The thwacks emanating from the prolific punches being thrown on the bags at the House of Boxing gym echoed throughout the room, and sounded as if they reverberated all the way down to the border 20 miles away.
The blast from the powder keg-like eruptions signaled that Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez was back in town preparing for his biannual bout, looking bigger, literally, and hoping to prove better than ever.
Alvarez, a natural middleweight, will step up two divisions and challenge Sergey Kovalev for the World Boxing Organization light heavyweight title on Nov. 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as he looks to further cement his legacy and win a championship in a fourth weight class. The fight will stream on DAZN, the OTT platform that signed the sport’s biggest power broker to an unprecedented 10-fight, $365-million deal last year.
“For me, my legacy is very important. History is the only thing that’s going to remain in boxing,” said Alvarez, who’s owned a home in San Diego and trained in Sorrento Mesa since 2014. “It’s one of the most motivating fights thus far in my career. Kovalev is very experienced and he’s the strongest fighter I will face. He’s had a good, long career. He’s going to use his height and range to try to beat me.”
Shortly after his round table session with reporters, Alvarez strapped on his hand wraps, laced up his gloves and went on to show the assembled media how he’ll look walking into the ring 15 pounds heavier than his last fight against Daniel Jacobs, a unanimous decision win in May.
The 29-year-old fighter, who hails from Guadalajara, finds himself in an unfamiliar situation, bulking up and eating liberally just to make weight against the 36 year-old Russian, who will have a four-inch height advantage and two-inch reach advantage come fight night. Ten days before the match, Alvarez is already walking around at 179 pounds.
“I’ve been eating well, lifting more weights because I normally don’t lift weights when I’m losing weight,” said Alvarez. “I’ve been eating how I normally do, of course staying healthy, but adding more rice, protein and carbohydrates. I’m entering this zone of comfort, but we’re ready for this.”
Boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighter has won championships at 154, 160 and 168 pounds, but he’s unsure how long he will campaign at 175. He’s hoping Kovalev can provide the Litmus test for how to shape his career moving forward.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to stay at that weight because it’s a lot,” said Alvarez. “But then again, we don’t know. We’re going to see in the fight how my body reacts.”
Alvarez has made some tweaks to his training as his frame evolves. To alleviate stress from the surgery that was required to remove a cyst from right knee last year, and to introduce additional rest, Alvarez has been running less and swimming more, even frequenting local gym chains just to dip in the pool.
“I don’t like swimming too much. I’m not a good swimmer, but it’s part of the routine and I have to do it. I’m getting used to it,” said Alvarez. “We’re training very hard. We’re ready.”
Alvarez has even recently taken a serious liking to golf, using his proximity to some of the best courses in the country to play at Pebble Beach and the Del Mar Country Club in between the monotony of a camp preparing for a big fight.
“I used to think different of golf, but I really like it a lot,” said Alvarez. “It takes me out of my training routine. It’s different. It distracts my mind and makes me feel good.”
On Wednesday, Alvarez was in a good mood overall, singing along to the live Mariachi band that was playing in the background, making special song requests, shadow boxing with his 66-year-old mentor Jose “Chepo” Reynoso, exercising his improving English and winking for the cameras whenever the photo op was right.
During one instance, there was a lull in the room as everyone who was gathered marveled at the sheer ferocity and viciousness of each Alvarez punch that was landing on the pads held by trainer Eddy Reynoso, Chepo’s son. Alvarez then paused and joked that it was too quiet, breaking the tension with a quip in Spanish.
Nearby stood Carlos Barragan, the full-time proprietor of House of Boxing, which has hosted Alvarez’s media gatherings for the last five years.
“He brings a good light to our community. He’s helped motivate the local kids in the sport,” said Barragan, who’s even built a gym for Alvarez at his house back when he was in construction. “Canelo and his team are really good supporters by donating all kinds of equipment. I get to see the human side of him, and he’s a quality, upstanding guy.”
Barragan, who’s spearheaded the career of local fighter Antonio Orozco, even helped supply Alvarez sparring partners for this fight by introducing him to Ben Alvarez, a Chilean cruiserweight from Canada.
Alvarez, who has no relation to the fighter, weighs 200 pounds and sports an amateur record of 37-11 and was thankful for sparring 20 rounds with his namesake.
“It was a great opportunity to learn from the best fighter in the world. He showed me there are levels to this sport,” said Ben Alvarez. “People think that since he’s moving up two weight classes, he will lose power, but let me tell you, the power is there. He’s very sneaky, yet calm. Kovalev better be ready.”
Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs) is past his prime at the age of 36 but he’s the owner of 11 title defenses at light heavyweight since 2013. He also happens to hold the cards as the most marketable name in the weight class that Alvarez is venturing into. Kovalev has one of the sport’s best jabs, but has gone 4-3 in has last seven fights, including two losses to Andre Ward and a knockout loss to Eleider Alvarez last year.
Kovalev has since switched trainers to Hall of Famer Buddy McGirt, and enjoyed a resurrection of sorts going 2-0 in 2019. He avenged his loss to Eleider Alvarez to reclaim the WBO title that will be on the line next Saturday, but again looked suspect to the body — long documented as his weakest attribute — in a knockout win against Anthony Yarde. Kovalev was controlling that fight yet almost let it slip away after his susceptible midsection almost succumbed to Yarde’s core attack, prompting a concerned McGirt to almost stop the action in between rounds.
“Our strategy is to go for the body, but they’re not going to let us go there, so that’s the challenge,” said Alvarez. “I will attack him and see what happens. Nothing has ever intimated me.”
Alvarez, who makes paydirt attacking the body better than anyone in recent memory, plans on following through on the obvious blueprint. He may be picking a fight at the right time with Kovalev, who has faded of late, but the test will still be a real one for his shot at history.
“It’s going to be one of the most important fights for me and my career,” he said. “This title is very important, and it’ll determine how we approach the future. 2020 will be another year of challenges for me.”