Mexican star Saul "Canelo" Alvarez didn't just have to look at himself in the mirror after suffering his first professional loss in a boxing ring last September.
He had to peer into the eyes of his people, hear their complaints, appreciate the concerns of those irked because he didn't expend more energy and risk more in the fight of his young life against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
"I tried to get him up against the ropes, tried to pound him," Alvarez, 23, said through an interpreter of his majority-decision loss to the unbeaten Mayweather. "But him being defensive and moving out of the way . . . I couldn't get to him, wasn't able to catch him."
Alvarez (42-1-1, 30 knockouts) entered the ring that night with a reputation as a power puncher and as the great young hope of his countrymen. His enormous popularity helped produce a record $150 million in pay-per-view sales for the Mayweather fight.
Alvarez earned more than $5 million for the bout, allowing him to upgrade his multimillion-dollar Del Mar home with a new boxing ring for home training and some lavish sports cars.
But he also left to a chorus of jeers from educated fans who expected more from the country that produced Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Juan Manuel Marquez, Israel Vazquez and so many other warriors.
Someone who basks in that legacy is Alvarez's Saturday night opponent, Mexican light-middleweight Alfredo Angulo, 31, a brawler nicknamed "Perro," or "Dog," who has knocked out 18 of his 25 opponents.
"Every person deserves a second opportunity," Vazquez said when asked how he believes boxing fans from Mexico perceive Alvarez. "To all of us, he didn't look good at all against Mayweather, but he has this second chance to come through.
"If he looks bad again, though, he won't have my support, or that of the others."
Alvarez isn't fighting for a title Saturday night. He's fighting to restore his name.
"I prepared for a win [against Mayweather], not a loss, but having taken that loss, I figure I'm still young, with my whole career ahead of me," Alvarez said.
He declares he's not interested in following the lead of Mayweather, who thoughtfully calculates how he'll fare against an opponent before choosing the right one.
Yet in picking Angulo, Alvarez opted for a predictable style more likely to entertain the masses, rather than taking on the Cuban boxer who beat Angulo last year, Erislandy Lara.
"I know he's going to bring it that day, and that's what people want to see — an exciting fight," Alvarez said. "I think Angulo has to fall back to his style. His strategy won't change or be as complicated as Mayweather's."
Angulo knocked down Lara twice in their bout but suffered a horrifically swollen left eyebrow and stopped fighting, resulting in a 10th-round TKO loss.
Alvarez is favored, 7-1, by oddsmakers because he's shown better speed and power in his punches. The unknown is whether he can take Angulo's best punch if it lands.
"It's a fair expectation to predict this will be a great fight," Angulo said.
Angulo referred to Alvarez as a "warrior" in his interview, explaining the loss to Mayweather — after Alvarez insisted he had a formula to win — as nothing more than a youthful overreach.
Said Vazquez: "Canelo almost looked like an amateur to Floyd. Mayweather is so fast, elusive and confusing, it makes everyone look bad."
Veteran matchmaker Bruce Trampler agrees that Alvarez can rehabilitate his reputation rather easily.
"People will forgive a loss to a dominant fighter. Canelo had never been in there with a fighter like that," Trampler said. "So he got sent back to the minor leagues, so he lost a decision. It's not the end of the world. And now he has the right comeback fight."
Alvarez co-trainer Eddy Reynoso said Team Alvarez believed Mayweather would be more willing to engage in toe-to-toe fighting like he did against Miguel Cotto, allowing Alvarez to find an opening for a damaging succession of punches.
"Floyd stepped toe-to-toe with Saul three times, felt his punch and never did it again," Reynoso said. "Floyd did what Floyd does — move around, stick a jab, pull a 'W.' The only thing Saul lacked is experience.
"So you've just got to move on. A knockout Saturday puts him right back where he wants to be."
Alvarez agreed, saying he heard the opinions disparaging him and will now respond.
"Styles make fights obviously, and with my speed and strength, I'm going to leave it all in the ring," he said.
"If you don't have a heart, this business isn't for you."
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