," admitted the classy Trout, who offered no excuses."I was prepared for a totally different fighter. I tried to pressure him and change things but he kept changing." He added,"He was a bit slicker than we thought. He was making me miss, he was moving his head a lot better. He was a bit quicker. Not that we weren’t prepared, we were fully prepared for this fight. He just came out on top."
Alvarez said of this contest,"Austin was very difficult, but little by little I figured out how to fight him. I was smart and I was connecting with my right and my jab. My jab was perfect, it was the key. I learned a lot from this fight. It was a great experience."
’Canelo’ unified the WBA and WBC belts in winning this fight. Say whatever you will about him as a fighter but it’s tough to argue that he’s come a long way from the guy who was buzzed by Jose Miguel Cotto in May of 2010( on the Mayweather-Mosley undercard). From that point he was fed a steady diet of no-hopers but it’s clear he has improved as a fighter.
And to think, he’s still just 22 years old.

Austin Trout
- Speaking of that, it’s clear that ’Canelo’ is now one of the games true attractions and marquee names. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s an elite fighter - that remains to be seen - but you can’t argue with that statement given that the official attendance that was short of 40,000.(Yeah, the $10 tickets that Alvarez himself insisted on, helped that figure, but it’s not like every seat was at that price and when it’s all said and done, that gate will be in the $3 million neighborhood. An impressive number for a non-casino venue).

"We knew he was a star, but I think tonight he became a superstar," Richard Schaefer told Maxboxing, afterwords."There’s very few fighters that can put that many butts in seats and we know he’s a star, we know he can fight. He beat a guy a lot of people though he could not beat and he did."
On this night, he not only legitimized his 154-pound credentials, but he cemented his status as an attraction on both sides of the border. Quick, name every fighter in North America that can sell 10,000 plus tickets to their fights on a consistent basis? Off the top of my head, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, Lucien Bute, Jean Pascal, Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. immediately come to mind. Yes, there are a lot of quality pugilists but very few draws. And guys like this are vital for the overall health of the business and sport. They are the ones that keep boxing relevant and not just relegated to far-flung Indian casinos and the back pages of the sports section.

Austin Trout
Austin Trout
- Make no doubt about it, San Antonio is a premiere fight town. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city as engaged in a promotion, quite like this city was last week. Every pre-fight event that was open to the public had a huge throng and this promotion was featured prominently on local newscasts. Also, as you drove along the highways, you could see the electronic billboards advertising this fight and the local pubs, sports bars and uhh, gentlemens clubs I’m told were showing this fight on Saturday night.
Led by Leija-Battah Promotions, boxing will be a consistent presence here.  Former jr. lightweight titlist, Jesse James Leija, is a beloved and respected figure over there and his partner, Mike Battah, is a driven guy. He seems to have caught the boxing bug and honestly, it seems like he likes the attention that this racket brings him. And Golden Boy Promotions made it very clear that they would be back often in this state, which makes sense that in addition to Alvarez, they have Lone Star State locals like  the Charlo brothers, Errol Spence, Juan Diaz and Omar Figueroa( who shined on the undercard) in their stable.
"San Antonio was a great atmosphere," said Alvarez, who will undoubtedly return in the future.
- So what’s next for ’Canelo’? "Obviously, of course I want Mayweather next," he said in the immediate aftermath of his victory over Trout. But honestly, I can’t see it happening, right now. First of all, many insiders doubt that Mayweather will fight above welterweight, ever again. Also, it’s doubtful he’d take such a risk so early on during his six fight deal with Showtime. There’s also this factor, Alvarez who forced his way off Mayweather’s May 4th card when he couldn’t get a guarantee to face ’Money’ later this year, gained some valuable leverage this past weekend with not only how the fight turned out but how well it was received by the public. This guy understood his value going into the Trout fight, rolled the dice, and now he’s even more fully aware of his standing in the sport. He’s not a guy who will just take what’s offered to him by Mayweather.
So yeah, don’t count on this fight happening next( if ever).
Schaefer says,"If a Mayweather fight doesn’t happen, there are other names at 154 which he could potentially fight. Maybe a Miguel Cotto, that’s a possibility. So we’re just going to have to see who it’s gonna be." He says that the events of May 4th, when Mayweather faces Robert Guerrero, will provide a clearer picture of what will take place in the future.
It says here that Alvarez-Cotto is the fight that will take place in the fall, quite possibly at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.
- It’s time to close the book on open scoring. Yeah, it sounds good in theory but it ruins the drama of a fight. ( And for the record, waaaaay back when, I was actually proponent of this until I saw a fight between Mark ’2-Sharp’ Johnson and Ratanachai Sor Vorapin in 1999 that had open scoring for some reason. After building a big early lead, Johnson went into the ’four-corners offense’ and cruised his way to a decision. Johnson later admitted to me, that knowing he was up on the cards took away any incentive to take any further risks in that bout). After that, nobody was as staunchly opposed to open scoring as this scribe.
Now, fast-forward to Alvarez-Trout which had a form of open scoring where the two corners would get the scores after the fourth and eighth frames. Also, receiving this information was the Showtime audience. The drama of this fight was basically killed for anyone who got the tabulations of Ray Danseco, Oren Shellenberger and Stanley Christodoulou.
Yeah, you could argue that it gives a guy like Trout- who was well behind on the cards- the notice that he needs to fight with a greater sense of urgency or downright desperation. But on the flip side, it gives those who are ahead, like Alvarez, the ability to just stink out the rest of the fight. Any competent pro can survive easily, if that is their only intention. Count Schaefer in as someone who is opposed to open scoring."Absolutely, there’s no point to it. I think it does more harm than it does good. It ruins the drama. So I would definitely say lets forget about it."
Problem is, the WBC and their dictator Jose Sulaiman often times have their own warped sense of right and wrong.
To his credit, Trout didn’t make a real issue of this.
"I felt like we were behind. I’m a big critic of myself, more than anything. So usually even if I was winning or it was closer, I’d still think I’m losing. The crowd cheered for everything, I wanted to shut’em up. So I wanted to step on the gas. I wouldn’t say I wished that didn’t happen, it happened. So it wasn’t meant to be."
- Speaking of Trout, who suffered his first pro loss in 27 outings, he showed an uncommon grace and class in handling his defeat. They say you can tell a lot about a person about how they behave when things don’t go their way. In defeat, Trout was a true champion.
"I take my loss like a man. The better man won tonight. I’ll be better next time," he said inside the ring. Then later on at the post-fight press conference he stated,"I’ve got no excuses. I’m going to take it on the chin like a man and come back fighting."
- Speaking of the judging, in talking to the Trout camp in the days leading up to the fight, they absolutely felt that the deck was stacked against them in Texas. But the one judge that they were most comfortable with and relieved to have appointed to this contest was Christodoulou, who is a veteran WBA judge and referee and very respected. Honestly, I felt the most secure with him out of the three ringside judges that were assigned to this bout. Yet, he nearly had Alvarez shutting out Trout, with a score of 118-109. What’s ironic is that the WBC judge, Danseco, had it the closest at 115-112.
The bout between Tyson Fury and Steve Cunningham showed that while boxing is a game of skill and technique, sometimes size does matter. While ’U.S.S’ was the superior fighter, he was simply David vs. Goliath without a slingshot....By the way, for all this talk of Fury bending the rules, when Bernard Hopkins does it, many others call it ’being crafty’ or ’veteran savvy’, for some reason....Jermall Charlo continues to develop nicely. He’s got a lot of tools, including a big right hand. Veteran trainer Ronnie Shields is high on him and his brother, Jermell...Manager Cameron Dunkin has announced the signing of lightweight Artemio Reyes....So how much of a difference will Derrelle Revis make in Tampa?....The most underrated player in the upcoming NFL Draft to me is USC wide receiver Robert Woods. Yeah, he was over-shadowed by the great Marquis Lee, but this guy is a polished player....Do I expect both Golden Boy and Top Rank to have dueling cards on Sept. 14th? Of course I do, c’mon!!!.....Like to thank Anthony ’the Ice Man’ Rodriguez for all his hospitality last week in San Antonio......

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