Cinnamon cures the boxing blues, HBO Saturday, 9 p.m.

Get over your disappointment with last week’s megafight. Watch Canelo Alvarez and James Kirkland Saturday on HBO for big action without the big price tag.

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (right) and promoter Oscar De La Hoya kept today's big announcement a closed guarded secret. Photo: Golden Boy Promotions

SAN DIEGO, May 8, 2015 – Our advice, if you’re still feeling the pain of paying $100 to see Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao: a little cinnamon will make you feel better.

Mexican star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is back in the ring Saturday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston, where he will face tough local favorite James Kirkland of Austin, Texas. It’s a fight with more flavor than the tactical contest won by Mayweather. HBO World Champion Boxing will show the fight on its standard service, at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

This is Alvarez’ first fight for HBO after being part of the Showtime stable. His last three fights for Showtime have been pay per view fights, including his single loss to Mayweather in 2013. It’s a smart move for HBO to introduce Alvarez as part of its lineup without making fans cough up more money, especially after last week’s disappointment.

Canelo Alvarez throws out the first pitch at a Houston Astros game on Wednesday, My 6, at Minute Maid Park. Alvarez will fight James Kirkland at Minute Maid Park Saturday. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions.
Canelo Alvarez throws out the first pitch at a Houston Astros game on Wednesday, My 6, at Minute Maid Park. Alvarez will fight James Kirkland at Minute Maid Park Saturday. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions.

Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 KOs) has been a professional boxer for 10 years, but he’s still just 24 years old. He is a charismatic personality with quickly improving English. His unusual red hair makes him look more Irish than Mexican, which is why he’s nicknamed “Canelo,” the Spanish word for cinnamon.

With Juan Manuel Marquez close to retiring and Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. falling from grace, Alvarez is expected to be the flagbearer for Mexican boxing where the sport is barely second to soccer in popularity. He is one of the future’s big pay per view draws along with middleweight Gennady Golovkin. It’s a big burden with a lot of pressure on a young athlete. Alvarez seems not to feel it. Alvarez told Communities Digital News when he feels any pressure, “I go to the gym, and I train.”

Alvarez has an outstanding work ethic and enjoys days in the gym as much as his actual fights. Trainer Chepo Reynoso says Alvarez has sparred 155 rounds with five different southpaws to prepare for Kirkland Saturday. Alvarez says he has also added new training techniques, including workouts in a pool.

Alvarez has the power punching style typical of a Mexican boxer, but his style is still evolving as he develops more sophisticated skills, including better footwork and movement. He is becoming more patient and evolving into a boxer-puncher.

Alvarez still does best against an opponent who will bang, even a dangerous one like Kirkland. After chasing Cuban Erislandy Lara around the ring in his last fight, Alvarez said, “I came to fight, I didn’t come to run. if you want to run a marathon, go join a marathon. You don’t win a fight by running.” It must be music to the ears of fans who want to see nothing more this weekend than a wicked knockout. It’s not too much to ask.

Watch CDN video from a recent Canelo Alvarez workout at the House of Boxing in National City, California with trainer Eddy Reynoso.

Canelo needs to be careful what he wishes for. James Kirkland (32-1-1, 28 KOs) is a dangerous challenger, the second southpaw in a row for Alvarez. He has punching power and fearlessness that makes him dangerous.

Kirkland’s biggest battles are outside the ring, He had two long layoffs caused by serving prison time. His career stalled due to management problems and legal issues. He hasn’t had a fight since December 2013, which Kirkland said is due to a lack of getting any desirable opponents. His promoter is 50 Cent’s SMS Promotions. The twists and turns have stalled Kirkland’s career.

Kirkland has performed his best when trained by the fearsome Ann Wolfe, whose unusual and brutally tough training techniques seem to work for Kirkland. Kirkland’s only loss was as bad as they come to Japan’s Nobuhiro Ishida in 2011, and it was at a time he wasn’t working with Wolfe. Ishida put Kirkland on the canvas three times before the fight was stopped in the first round.

Kirkland decided to prepare for this fight without Wolfe, turning to trainer Gerald Tucker of Cincinnati, a former boxer with just six professional fights who has never trained any professional boxers, much less one at this level. It mystifies observers and it even mystifies Wolfe who says she has no idea why Kirkland left her gym.

Both Tucker and Kirkland will make big names for themselves with an upset victory over the popular and talented Alvarez. It’s possible, but it depends on which version of Kirkland shows up, and how well Alvarez has prepared himself.

Canelo Alvarez (left) and James Kirkland at their weigh-in today in Houston. Photo: Will Hart, HBO
Canelo Alvarez (left) and James Kirkland at their weigh-in today in Houston. Photo: Will Hart, HBO

Kirkland is a Texas native, which would normally give him home field advantage. But with Canelo’s enormous popularity among Mexican and Mexican-American fans, there will be plenty of fans cheering on both men Saturday. Both made weight with ease, 154.5 pounds for this 155 pound weight limit fight.

HBO will also replay last weekend’s Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight as the opening event of the broadcast Saturday. It should provide a striking contrast with the main event, which isn’t likely to go the 12-round distance.

A promising undercard bout between lightweights Frankie Gomez and Humberto Soto was cancelled Friday. Gomez has reportedly been ill. Earlier in the week, he asked that the 140-pound weight limit be raised to 145 pounds, and Soto agreed. Gomez came in at 147.5 pounds, and Soto 142.5 pounds. By missing the weight, Gomez misses a huge opportunity for exposure. Although he is undefeated at 18-0, his promising career has stalled, in part due to legal problems. His promoters at Golden Boy are reportedly furious with him, noting they had many other young boxers who would have done nearly anything to get the opportunity Gomez squandered.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is president/owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

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