SAN DIEGO, Calif., October 30, 2019 – Saul “Canelo” Alvarez arrived in Las Vegas Tuesday carrying the flag as boxing’s standard-bearer and biggest attraction in anticipation of his first fight and title attempt at light heavyweight against three-time division champion Sergey Kovalev of Russia. “I’m ready to make history,” said Alvarez.
Just four years ago, Alvarez was preparing for his first big pay per view bout against Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto in the wake of a devastating knockout win over James Kirkland. At just 25 years old, Alvarez was poised to lead boxing’s next generation into the future, succeeding Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, and Wladimir Klitschko.
Pacquiao is still a player, a story for another time. All other predictions have come to pass for Alvarez. His star power and athletic accomplishments were rewarded when Alvarez and promoter Golden Boy Boxing signed an 11-fight, five-year contract with the streaming service DAZN for $365 million, making him the highest-paid athlete on the planet.
It’s said money can’t buy happiness. Over the past few years, Alvarez has become ever more stoic and tight-lipped as he has clashed with middleweight nemesis Gennadiy Golovkin under the expectations of his new contract. The personal animosity between the two spills over into nearly every interaction. It hasn’t helped either man to get a constant string of questions from boxing media about the other, even when there has been nothing new to say.
Chill outside the ring, but all business inside the ring
Preparations for Alvarez’s upcoming fight on Saturday against Kovalev, a bold attempt to win a title in a third division against a formidable if fading veteran, must be a relief. A new Alvarez has emerged, re-energized and surprisingly light-hearted. Relaxed. Chill. Yes, happy. When was the last time you heard Alvarez described this way?
At his workout for boxing media at San Diego’s House of Boxing last week, Alvarez cheerfully answered questions about his training in a new weight division, his goals, and even handled the inevitable pestering about a Golovkin trilogy with a smile.
He joked with trainers Eddy and Chepo Reynoso, winked for photographers, and made song requests of the mariachi band on hand, singing along with his favorites.
In recent years Alvarez has steadily improved his footwork, speed, and defensive skills. Now in a heavier weight division, his punching power has taken a quantum leap. Observing his work on the Mexican circle mitt with Eddy Reynoso, boxing media grew quiet, the better to watch the display.
Might it be this simple? Canelo Alvarez has been hangry all this time, fighting at middleweight, and even super middleweight. Seeing Alvarez training at a more ‘natural’ weight around 180 pounds, the one overriding impression: it suits him.
Putting together the highest level skills as a boxer-puncher bring Alvarez full circle as he celebrates 14 years as a professional boxer on October 29.
Alvarez’s new sunny disposition was on display at Wednesday’s final pre-fight news conference. “I’m ready, I’m ready to make history, I’m ready for this great fight with Kovalev,” said Alvarez.
“I’m happy, this is a big test for me, to prove one more time I’m the best light heavyweight in the division …I want to get in the ring and make a great fight for the fans, for the boxing world,” replied Kovalev.
The pair broke into uncharacteristic smiles and handshakes following the traditional final faceoff. If either is concerned it certainly doesn’t show.
“We are two great champions. Here, right now, we respect inside and outside the ring,” said Kovalev. “But we will do our job very well for the boxing fans, never step back never give up. We will make a great fight 100 percent because I will be in the ring.”
“He is the best in his division and that’s why we chose him, to make history by fighting with one of the best,” said Alvarez.
Canelo vs Alvarez: fighting for history requires taking risks
Fighting the best has been the Mexican star’s constant mantra, and in large part, he has backed it up. He sincerely believes as did his hero Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. that you cannot be the best without taking risks and proving yourself.
“I want to fight the big fights and am not afraid to take risks. I believe my fighting style and opponents over the years have shown that. I am here to prove I am the best and the best way to do that is fighting the best,” said Alvarez. This quote isn’t from this week – it’s from 2015.
Having an undefeated record is admirable, but it is this kind of attitude that endears boxing fans to fighters like Canelo Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev, and ensures their legacy in the sport.
Canelo vs Kovalev airs Saturday, November 2 starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. on DAZN USA.
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