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After feud with Oscar de la Hoya, Canelo Alvarez refocuses on boxing

Canelo Alvarez poses for photos after defeating Sergey Kovalev by knockout in a light heavyweight WBO title.
Canelo Alvarez poses for photos after defeating Sergey Kovalev by knockout in a light-heavyweight WBO title bout, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

There is no opponent that is too unconquerable for boxing’s pound-for-pound kingpin, Canelo Alvarez.

The prizefighter’s confidence in stepping up to everyone has become paramount in becoming the sport’s biggest breadwinner and box office attraction.

The four-division champion Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs) will be stepping back into the ring for the first time in over a year looking to restamp his star status when he takes on super middleweight crownholder Callum Smith (27-0, 19 KOs) on Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

In doing so, Alvarez will be giving up a whopping seven-plus inch advantage in height and reach to the gangly British boxer.

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Smith may physically appear insurmountable, but Alvarez has already proven size or stature of the opposition doesn’t matter.

Errol Spence Jr. defeats Danny Garcia by unanimous decision in his first fight since a car crash that almost derailed his promising career.

It can even be argued that Alvarez has already had the fight of the year, and perhaps the biggest win of his entire career, without throwing a punch.

Alvarez knocked out Oscar De La Hoya by filing a lawsuit in September against his decade-long promoter for breach of contract and fraud seeking damages of $285 million less two years after signing a 10-fight, $365-million deal with streaming service DAZN. The Golden Boy decided to release Alvarez from his contract last month.

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Alvarez became the most significant promotional and TV free agent the sport had seen since Floyd Mayweather Jr. and De La Hoya freed themselves of contracts from Bob Arum and Top Rank earlier in the century.

“It was a difficult [situation], and that’s why I became a free agent,” Alvarez told The Times. “We’re here to make the best fights that people want to see. I’m here to unify the championship belts at 168 pounds and make history.”

Alvarez’s once-strong relationship with De La Hoya had been deteriorating and developing far too many fissures to repair in recent years. Friction boiled over once Alvarez, who had carte blanche to challenge any boxer he pleased, flexed his muscles. It proved to be a foil with DAZN, who had a separate broadcast deal with De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.

“We had many good years together but some difficult ones toward the end. It became very complicated. I’m excited about the new stage of my life.”

Canelo Alvarez on his time under contract with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions

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The upstart streaming service had signed archrival Gennady Golovkin with designs on a third fight between the two. Alvarez resisted the third meeting after scoring a majority decision win in 2018. The two also fought to a split draw in 2017, but many observers believe Golovkin won at least one of the fights.

Alvarez moved on to fight the likes of Rocky Fielding at 168, Daniel Jacobs at 160 and Sergey Kovalev at 175 under his DAZN deal, accumulating belts and top billing along the way.

DAZN however found the consensus 2019 fighter of the year’s dance partners insufficient. In the business of boosting subscribers, in addition to Golovkin, DAZN labeled UFC stars Khabib Nurmagomedov and Jorge Masvidal as “premium” opponents for Alvarez.

Alvarez didn’t like the disrespect, nor what he saw after getting a new look behind the business curtains when he was sidelined during the pandemic. Further fractures grew, and he ultimately took matters into his own hands by doing what he knows best — fighting.

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“I wish [De La Hoya] the best,” Alvarez said. “We had many good years together but some difficult ones toward the end. It became very complicated. I’m excited about the new stage of my life.”

But was De La Hoya a good promoter and business partner?

Deiveson Figueiredo retained his flyweight title after battling Brandon Moreno to a majority draw at UFC 256.

“I’ll refrain from commenting on that,” said Alvarez. “I’ve seen the promotional mistakes done before, and I will not make the same mistakes now. I want to make history in my profession by doing the best for myself and others.”

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Alvarez now steers his own ship as the head of Canelo Promotions. He intends on signing fighters to his stable and hopscotch around broadcast partners at his behest.

In a development best fitting for boxing, Alvarez will return to the home of his last three fights and fight Smith on DAZN, and separately on pay-per-view as well.

Smith is looking to disrupt Alvarez’s big picture. The only fighter to defeat Alvarez is Floyd Mayweather Jr., who toyed with the green boxer in 2013 to a decision win. It will be a tall task for the 6 foot, 3 inch, jab-throwing Smith to replicate Mayweather’s mastery.

Standing at 5 feet, 8 inches tall, Alvarez will seemingly need a step ladder to land up top on Smith, whose brother Liam was convincingly knocked out by Alvarez in 2016.

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“It’s no secret that we’re going to attack the body and break Callum Smith down,” said Eddy Reynoso, Alvarez’s trainer, manager and confidant. “Clearly it’s one of the best moves to make for us.”

Callum Smith, above, knocks down Hassan N'Dam during their super middleweight title fight in June 2019 in New York.
Callum Smith, above, knocks down Hassan N’Dam during their super middleweight title fight in June 2019 in New York. Smith is looking to pull off a major upset over Alvarez on Saturday.
(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

Should Alvarez successfully get by WBA titlist Smith (a vacant WBC strap is on the line as well), he’s already eyeing 168 pounders in WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders and IBF titlist Caleb Plant in 2021.

The plan for Alvarez is to continue fighting on his traditional Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day dates and hold every key in his new division, and largely the sport.

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Alvarez is promising to deliver fans the most desirable fights possible. It’s a promise many frequently make, but infrequently live up to, drumming it all up to “boxing politics.”

Alvarez is now agnostic. If the price is right, and the weight fits, Alvarez will even end the wait with the aging Golovkin. Improbable opponents like Errol Spence Jr. have also thrown their names into the hat.

The 30-year-old Alvarez is gambling on himself that he can break the bank better than his guaranteed $35 million purses because the entire pie is always better than just a piece of it.

“Believe me, I’m fine,” said Alvarez, who has visions of retiring at 35 and devoting his life to business and golf.

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“I love boxing. That’s what motivates me in life. The day that it no longer gives me passion, that’s when I’ll retire. All of the money is for me now, and that’s a big thing.”


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