“When I met boxing I said, ‘this is what I want to do and nothing is going to stop me,’” Canelo Alvarez remembers of the time he first encountered the sport that would help shape his life.
“I was born for this,” he continued, ahead of the latest high-profile fight of his career - a super-middleweight title unification against Billy Joe Saunders.
Being the youngest of eight children and all six of his brothers having become professional boxers, Canelo may have always been destined for a life in the ring.
Now, ‘No Boxing No Life’ has become his mantra. From working at a car wash and selling ice cream on the streets of his Mexican hometown, Canelo has become living proof of the rich rewards that can be gained through dedicating everything to boxing.
A small and shy boy with pale skin and fiery red hair that would distinguish him from others around him, Canelo had more of an Irish appearance than that of a Mexican growing up in Juanacatlan.
Guided By Reynoso
Often bullied for his stand-out features, he would soon learn to fight back; from then fighting was his focus. He followed his siblings into the nearby gym run by ‘Chepo’ Reynoso and his son, Eddy, the man who still oversees his career today.
From first meeting his future coach at only 13 years of age, there was no holding the young prodigy back, as he embarked on a fruitful amateur career across his home nation. A run at the Olympics beckoned but, instead, the Reynosos let their quickly-ascending teenage talent loose on the professional circuit.
Just three months after turning 15, an age when most are concentrating on schoolwork, Canelo made his debut as a professional prize-fighter. With his red hair having been the centre of taunts, his new alias ‘Canelo’ (alluding to his cinnamon colouring), would soon be celebrated around Mexico as a new star was rising through the ranks.
It’s under the watchful eye of coach Reynoso that Alvarez has flourished and risen to the pinnacle of the sport; showing the strength of loyalty and the benefits of a close working relationship in a sport that is often littered with fighter-trainer fallouts.
Canelo’s first world title would arrive in 2011, just six years after making his youthful move into the paid ranks of boxing.
There has been a running theme of British opponents in his career to date, all of whom the Mexican star has dealt with in reasonably comfortable fashion, fuelling further confidence before contesting Saunders in Dallas, Texas this coming weekend.
Matthew Hatton, brother of two-weight world champion Ricky, was the first Briton to fall at the hands of Canelo on his maiden world title tilt.
After dominating the Manchester challenger over 12 rounds, he stopped another Englishman Ryan Rhodes with one minute remaining in their 12th and final round; subsequently defending his newly-won WBC light-middleweight crown for the first time.
Later, Amir Khan, Liam Smith, Rocky Fielding and Callum Smith would also come up short to the pound-for-pound number one; with Saunders now next on his British hitlist at the AT&T Stadium on Saturday night.
Cementing A Legacy
As is the case with any fighter to hit the astronomical heights of success that Canelo has, both in terms of financial and ring terms, detractors are always rife. There are those that still question certain factors, such as home advantages across America, but it’s all part of being the leading attraction in the business of boxing.
It was in light of Floyd Mayweather Jr’s retirement from the sport that eventually led to Canelo taking up that mantle - the man who inflicted his sole career loss back in 2013. But, like any truly dedicated champion, he has since bounced back and already amassed what is likely to be a future Hall of Fame career when the gloves are hung up for good.
Since that learning curve night in Las Vegas, Alvarez swiftly built up his career; becoming a four-division world champion and adding to his ever-growing legacy as a modern day great. An unbeaten streak of 14 ring outings, with only one blemish being a draw with long-standing rival Gennadiy Golovkin, sees him sit on top of boxing’s pound-for-pound throne.
Along that path to the top has included other high-profile victories over Erislandy Lara, Miguel Cotto, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, ‘GGG’, Daniel Jacobs and Sergey Kovalev; wins which have seen him rally to the commanding position of both middleweight and super-middleweight divisions, while briefly stepping up to make his mark at light-heavyweight too.
The Face Of Boxing
It would be easy for a fighter in Canelo’s standing, and in the current climate of the sport, to adopt a laid-back approach to his career in recent years. It’s an all too familiar move for many fighters; opting to fight once or twice a year against lesser foes, sidestepping the bigger challenges and not living the champion lifestyle out of the ring.
Not Canelo. His relentless craving for glory and constant drive for progression, along with an admirable old-school mentality, have carried him above his peers. His development of an aggressive, yet defensive-minded ring approach has become a seemingly unstoppable style; blending his masterful defensive abilities, sharp counters and thumping power to mass effect.
From notching up successes over ring legends such as Shane Mosley, dethroning Cotto in their Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry, besting middleweight great Golovkin and knocking out ‘The Krusher’; Canelo continues to write his career story.
The next chapter sees him attempt to maintain his charge towards becoming undisputed super-middleweight champion, by claiming the WBO belt from Saunders and adding to his current WBA ‘Super’, WBC and Ring Magazine titles.
Now a fighter whose every ring appearance is eagerly awaited worldwide; the once red-headed kid often teased and taunted by bullies for his looks has risen from the outskirts of Guadalajara to become the current face of boxing.
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Header video: DAZN Boxing