SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Most of the members of the boxing media who interviewed Saul Alvarez during the popular Mexican junior middleweight’s recent media workout at Wild Card West asked for his thoughts on Floyd Mayweather.
Alvarez was originally scheduled to fight in the co-featured bout of Mayweather’s May 4 ring return against Robert Guerrero, but the red-headed attraction pulled out of the pay-per-view event when he wasn’t able to get the pound-for-pound king to contractually commit to facing him in September.
Alvarez, known as “Canelo” to his ever-growing fan base, decided to headline his own show on April 20 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, and the WBC titleholder did not pick an easy B-side to the Showtime-televised event. Alvarez faces Austin Trout, a tough and skilled southpaw stylist who is coming off a career-defining unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto last December.
So, whenever Mayweather’s name was brought up, Alvarez’s reply was “I’m only focused on this fight and Austin Trout.”
That’s probably a good idea. Many boxing writers and hardcore fans are picking Trout to spring the upset, even in the “Mexican-friendly” territory of Texas.
Oscar De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions, which represents Alvarez in the U.S., admits that it’s a risky fight for the burgeoning star.
“This is a serious fight, a legitimate fight,” De La Hoya told RingTV.com at Thursday’s media workout. “A lot of people with Golden Boy, including (CEO) Richard Schaefer, advised against it.
“But that’s the reason he needed to take the fight. This is the kind of fight that silences all of his critics. I told him ‘This is the fight you have to make.'”
De La Hoya didn’t have to tell Alvarez. The 23-year-old boxer-puncher has had Trout in his sights for more than two years – since the day the New Mexico native outpointed his older brother Rigoberto Alvarez.
“The day Trout beat Rigoberto, he was sentenced to this fight,” Alvarez’s co-trainer and manager Jose “Chepo” Reynoso told RingTV.com through translator Tony Rivera, referencing the 12-round decision Trout won in February of 2011.
“Canelo wanted him right away.”
Obviously, that didn’t happen.
One month after Trout beat his brother, Alvarez fought Matthew Hatton and dominated the Brit over 12 rounds to win the vacant WBC title. He’s defended that belt five times since March of 2011 – against Ryan Rhodes (TKO 12), Alfonso Gomez (TKO 6), Kermit Cintron (TKO 5), Shane Mosley (UD 12) and Josesito Lopez (TKO 5).
Alvarez’s success has earned strong ticket sales and TV ratings but the level of his competition – viewed by cynical hardcore fans as a collection of “Has-Beens” and “Never-Will-Bes” – has earned a fair amount of criticism.
Alvarez does not take offense to it.
“All criticism is constructive,” he said. “That’s how I take it.”
Reynoso says the level of Alvarez’s recent competition was appropriate for a 20- and 21-year-old titleholder who was still developing as a fighter. The veteran trainer, who also guided the careers of former beltholders Oscar Larios and Javier Jauregui, believes the 22-year-old fighter is only now coming into his own.
“We believe he’s just now beginning to ascend to the major league of this sport,” said Reynoso, who is confident that his prize pupil has learned enough over the past two years to be able handle Trout’s ring savvy.
“Canelo is not the easy target he was years ago,” Reynoso said. “He has (upper) body movement and side-to-side footwork now, and he’s able to land fast counter punches. Trout’s not going to see him all night and Trout’s going to get hit with punches he doesn’t see coming.”
Reynoso doesn’t believe Trout’s left-handed stance will trouble Alvarez.
“We have no problems with southpaws,” he said. “He’s sparred hundreds of rounds with southpaws; Rigoberto is a southpaw.
“There might be some difficulty in the first couple of rounds but once he’s adjusted to Trout, he’s going to be too strong and too hard to hit not to win this fight.”
Reynoso makes it sound like fighting Trout will be a walk in the park, but Alvarez knows better.
“It won’t be easy,” Alvarez said through translator Ramiro Gonzalez. “It will be a complicated fight. Trout is a very good technician and boxer.
“The more intelligent fighter that night will be the winner. The key to winning for me is not to be impatient.”
Keeping his cool against Trout with the expected number of fans chanting “Ca-ne-lo!” might be a challenge for Alvarez. When the fight was announced, the Alamodome – which housed close to 60,000 fans when it hosted Pernell Whitaker-Julio Cesar Chavez fight nearly 20 years ago – was configured for 30,000 seats.
Those tickets have been sold and, according to De La Hoya, there will now be more than 40,000 fans in attendance to watch Alvarez and Trout vie for the vacant RING 154-pound title.
“We’ve expanded our seating as we continue to sell tickets,” said De La Hoya, who added that he’s not surprised by the fan turnout.
“Canelo’s star power is real, it’s not hype. And fans know a good fight when they see one. There are two strong, young undefeated fighters; two of the best in their division. That’s what boxing fans want to see.
“We’re expecting 42,000 to 43,000 fans, but obviously we want to break Chavez’s record for a boxing match at the Alamodome. If we don’t do it this time, we’ll be back. Texas was my second home when I was fighting. It can be a second home for Canelo.”
Photo / Gene Blevins – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions