The legacy of Canelo Alvarez’s only loss, a 2013 defeat to unbeaten champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., has been viewed by many as a brash reach by the 23-year-old to participate in a massive event and collect $5 million in purse money.
Think again, Alvarez says.
“I always wanted to face the best fighters … to cement my path and be able to place myself in the history of boxing,” Alvarez said in a statement to The Times on Monday. “ … The reason I fought against the kind of style that Mayweather [has] is because I was already used to [other] kinds of fighters.
“I also knew that fighting against the best would prepare [me] for challenges like the one I have against Daniel Jacobs.”
Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 knockouts), the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Assn. middleweight champion, meets International Boxing Federation champion Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs) on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Based on what Alvarez has done in pushing to replace Mayweather as his sport’s top pound-for-pound fighter proves this explanation is not revisionist history, says Bernard Hopkins, the former long-reigning middleweight champion who’s now an executive with Alvarez’s promotion company, Golden Boy.
“People are missing that about Canelo. He has the style to fight in his culture. And he has the style to fight in my culture. If nobody understands how important that is, they don’t understand boxing. Boxing is in every part of the world, in every city. So no matter where you live, you should learn how to do certain things and fight like others do.”
That point especially resonates now.
While Jacobs’ 78% knockout ratio is impressive, the 32-year-old can do more than that, like turning left-handed to rally in his narrow 2017 decision loss to former long-reigning champion Gennady Golovkin, whom Alvarez fought to a draw later that year before edging him by majority decision last year.
And Jacobs has indicated he can box his way to victory Saturday.
“Jacobs is no pushover. He’s an all-around good fighter,” Alvarez promoter Oscar De La Hoya said. “But every single time Canelo steps in the ring, he’s well prepared. He’s disciplined, very dedicated and understands what’s in front of him.”
Some of that understanding was delivered in a humbling manner.
Six years ago this month, Alvarez was boosted by a light-middleweight unification victory over defensive-minded Austin Trout in front of 40,000 in San Antonio, and he pressed for a Mexican Independence Day weekend meeting against Mayweather, who, at age 36, was happy to oblige.
With 2.2 million pay-per-view buyers watching, Mayweather’s blinding hand and foot speed made Alvarez look plodding. Even if one judge scored the bout even before being drummed out of the sport, the other two had it nine rounds to three and eight rounds to four.
Alvarez took the loss like a man, saying that Mayweather was “very elusive, intelligent. I honestly couldn’t find him.
“I’m only 23,” Alvarez noted. “I’ll be back.”
He was a man of his word, boldly opting to fight Cuba’s disciplined Erislandy Lara the next year to emerge with a split-decision victory that showed the advances. He needed more of that boxing skill to defeat Puerto Rico’s former four-division champion Miguel Cotto in late 2015, and after bringing the fight to the more stationary Golovkin last year, he now confronts Jacobs.
“You’re going to see the experience from the previous fights, the styles that Canelo’s been up against from the first significant super-fight he had,” Hopkins said.
At his San Diego training camp, Alvarez brought in sparring partners to mimic Jacobs’ power, craftiness and ring acumen. Super-middleweight Ronald Ellis, for instance, switched to a left-handed stance to prepare Alvarez.
“That style that Jacobs has is a little bit more difficult for Canelo to do from what he did against ‘Triple-G’ [Golovkin],” Hopkins said. “‘Triple-G’ was there, right in front of Canelo. He rarely moved or slipped to get out of the way.
“Jacobs fights in an urban style, the way [U.S.] amateur [coaches] teach you. He’s not a brawler. He’s going to move. He’ll want to establish that in the early part of the fight and carry the fight into the middle and championship rounds. I’ve been studying.”
So has Alvarez, whose development and replacement of Mayweather as the sport’s top draw leaves Jacobs as a near 4-to-1 betting underdog at the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas.
It’s rooted, Hopkins and De La Hoya say, in Alvarez’s forward-looking belief that he had to risk his ego to take a first-hand look at the techniques of the sport’s now-retired king to effectively conquer other challengers for the remainder of his career.
“It was so surprising for a young man like Canelo to take that on his own,” De La Hoya said. “That’s special.”
Said Hopkins: “For Canelo to get that lesson was the best thing that happened to him. He knew that if you want that perfect fighting recipe, you need all the ingredients that he has experienced and gathered along the way. Because of that, he has the hardware and the belts.
“What he’s doing now is becoming the master.”