Glynn Evans delves into the background of the favourite for Saturday’s superfight.
Santos Saul Alvarez Barragan was born in Guadalajara, Mexico on 18th July 1990, the youngest of eight children. His parents were farmers and his father also owned three ice cream parlours. He inherited his signatory red hair from his mother Ana Maria. His parents separated when he was just 15. All six brothers boxed professionally and Rigoberto, a southpaw, held the interim WBA Super-Welter title in 2010. In June 2008, all featured on the same card in Jalisco. Four were victorious but the three debutants all lost. Saul, then 17, beat future IBF lightweight boss Miguel Vasquez over 10 rounds.
‘Canelo’ (cinnamon’ in Spanish) first stepped inside a boxing gym aged 13 to learn how to stave off barrio bullies who teased him over his hair, freckles and pale skin. From the onset, he was coached by the father-son training team of Jose ‘Chepo’ Reynoso and his son Eddy. The pair previously schooled ex IBF lightweight boss Javier Jauregui and ex WBC Super-Bantam and Featherweight king Oscar Larios. Twelve years on they continue to tutor Alvarez today. Though his amateur career was restricted to just 20 bouts, ‘Canelo’ was a two time Mexican junior champion. On the advice of Reynoso senior, he dropped out of high school to join the profession in October 2005, just three months past his 15th birthday, because it was proving impossible to persuade fellow amateurs to fight him.
The white hot prospect had an incredible 34 professional contests (including three in the USA) and captured four championship belts including the prestigious NABF and WBC Youth welterweight gongs, before his teenage years were through. The solitary blemish on his slate was a four round draw with Tijuana’s Jorge Juarez when he was still only 15. Four years later, in a pre cursor to Saturday’s main event, Alvarez registered a ninth round stoppage of one Jose Miguel Cotto (elder brother of you know who!) on the Floyd Mayweather- Shane Mosley undercard at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. HBO televised on PPV.
On 5th March 2011, Alvarez became the youngest ever to hold a version of the world super-welterweight title – aged 20 years 230 days - when he bashed up Hyde’s Matthew Hatton to capture the vacant WBC strap at The Honda Center, Anaheim, California. Save for a point deduction for striking after the bell in round seven, the Mexican magician won every round on every card. He successfully retained the title on six occasions (four by stoppage) and added the WBA title by steaming through unbeaten New Mexico southpaw Austin Trout before a 40,000 sell out at the Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas in April 2013.
The wonder kid finally conceded his unbeaten tag on 14th September 2013 when he dropped a majority 12 round decision, and both of his championship belts to Floyd Mayweather Junior at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas. The superfight, billed as ‘The One’ and broadcast on Showtime PPV was, at the time, the most profitable sporting event in history, grossing $150m. The thick set 5ft 9in ‘Canelo’ was disadvantaged by being contractually obliged to weigh 2lbs inside the 11st super-welterweight cut-off. However, his pain will have been eased by a $12.5m guarantee plus a healthy share of the $2.2 million PPV take-up!
If ‘Canelo’ fails to succeed ‘Money’ Mayweather as the best pound-for-pound pug on the planet, he remains favourite to inherit his role as the most marketable. Signed to the Golden Boy roster since January 2010, Alvarez remains the company’s most valuable asset. He already enjoys rock star status within Latino communities and is routinely mobbed by the ladies. His unique look, coupled with fast improving English should elevate him into a global phenomenon....provided he continues to deliver between the ropes.
In his leisure time, ‘Canelo’ like to swim, fish and camp outdoors at the Rio Grande de Santiago. He drives a Ferrari and an Audi R8 Spider, and is also an avid horse rider. His first two mounts were donated by Mexican pop star Vicente Fernandez and the local mayor. Since October 2010, he has been engaged to Marisol Gonzalez, seven years his senior who was Miss Mexico Universe in 2003 and now works high profile presenter for Mexican TV station Televisa. Alvarez has a daughter Emily from a previous relationship.