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For Canelo, Lara presents pay-per-view-worthy opposition

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One of boxing most glamorous figures faces one of his toughest challenges Saturday as 154-pound star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez takes on crafty left-hander Erislandy Lara on Showtime pay-per-view.

Lara (19-1, 12 knockouts) is the sort of technician who has trouble getting good fights because he can present a no-win situation. He’s not a big draw because he’s not a knockout artist, and he’s difficult to defeat. Why fight him?

In Alvarez’s case, it seems to be because he’s ducking nobody, which in addition to his ample charisma, is the reason this bout in Las Vegas is a pay-per-view affair.

“Without a doubt this is one of the best opponents that I’ll ever have,” Alvarez said Thursday. “But I’m always going to look for tough opponents, tough rivals. I want to fight the best.”

The 23-year-old Mexican (43-1-1, 31 knockouts) has already fought Floyd Mayweather, Shane Mosley, Austin Trout, Alfredo Angulo, Josesito Lopez, Kermit Cintron and Carlos Baldomir, and he lost only to Mayweather, arguably the best boxer of all time.

Lara’s only loss came against Paul Williams, by highly debated decision, and he has since beaten Trout and Angulo. Although he didn’t beat those two quite as impressively as Alvarez did, his bout with Angulo was one of 2013’s most exciting bouts, as Lara suffered two knockdowns but then finished off Angulo by inflicting a gruesome hematoma.

With a slight height advantage, 75-inch wingspan and southpaw stance, Lara might be able to keep Alvarez at bay. An upset would be one of the best in a boxer-slugger match since Guillermo Rigondeaux tamed Nonito Donaire last year.

There’s a common denominator there. Lara and Rigondeaux are two of what has been a big three emerging from Cuba’s cache of world amateur champions who have escaped the Communist country and become formidable pros. The third is Yuriorkis Gamboa, once the most highly regarded featherweight in the world and more recently the loser of a spectacular challenge to lightweight champion Terence Crawford.

Lara and Rigondeaux aren’t as flashy as Gamboa, but they are more substantial. It’s too bad Rigondeaux isn’t getting better fights than his July 19 tune-up looming against Sod Kokietgym.

So it’s gratifying that Lara gets a shot at Canelo. He doesn’t figure to beat him, but he does figure to make it interesting, which could bring out the best in Alvarez.

“This fight is important,” Alvarez concluded, “because Lara and I are the best two fighters in our weight class.”

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