Canelo Alvarez says he spends each night lying in his bed, visualizing how Saturday’s middleweight-title bout against Gennady Golovkin will transpire.
He doesn’t dwell on the lowest point of his career — his suspension for the use of a performance-enhancing drug earlier this year. Instead he focuses on what could be his defining moment as a fighter.
“I will win without a doubt,” Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 knockouts) said Tuesday upon his arrival at the MGM Grand for Saturday’s rematch with unbeaten champion Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs) at T-Mobile Arena.
The popular former champion from Mexico, who fought Golovkin to a draw last September, submitted two positive tests for the banned stamina-building substance clenbuterol in February, which resulted in a six-month suspension by the Nevada Athletic Commission. Their May rematch was postponed, costing Alvarez the $30 million purse he was likely to earn.
Alvarez says he accidentally ingested beef contaminated by clenbuterol in Mexico, but Golovkin and his trainer Abel Sanchez have been relentless in rejecting the excuse. They also insist Golovkin fights in a truer “Mexican style” while painting Alvarez as a more reluctant “runner”.
Sanchez contends Alvarez appears smaller since last year’s draw and that the challenger will be a weakened version — physically and mentally.
“Those are the kicks and screams of someone who’s drowning. Those are the excuses knowing what’s coming, a loss for them,” Alvarez said.
“I’m bothered by this, all the stupid things they’ve been saying, and I’ve been using it in my training. I’m going to use it to my favor. Maybe they believe it [or] maybe they did it to get me mad. They did, and I’m going to use [my anger] in my favor.”
Alvarez promoter Oscar De La Hoya is attuned to the mental challenges of being boxing’s most popular fighter, a title accompanied by constant criticism from opponents and observers.
“The only way Canelo is going to vindicate himself is by knocking out Golovkin,” De La Hoya said. “He must think, breathe, sleep knockout.”
Staring down and conquering intense criticism “is exactly what separates champions from the greats. You must deal with the pressure, deal with the negativity and prove them wrong with your actions.
“Canelo must go up in the ring thinking not only that he wants to knock Golovkin out, but he needs to knock out every naysayer who has been against him.”
De La Hoya avenged harsh tactics and words by old foe Fernando Vargas by technical knockout, and he finished Ricardo Mayorga after the Nicaraguan spoke inappropriately of De La Hoya’s then-wife.
“Standing up to a bully is like deflating a balloon. A bully will come at you and beat a lot of guys up, but when that one person stands up to him, what does that bully do? He shrivels up,” De La Hoya said.
“That psyche goes into this fight with Canelo — [Golovkin] has doubts, knowing he can’t knock out Canelo, knowing Canelo is going to make adjustments.”
Sanchez confesses some of the jabs thrown at Alvarez are intended to lure him to a middle-of-the-ring scrap favoring the champion possessing the higher knockout rate.
“I just want [Alvarez] to do what he is saying he is going to do: Come at Gennady. … if he does that, we will be treated to a great fight,” Sanchez said.
Does a “great fight” mean a Golovkin knockout victory?
“If given the chance,” Golovkin said, “of course.”
Yet, Alvarez trusts the outcome he's envisioned will manifest into reality.