If the value of a product or service is ultimately determined by what it fetches on the market, then Victor Ortiz’ scalp is worth $212,000. This is what Riverside, California’s Josesito Lopez was reportedly paid for facing Juanacatlan, Mexico’s Saul Alvarez Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Lopez was given the Alvarez fight for collecting Ortiz’ scalp over nine vicious rounds in June. He earned every penny against the popular Alvarez, who delivered a merciless beating en route to a 5th-round TKO.
The outcome of this anti-climactic bloodletting, this exposé on the rationale behind weight divisions and the troublesome geography located between rocks and hard places, was obvious before the first bell rang. Lopez, 30-5-0-1 (18KO), who had never weighed more than 146.5 pounds, tipped the scales at 153lbs on Friday, and added another 12 pounds to his already encumbered frame by fight time. The extra size was supposed to translate into greater strength and punch resistance, but resulted in making Lopez a softer, slower, and less durable target, one that Alvarez, 41-0-1 (30), would hit with impunity.
In the first round, Lopez seemed stuck in molasses (a product of the added bulk) while Alvarez engaged him confidently, firing crisp jabs. Wagering that his inflated opponent didn’t pack his power for the move to junior middleweight, Alvarez quickly went on the aggressive. He landed the first straight right hand he threw, and soon followed up with another. Lopez responded as is his wont, impudently letting fly with earnest but ineffective hooks to Alvarez’ body.
Lopez waded in as the second round began and managed to back Alvarez up, landing a left hook and straight right. But Alvarez easily absorbed the shots before firing back with two evil left hooks, confronting Lopez with the reality that the former junior welterweight was horribly outgunned. Unconcerned with the return fire, Alvarez began mixing his punches to the body and head, methodically tenderizing his foe. Lopez looked to retaliate, but there was already a hint of desperation in his punching, a flash of self doubt on his face. He was throwing as often as Alvarez, but unable to discourage his barrel-chested antagonist. With ten seconds left in the round a right uppercut followed by a left hook to the body sent Lopez to the canvas. Although Lopez beat the count the fact that he so quickly found himself off his feet was telling. Lopez had taken some brutal shots from Ortiz without being knocked down. Alvarez promised something much more pernicious.
The third round saw Alvarez effectively nullify Lopez’ aggression by forcing the smaller man to the ropes and putting him on the defensive. A savage three-punch combination with two minutes left in the round dropped Lopez on the seat of his pants. As referee Joe Cortez administered the count, Lopez, blood smeared across his face, looked beyond the ropes as if searching for answers. When the action resumed, Alvarez backed Lopez into the corner and brutalized him with hooks, uppercuts, and chopping rights. When Lopez returned fire, landing a looping right hand, Alvarez unloaded on Lopez, shaking the smaller man to his boots.
Alvarez largely dispensed with the jab in the fourth round, choosing to counter or feint his way inside to throw hooks and uppercuts. A beautiful seven punch combination from Alvarez dropped Lopez near the end of the round. Cortez could’ve have stopped the fight at this point; Lopez’ trainer, Henry Ramirez should have stopped it. Lopez was getting battered.
The ad nauseum beating ended in the fifth round, with Cortez intervening after Lopez spent nearly three minutes getting broken by whatever Alvarez chose to land.
Martin Amis once described a particularly squalid, violent London suburb as “a land of italics and exclamation marks.” Boxing, squalid and violent, was deserving of a similar description on this night. Lopez should never have been approved as an opponent. Breaking Ortiz’ jaw and resolve did not magically transform Lopez into a threat to a junior middleweight already his fistic superior. But Lopez could hardly turn down the payday, and he came relatively cheap, so Golden Boy knew they had their mark. To add insult to injury Alvarez was awarded Showtime’s $100,000 “Best Knockout” bonus for pulverizing his hopeless opponent—not by the network mind you, but by the fans, who apparently got the predictably one-sided drubbing they wanted to see. Perhaps then, we should bring back the pillory to entertain between rounds? Or televise orcas tossing baby seals on the big screen? When a shameful mismatch is celebrated as the apex of the event, why even bother with competition?