Canelo Alvarez faces greatest challenge from Trout
Saul Alvarez has burned to fight Austin Trout ever since he sat ringside two years ago while Trout beat up his older brother and took his championship belt.
That’s why Canelo cast aside caution and put himself in the most daunting fight of his young boxing career.
Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs) will face Trout (26-0, 14 KOs) in a 154-pound title unification bout in San Antonio on Saturday night, hoping to prove he’s capable of beating the junior middleweight division’s best fighters.
“It was brought up that there are other fights, and let’s take other avenues,” Alvarez said. “But I wanted this fight, and that’s why we’re here.”
The 22-year-old Alvarez has been brought along quickly yet safely by his management and promoter Golden Boy, claiming the WBC 154-pound title with little resistance. Canelo is wildly popular in his native Mexico, but he had never accepted a fight against a seasoned, savvy title contender.
Trout is all of those things and more — an unbeaten champion with ample skill, superior experience and a perfect record. With little name recognition or ticket-selling ability to go with all of those attributes, Trout is a nightmare opponent for a fighter of Alvarez’s reputation and earning power.
But Alvarez says he couldn’t shake the memory of his brother, Rigoberto, losing his WBA title to Trout in February 2011 in Guadalajara. When Trout then jumped to greater prominence last year with a stunning decision victory over Miguel Cotto, Canelo had even more reason to attempt to avenge his brother’s defeat.
Oscar De La Hoya, Canelo’s promoter, gritted his teeth and made the matchup.
“This is a test that he wanted, and we’re obviously hoping for the best,” De La Hoya said. “If you compare Saul’s career to anybody else’s, anybody else who is elite, they would never take this chance, or this type of fight ever — including myself, including a Floyd Mayweather, including anybody.”
A crowd of more than 35,000 fans will pack the Alamodome to cheer for Alvarez, who nearly matches Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for the affection of Mexico’s huge boxing fan base. While Alvarez’s power and athleticism are imposing, he’s still a young boxer mastering movement, pace and the intricacies of the fight game — and Trout believes he can capitalize.
“This is a fight that should happen — two undefeated champions in their prime who put it all on the line,” Trout said. “I’m praying that after this win, it’ll put me in a position to be your superstar like we want to be. But first we have to get through this beast called Canelo.”
In December, Trout showed he was much more than a talented regional fighter from Las Cruces, N.M., when he traveled to New York and dominated Cotto, the Puerto Rican star widely assumed to be Alvarez’s next opponent. Trout then stepped into the void left by Cotto’s defeat, seizing a career-changing chance to fight one of the highest-profile stars in boxing.
“My strategy is to win by any means possible,” Trout said. “Whether it’s brawling, boxing, moving, sticking there, staying there, whatever I need to do, we’re going to win. I want to be a legend in this game. I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder.”
Alvarez has been criticized for fighting undersized and overmatched opponents from Matthew Hatton to Josesito Lopez, but Trout is a bona fide 154-pounder with the reach and power to prove it. Canelo likely will attempt to counter Trout’s stick-and-move style with power and pressure, hopefully keeping Trout out of a rhythm.
But much of what Trout did against Cotto conceivably could work against Alvarez, another brutish slugger with questionable elusiveness. Trout’s counterpunching and quick hands could prove problematic to Alvarez, particularly if the younger fighter gets frustrated and impatient when he can’t immediately hit Trout.
“He’s an all-around fighter and he doesn’t have many faults, but he’s not as strong in some areas as others, and we’re going to exploit that,” Trout said. “We’re preparing for the total package.”
And after winning in Mexico, Panama and Canada over the past four years, Trout said he isn’t worried about being booed and jeered by the Texas crowd desperate to see him lose to Mexico’s favorite son: “The crowd can’t do anything but cheer for him. They can’t even give him water. They can’t breathe for him. They can’t punch for him.”
“To be 2-0 against the Alvarezes will be great,” Trout added. “But more importantly, to beat somebody who’s considered the best and to take that WBC belt, those are my motivations, and I think those are imperative for my legacy.”