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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power