Catching up with “Canelo” Alvarez
By Gabriel Montoya, from (Jan 27, 2011) Special to Doghouse Boxing
Golden Boy Promotions welcomed welterweight contender and Mexican sensation Saul “Canelo” Alvarez back to L.A. at the El Mercado in East Los Angeles to announce his March 5 fight vs. Matthew Hatton at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. The card is going to be a good one, featuring an excellent matchup between Daniel Ponce de Leon and Adrien Broner, the return of the mercurial James Kirkland, as well as middleweight contender Danny Jacobs. The fight itself marks a return to Los Angeles where Alvarez last blasted out Carlos Baldomir on the undercard of Shane Mosley-Sergio Mora last September at Staples Center with a “Knockout of the Year”-worthy punch.

Last Friday at El Mercado, “Canelo Fever” was in the air as the open-to-the-public event was packed with Oscar De La Hoya fans and “Canelo” devotees. One guy brought his three-year-old with a “Canelo” head band, freckles painted on and an “I Love Canelo” shirt. He was asked to leave after one too many offerings of his son up the Cinnamon God. Hey, people are trying to work here.

The always low-key Alvarez greeted me with a quiet smile and shook my hand. I surveyed the scene with its chants of “Ca-ne-lo! Ca-ne-lo!” and asked him if he is used to that yet.

“It’s an honor,” he said. “I feel very grateful.”

“Canelo Fever” has certainly caught on in pockets of the boxing world, which is to say the Mexican portion of the boxing world. The buzz has not reached a household name stage yet, which is what Golden Boy hopes to do by bringing “Canelo” over as much as possible while still nurturing his rising popularity in Mexico. All the while, they have to remember that they are building a 20-year-old fighter whose popularity might exceed his skill and seasoning right now.

“It’s part of the process,” said Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez. “It’s very important to keep moving up, keep fighting guys who are top rated.”

Building a fighter is a delicate thing. You want him to get better but you don’t want him to get beaten. Depending on a variety of factors (i.e. the fighters work ethic, a flaw you didn’t know existed, etc.), the process can be a rough one. Though guys like Bruce Trampler and Brad Goodman seemingly make it look like science, it is far from an exact one. One fight can lead you to believe your fighter is ready for anyone, as was the case with “Canelo” when he took on Carlos Baldomir. It was a moment to shine and the young fighter did, stopping Baldomir for just the second time in the sixth round.

It was a shining moment for Alvarez in particular because he felt he had some doubters after his last pay-per-view showing against Jose Cotto. The moment had gotten the best of Alvarez as he stepped onto a stage that big for the first time. And then what was worse, Cotto got on top of him, rocking him along the ropes. It was a shocking moment for those who were just seeing the highly-touted kid. The best of what they got to see was Alvarez steeling himself and coming back, the flash of hype revealing substance.

“I was nervous in that fight,” said Canelo, “but I have learned from that and I think I have become a better fighter from it. He caught me and hurt me and I said that it would never happen again. When I came back for the Baldomir fight, I said it would never happen again and I will continue to work hard so it won’t happen again.”

“Canelo” was tested again but this time against veteran Lovemore N’dou. Though he won convincingly, the performance was a bit lackluster. Still, Team Alvarez sees no reason to panic. It’s part and parcel of the process. Though it is clear that Gomez and company understand when you have a fighter like popular but still young Alvarez, satisfying the fans’ desires while meeting the demands of developing your young talent becomes a delicate bit of chemistry with very high stakes. No one wants to be the guy who got the cash cow beat.

“It’s a balancing act. If you notice ‘Canelo’s’ record, it’s a step-by-step process building him. I think we have a great team,” said matchmaker Eric Gomez. “Part of that team is Don Chargin. He’s been my mentor. He gives his input. We listen to him. Oscar is a big part of it and we all have to make the right decisions. We watch video tapes; we watch the rankings to see who is up. It’s a team effort. We put all our heads together and…we don’t want to f**k it up.”

The fighter himself chalked up the N’dou performance to a matter of styles.

“I think it had more to do with the opponent, you know?” said Alvarez. “Lovemore is a very difficult fighter; I tried and tried my best to get him out of there but he is a very good fighter and styles make fights. It was a different style and I was able to come out with the victory.”

Alvarez did concede that having an entertaining performance is vital to moving forward in the fashion everyone expects him to.

“Both things are very important,” he said. “I’ve got to look good every time obviously but winning is the ultimate goal. Both of these things are very important to me.”

In Mathew Hatton, Alvarez is not facing a puzzle. The fight will be fought at a catchweight of 150 pounds, though Hatton holds the EBU welterweight title. Alvarez was respectful of Hatton and gave his brief assessment.

“It’s going to be a tough fight,” said Alvarez. “He is a very strong and he looks like he can put pressure; he can box. I think it’s going to be a difficult fight but I plan on winning it.”

Alvarez’s trainer, Eddie Reynoso, spoke to the idea that this fight might appear less than competitive because it’s “the other Hatton.”

“It’s human nature,” Reynoso said. “When you have two brothers competing and one becomes a world champion first, the other tends to get overshadowed a bit. But in my opinion, I think he is much better technical boxer than Ricky was.”

As for beyond Hatton, should Alvarez come out successful, the future is wide open. Alvarez campaigns between welter and junior welter, both weights easy for him to make.

“This fight is at a catchweight of 150 so we will decide later on,” said Gomez when asked which division they’d prefer to have Alvarez compete in. Currently, he is ranked number one by the WBC at junior middleweight and climbing in the welterweight rankings of the WBA and WBO. “He can go either way,” added Gomez.

Reynoso feels Alvarez is ready to challenge at the next level.

“I think so,” said Reynoso, when I asked if Andre Berto would be a possible fight he’d take for “Canelo.” “If you look at his record, he hasn’t beaten anybody with a big name. So I think, yeah, we’re ready. We’ll fight him. He’s ready now. He just needs the right opportunity.”

When it came time to say goodbye, I asked “Canelo” one more question.

If you could fight one person in the history of boxing, who would it be and why?

“Manny Pacquiao,” he said without blinking an eye. “He’s the top fighter right now. You’ve got to recognize and appreciate that. He’s beat so many of my countrymen. Sooner or later, someone is going to catch him and I think I can be the one to catch him and beat him.”

Spoken like a true star in the making.

You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim or tune into hear him live on Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST when he co-hosts the BlogTalk radio show Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

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