Floyd Mayweather v Saul Alvarez preivew: How ginger kid went from Mexico's streets to the MGM in Las Vegas

Humble Alvarez grew up the hard way with underage fights that have shaped him into a ruthless boxer

It is far too easy to create a romantic fiction of Saul Alvarez's early years as a pugilist, when the chunky ginger kid was fighting men from the age of 15 in tiny Mexican towns, and forget just how good he is.

Alvarez survived the obscure apprenticeship, was spotted at 18, after 22 fights without defeat, by a member of Oscar de la Hoya's company, Golden Boy, and a deal was done. That was in 2008 and now, 21 fights, including six world title fights, later, Alvarez is close to making a purse of $10m (£6.4m) for Saturday's light-middleweight showdown with Floyd Mayweather at the MGM in Las Vegas.

"He had an amazing following in Mexico and they crossed the border to watch him fight, thousands crossed the border," said De La Hoya, who revealed this week that he will not be ringside for the fight but will instead be in rehab, battling his drink and drug problems.

"We had only just heard about him, it was like the rumours were growing and then thousands were showing up; they had on T-shirts with his picture and they chanted his name. It was crazy."

In April of this year, 39,000 paid to watch Alvarez fight in San Antonio, Texas, for a flawless display of power and timing against Austin Trout, who lost for the first time in 27 fights. Yet the Mexican always seems to look embarrassed at the end of fights as the ring fills with cheerleaders and relieved backers.

In the ring that night was Alvarez's brother Rigoberto, one of six Alvarez boys and a former world champion who had lost his title to Trout. "I was the youngest, they all went to the gym and I just went with them, but they never made it easy," said Saul, who has just turned 23.

It was in the days before the Trout fight that an incident from 2011 threatened briefly to taint the boxer's wholesome image. An arrest warrant was issued after it was alleged that he had fractured another boxer's jaw in a scrap over a woman – Alvarez denied the charge. The fight still happened and Alvarez returned to Mexico City and enjoyed a 45-minute audience with President Enrique Pena Nieto. The meeting seemed to secure Alvarez's position as one of Mexico's "untouchables" and the warrant is simply gathering dust.

"He's a private man," insisted Jose "Chepo" Reynoso, who has been with him for over a decade. "He's not a big talker, never was." Neither is Reynoso, by the way, but he has crafted quality fighters in his gym and knows how to let Mexico's child boxers develop into men before they start blowing bubbles prematurely.

There is a murky side to the world of underage boxers and their fights in Mexican tenements, but Alvarez had won a national amateur title at 15 before turning professional.He was not without some boxing knowledge having won 44 of his 46 amateur fights, however he left school the moment he started punching for pay.

Alvarez is known as "Canelo", which is Spanish for cinnamon, because of his red hair and refuses to say anything bad about any of his opponents, which has clearly frustrated Mayweather. "He doesn't speak a lot of English, so why should I say anything to him – he doesn't understand," the American said. The two fighters were on a 12-city promotional tour and Alvarez claimed he enjoyed it. Ricky Hatton, who fought Mayweather in 2007, went to five cities and was less impressed: "I was ready to kill him, he drove me crazy," Hatton said. Alvarez, when asked about his time with Mayweather, replied in his high-pitched voice: "No problem."

Alvarez's shyness, impassive face and humility form a perfect counter to his ruthless skills inside the ropes. "He just gets to where you are going, he cuts the ring down and never wastes any punches," said Ryan Rhodes, a former British champion from Sheffield, who was stopped in the 12th and last round of a world-title fight in 2011.

In some ways his style is a mixture of the old and the familiar, which is perfect. He has been described as having the attitude of an American, the looks of an Irishman and the fighting style of a Mexican.

Now the ginger kid, taunted for so long as a child because of his hair, is Mexico's main sporting attraction with fights that attract as much as 35 per cent of the television audience share.

His girlfriend is a former Miss Mexico Universe and Alvarez still lives with his mother in Guadalajara; they have left the ugly apartment complex for a penthouse in the most expensive part of town. On Saturday he will start as the underdog, fight his heart out roared on by record crowds and, win or lose, leave Las Vegas a very wealthy boy.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Press / Mac Operator / Artworker - Digital & Litho Print

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: With year on year growth and a reputation for ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Live Virtual Training / Events

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Manager is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003