The opening exists now, with Manny Pacquiao saying Saturday that he’s joining Floyd Mayweather Jr. in retirement, for Mexico’s newly belted middleweight world champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to distinguish himself as the biggest name in boxing.
“From your lips to God’s ears,” said Eric Gomez, senior vice president of Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.
At 25, Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 knockouts) has already helped create the third-most-lucrative pay-per-view fight in history during his majority-decision loss to Mayweather in 2013, and he’s planning a three-fight 2016 that starts May 7 -- the historic first boxing card at the new, 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas -- against England’s former junior-welterweight world champion, Amir Khan.
“I don’t want to answer the question,” Alvarez told The Times when asked if victory would anoint him as boxing’s new king. “It’s not up to me. It’s up to the people out there. My job is to train hard, go fight and do my best. The people decide who’s No. 1, the best in boxing.”
Certainly, however, that designation has financial incentives that Alvarez wouldn’t mind.
“It’ll be an honor,” Alvarez said, speaking in Spanish during an interview that was interpreted to English. “It would be a dream to be the face of boxing, to be No. 1. I would love to be the face of the sport. It’s been my dream since the beginning, and if it’s here already, then even better. I’m honored and blessed by God to be in the sport I love, and I want to accomplish all the goals I set in the sport of boxing -- to be successful and make history.”
Most pound-for-pound rankings in the sport have Alvarez behind unbeaten two-belt middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and unbeaten flyweight champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez of Nicaragua.
However, neither of those fighters possess the drawing power of “Canelo,” whose May 7 fight has sold 14,000 tickets, according to Gomez, with the promotional blitz for the bout beginning in earnest this week.
Though few give Khan a chance to win given the demands of moving up from the 147-pound welterweight limit to the 155-pound catch-weight limit on May 7, Alvarez said he views Khan’s punching and foot speed as a test to measure how far he’s progressed since his fight against Mayweather, who artfully avoided the big shots and at times toyed with the youngster.
“I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity I’ve got to win that fight,” Alvarez told The Times. “I’m a totally different fighter from three years ago. More experienced, smarter, stronger. It’s two different fighters from back then to now.”
Whether he and/or his promoters are ready for Golovkin is another matter.
Although it’s believed that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has the team's home at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on hold for the bout, Golovkin drew just 75,000 pay-per-view buys for his October title-unification victory over David Lemieux in what was “GGG’s” 21st consecutive knockout.
Alvarez’s triumph over the more experienced former four-division world champion Miguel Cotto in November had 900,000 buys.
If Alvarez doesn’t follow a World Boxing Council mandate and begin negotiations for a fight with the gifted Golovkin by May 22, the sanctioning body could strip him of his belt and give it to Golovkin -- provided both men win their upcoming fights.
“The fight will happen. ... Down the line, one day,” Alvarez trainer Eddy Reynoso said in an interview in Spanish.
What’s clear, Reynoso said, is that the moment is at hand in the Khan fight for Alvarez to stamp himself as the sport’s most important fighter.
“It’s a very important moment, a very important victory, because the sport needs a face of boxing now that Manny and Floyd are retired,” Reynoso said. “People want to see fights -- and the people who don’t follow boxing very closely will still watch the big fights. They want to see Saul.
“He will provide intrigue, bringing people to the sport. MMA is stealing fans from boxing. We’ve got to bring them back. Another victory allows Saul to fill that gap left by Manny and Floyd to help the sport.”
Alvarez is noticeably working to reveal his personality, providing more thoughtful answers than usual and making it a point of watching movies in English when he’s in the U.S. He can comprehend most questions in English, but said that for now he wants to continue relying on an interpreter for the answers to be communicated.
“Next fight, maybe” some of the interview will be conducted in English, Alvarez said. “I understand.”
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire