Alvarez-Lara: Best against the best

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LAS VEGAS -- Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the unified junior middleweight champion, but he made his plans official Thursday when he announced that he will take a second consecutive fight in the welterweight division, where he is also a unified champion, in a September rematch with Marcos Maidana.

Miguel Cotto, for years one of the best at junior middleweight and a former titleholder, moved up in weight and won the middleweight world title by stopping Sergio Martinez in the 10th round on June 7.

So with Mayweather and Cotto out of the 154-pound weight class, at least for the time being, that leaves former unified titleholder Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and reigning titlist Erislandy Lara as clearly the two best in the division.

What a novel concept that in a sport where too often the best in a division actively avoid one another, Alvarez and Lara are going to meet in a scheduled 12-rounder on Saturday night (Showtime PPV, 9 ET) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in a bout they both demanded.

"Canelo-Lara is a matchup for the ages," Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya said at Thursday's final prefight news conference. "It's a matchup that doesn't come by every day. You will be watching the best 154-pound fighters in the world today, in the same ring, for the same prize, for honor and glory."

Lara stalked Alvarez for quite some time, using social media to harass him and then crashing his postfight press conference to confront him face-to-face and demand a fight following Alvarez's 10th-round knockout victory over Alfredo Angulo in March.

Alvarez calmly told Lara that his press conference was not the place to make his next fight. But Alvarez later told his handlers to get the fight done, showing once again that he is serious about fighting the best opponents.

Remember, Alvarez went against the advice of his team and demanded a fight last year with then-titleholder Austin Trout, who was considered a tremendous threat. Alvarez outpointed Trout to unify belts and then stepped up to face Mayweather, who handed Canelo his only defeat. But Alvarez dared to be great and continued the trend by steadfastly insisting on Lara as his opponent when it came time to set up his next fight after Angulo.

"This fight is important because Lara and I are the best two fighters in our weight class," Alvarez said through a translator. "He might not have the most recognizable name, but in the boxing world everybody knows he is the most dangerous opponent. This will be a very important victory."

De La Hoya, who consistently fought the best possible opponents during his Hall of Fame career, admitted he was not in favor of Alvarez fighting Lara.

"When people say I didn't want this fight for him, obviously it wasn't the first choice," De La Hoya said. "As a promoter, you don't want the most difficult fight out there for him. But this is what Canelo's all about. Ultimately it's his decision, and his decision is a very calculated decision. He's confident in his abilities and he wants to fight the very best. That's the bottom line.

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