Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in the past has been able to generate better television ratings than Mexico’s soccer team in his home country.
Now, as Mexico goalie Guillermo Ochoa challenges former light-middleweight world champion boxer Alvarez as the country’s most popular sports star, the fighter and the team are setting the stage for massive early July viewership.
Mexico’s unbeaten soccer team opens the World Cup’s knockout stage Sunday morning at 9 against the Netherlands (3-0), with “El Tri” aiming to break through the round of 16 after being ousted in the round in its past five appearances.
The team's ultimate goal is a date in the July 13 World Cup final in Brazil.
A day before, on July 12, Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 knockouts) will headline a Showtime pay-per-view fight card against Cuba’s Erislandy Lara (19-1-2, 12 KOs) at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“They’re playing really good, they came out of a tough group and if we keep playing that same way, with that confidence, we’re going to destroy every team we play against,” Alvarez said in Spanish through a translator, of the soccer team that has allowed just one goal in the three opening games thanks to Ochoa, who had six remarkable stops in a scoreless tie against Brazil.
Alvarez played soccer growing up before turning pro as a boxer at age 15.
He said as his fight nears a sellout in Las Vegas that he’s not threatened by any lost sporting interest generated by the soccer team’s run.
“It’s two different things,” Alvarez said. “The World Cup is the World Cup. The whole world is watching. When I fight, it’s a whole different thing … boxing. The whole Mexican audience will support the team, and when I fight, hopefully they’ll support me as well.”
Alvarez, 23, is training in San Diego, working on, among other things, how to close off the ring of the boxer Lara, who landed the fight after challenging Alvarez on stage following the Mexican’s March victory over Alfredo Angulo.
Lara and some boxing enthusiasts project the Cuban could give Alvarez fits, like Floyd Mayweather Jr. did in the most lucrative fight in boxing history in September.
“[Lara’s] been talking a lot,” Alvarez said. “Now he can back his words up in the ring. There’s only one Mayweather. Mayweather has more experience than Lara.”
Meanwhile, Alvarez said he plans to fight again in the late fall, and doesn’t expect to be
ready to fill the Sept. 13 hold his promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, has for
That date was reserved for a Mayweather bout, but Golden Boy Chief Executive Richard Schaefer
has since left the company and Mayweather hasn’t announced an opponent.
“Too soon,” Alvarez said of the September date.
Yet, he said, he intends to challenge Mayweather’s interest in securing the popular Cinco de
Mayo and Mexican Independence day dates in 2015, regardless of whether he lands a Mayweather rematch.
“Next year, I want to fight in May and September and it doesn’t matter who else is fighting,”