- Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is the world’s No.1 boxer and on the cusp of transcending the sport.
- He returns to the ring Saturday for a Las Vegas bout against light heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol.
- Insider spoke to Canelo and those close to him to get a clear picture of the man behind the gloves.
LAS VEGAS — Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez was only 20 years old when he walked into Westside Boxing Club in Los Angeles for the first time.
Jose Saucedo, one of California’s most respected boxing coaches, is often seen by the ring apron where he oversees the sparring and training that goes on inside.
The white logo of the gym is a skull similar to The Punisher, and it decorates a black exterior wall.
Westside is an old-school club, a place where, as they say, boys become men.
Canelo, at that time, was “a little kid. He was shy and just standing in the corner,” Saucedo told Insider earlier this year.
“Coming from Mexico, I knew he was going to be a good fighter. A lot of Mexicans just love to fight. It’s in our blood. But, to be honest, I never thought Canelo was going to be this big. I never knew he was going to become the king.”
Saucedo wasn’t alone in that thinking.
Canelo is bucking a trend that Mexicans compete best in lower weight classes
Eddy Reynoso walked into the ballroom at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Wednesday, and reporters mobbed the two-time BWAA trainer of the year.
He’s become a modern-day Freddie Roach, the boxing coach whose popularity soared alongside his pupil Manny Pacquiao’s, as they dominated much of the 2000s and 2010s.
Reynoso’s fame has grown drastically in Southern California and in his native Mexico. “Everybody knows me because I’ve always done my part” with Canelo, he told Insider and other reporters.
Roach always maintained that his life changed forever when Pacquiao walked into his Wildcard Boxing Club in Hollywood for the very first time.
The way Reynoso tells it, things will never be the same for him, either. “Life has changed a lot” because of Canelo, he said.
“I am always in charge of the camp and, to make sure that things are done, I deprive myself of a lot of things. You miss your daughter’s graduations. Soccer finals. Parties that I could go to.
“I can’t do that because I have to be in camp — but that’s the price you pay to do things right.”
Reynoso knows Canelo better than most. It’s a relationship that is almost 20 years old. “He still maintains the desire and the will to do something with his life,” Reynoso said.
“He’s always been very disciplined and he obeys whatever I tell him to do…. He’s still the same guy that I met when he was 13.”
Even Reynoso wasn’t sure Canelo would scale boxing’s summit as quickly as he has.
It wasn’t because of a lack of talent but because top-tier Mexican fighters like Erik Morales, Juan Manual Marquez, and Marco Antonio Barrera, typically achieved fame competing below welterweight.
Canelo had to buck that trend as he started his career at welterweight and was always likely to grow into a middleweight and beyond.
“I thought it was a little complicated because as Mexicans you don’t think that you’re gonna be successful in the higher weight divisions like welterweight and up,” said Reynoso.
“But I knew that I had a good welterweight with a lot of talent, and as his career evolved I could see that he was going to make it big, and I had so much faith.
“This is the result of that,” he said. “He is perhaps the greatest athlete in Mexico.”
Canelo’s mentality sets him apart from his peers
The sun pierces through the windows of Eddie Hearn’s $1,500 per night suite at the SkyLofts inside MGM Grand, where he holds court with Insider just days before another big fight event for his company.
Hearn’s firm Matchroom is in the middle of running back-to-back weekend shows in the US, as Canelo vs. Bivol in Las Vegas follows Katie Taylor’s big win over Amanda Serrano in New York City.
Hearn and Canelo appear to have a cute relationship. Public displays of affection have been common for this power couple, as they can’t help but cuddle one another when they’re on a stage.
Both Matchroom and its broadcast partner DAZN have openly said that Canelo is integral to their business plan so it is little wonder they love boxing’s No.1 fighter so much.
Hearn sent text messages and emails while talking to us, but thinking of Canelo broke his fixation with his phone as he drifted off with a smile on his face while recalling Tuesday’s arrivals.
A loud, fun mariachi band welcomed Canelo and his Saturday opponent — the WBA world light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol — to the MGM Grand, ahead of their 175-pound ruckus at the nearby T-Mobile Arena.
As Hearn greeted Canelo on the stage, he asked him: “You ready?”
Canelo calmly said: “Oh yeah, Eddie,” while playfully shadow-boxing.
Speaking later to Insider, Hearn said: “With his confidence in fighting … I’ve never seen anything like it. When I look at him, I think, ‘There is no doubt in his mind that he thinks he’s completely unbeatable.’ And that’s part of his greatness.”
Saucedo, speaking to Insider six weeks ago from his Westside Boxing Club, said Canelo’s mentality separates him from other fighters.
“He’s just different,” Saucedo said.
Canelo’s competed in 60 professional fights. According to Reynoso, though, it’s more like 70 but a commission in Mexico said they’re not on his record. Reynoso said they were hard four- to eight-rounders. “He won some by knockout, but others were tough,” he said.
Canelo has lost just once so far — a 2013 defeat to Floyd Mayweather which elevated Canelo’s fame because of the transcendent nature of the fight. It wasn’t just a big boxing show, it was a sports event that captivated millions of people around the world.
“He learned from the Mayweather fight,” Saucedo told Insider. “I didn’t think that was a good choice. I was talking to Chepo Reynoso, Eddy’s father, and they said it was a good opportunity money-wise.
“They offered him the fight before but for less money.” They took the bout when the financials improved, he said.
“The result went in Mayweather’s favor. But I think he also learned a lot mentally.”
Saucedo added: “A lot of us guys … we just talk. But with Canelo, if you talk to him, he chooses his words. He thinks before he speaks.”
Canelo is hilarious, according to those close to him
Canelo may have long been confident that his skillset as a fighter would take him to the highest echelons of world boxing.
But he was self-conscious when it came to other aspects of his life, particularly when it came to talking with English speakers in their native tongue.
“When he came here to Westside he could talk a little in English, the basics,” said Saucedo. “But he said he didn’t want to because he was ashamed, and that people might laugh at him.
“But I told him, ‘Just look at me.’ I came to America when I was 16, and learned the language not perfectly, but I can have a conversation. And that was one of the things we’d talk about outside the ring. Now, look at him.”
Hearn has observed an “unbelievable” evolution in Canelo as his personality now shines through to more people.
“You should never look to change the personality of a fighter,” Hearn told us. “You just expose it to people, right? It doesn’t matter what that personality is … could be boring or could be a nutter. But let people see it.
“And when I signed Canelo, and after a little bit of socializing with him, I quickly realized that he was hilarious, likes horses, and loves golf. His energy is incredible.”
Hearn told him during one of many behind-the-scenes conversations, “Canelo, you have to speak English.”
According to Hearn, Canelo replied: “No … I’m not confident.”
It seems multiple people in the fighter’s orbit encouraged him to speak in English as well as Spanish so that more fans, and media, could see his personality in action.
As soon as he did that, Hearn said, it “changed his profile globally.”
The 42-year-old added: “His stock has gone through the roof just by being himself. He’s such an incredible character, got more money than God, more titles than anyone could ever dream of, but he’s still hungrier than ever. Unbelievable.”
Canelo has been cracking jokes this week
Using profanity as humor can go one of two ways. Done wrong and it could make the audience cringe. When Canelo drops an f-bomb, though, he always seems to make it work.
He swears in Spanish, frequently telling Hearn: “Viva Mehico, cabrones!”
According to Hearn, it’s quite rude. “It means bastard, I think.”
Canelo and his team “use it all the time,” Hearn said.
Speaking to Insider and other reporters inside the ballroom at the MGM Grand, Canelo spoke about his love for golf.
Canelo previously told Insider, in an exclusive interview arranged by the fighter’s sponsor Hennessy, that he plays to a handicap of +10. He said he loves the sun, playing golf tournaments, and being with his wife and family.
He plays golf as often as he can. He’s fooled around with NBA sharpshooter Steph Curry on a course last year, and almost scored a hole-in-one at Pebble Beach’s iconic par-3 17th.
One reporter asked him if he’d ever consider leaving boxing to join the PGA Tour. He seemed bemused at the concept. “It’s difficult to do,” he said. “Golf is fucking hard.”
On whether he ever gets frustrated while karting around a course, he said: “Really mad — yeah! I almost throw my fucking clubs.”
Should Canelo beat Bivol this weekend, a trilogy bout against his historic rival Gennadiy Golovkin could await for another big Las Vegas event in September.
Speaking to Insider and other reporters this week, Canelo agreed. “It is” personal, he said. “It’s just a simple rule — don’t fuck with me.”
Golovkin’s promoter Tom Loeffler previously told Insider this may be because the Kazakh middleweight referenced Canelo’s positive drug test before their 2018 rematch.
They didn’t always hate one another’s guts. They even sparred and trained together in California’s Big Bear mountains almost 10 years ago.
Regardless, Canelo wants his revenge.
But first he has to beat Bivol.
‘I’ll fight everybody,’ Canelo said. ‘I don’t fucking care.’
Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were boxing’s most prominent faces of the last generation.
Only time will tell whether this era becomes Canelo’s.
His weekend fight against Bivol, which will be broadcast on DAZN pay-per-view, is a big boxing show rather than an enormous sporting event, as his celebrity is yet to rival the box office appeal of the attractions who came before him.
There is still time. The way Canelo and Hearn talk, legacy fights are of the utmost importance. They want to target belt holders like Bivol and take their championships. They want unification fights and to become the undisputed champion in multiple weight classes. They want landmark fights in historic places — like bringing a title defense to Mexico, where they could box in front of 100,000 people. “I’ll fight everybody,” Canelo said. “I don’t fucking care.”
Right now, it’s all about Bivol, who “is a fresh challenge for me because he’s a solid champion at 175-pounds,” Canelo told Insider last week.
“He’s a great fighter,” Canelo said. “He knows what to do in the ring. I love this kind of challenge.”
Canelo is campaigning in weight classes outside of where he began his career, and yet his power remains as fierce as ever.
He’s a punisher. A bone breaker. He famously wrecked Billy Joe Saunders’ face and sent the Brit to the hospital after a dominant performance at the AT&T Stadium in Texas last year.
Insider asked him whether he can break bones at light heavyweight, too.
“You never know. I feel so strong. I can do it. Why not?” he replied.
There are no real secrets when it comes to fracturing an opponent’s orbital bone, Canelo told us. “It’s all training. I think in this weight I’m stronger than other weights, as I don’t lose too much weight,” for the fight. “I keep my power.”
Canelo has built ‘a massive sponsorship base’
Canelo is “mega,” Hearn told Insider this week.
“To get the flagship guy in any industry is so big for your business,” he said. “The mindset is, ‘Sign Canelo Alvarez and the rest will follow.’ He’s been so big for my profile, for Matchroom’s brand, and for the enjoyment factor.”
For Hearn, “it don’t get any bigger” than a Canelo fight week — particularly in Vegas.
“If you sign Canelo Alvarez, everything changes because his fan base knows me and now Mexican fighters know me. All young Mexican fighters now want to be with Matchroom” because of Canelo, said Hearn.
“Now we signed a new TV deal with DAZN in Mexico, where they’ll be six shows a year, feeder shows to our bigger US shows.
“The power you can have in the conversation with brands, sponsors, and venues — it’s just everything changes.”
The fact big brands flock to Canelo is a reflection that the fighter is relatively scandal-free, according to Hearn.
Hennessy’s $60 VSOP bottle has a five-year relationship with Canelo, and insiders we met at that company this week are thrilled with the ongoing relationship.
“You don’t build a massive sponsorship base by being questionable in your integrity,” Hearn told Insider.
Canelo, with his $53 million purse for this bout, has come a long way in the boxing game considering he once shared a room with seven other people when he first started fighting.
Canelo told Insider and other reporters that he received a wage of 800 pesos ($40) for his first pro fight. “In fact, they only paid me half of that, and the other half was in tickets and I gave all of the tickets to my family.
“As I’ve got an absolutely fucking massive family, I ended up with 400 pesos ($20).”
But Canelo says he isn’t even fighting for money because “it’s already there.” It’s now all about legacy.
Those close to him, like Saucedo and Reynoso, and Canelo himself never thought he’d get this far in boxing.
“I wanted to be one of the best, but I never imagined it’d be of this magnitude,” said Canelo.
“I feel really happy because lots of things have happened to me, and now here I am,” he said. “I’m hugely grateful.”
Courtesy By INSIDER