One punch. In boxing, that’s all it takes to change the course of a fight. The one punch a fighter does not see coming—that's the one that does the most damage, and more often than not, ultimately decides the outcome of the fight.
On Saturday, May 7, Canelo Alvarez, the young Mexican idol and Lineal Middleweight Champion, will make the first defense of his title against Amir “King” Khan of England in a fight where most pundits expect him to land the punch that removes his opponent from contention. But it’s boxing, and as the saying goes, that’s why they fight the fights.
The sport is as unforgiving as it is enthralling, and throughout boxing’s rich history are a litany of examples where the smaller, faster man shocks the world by using speed and smarts to win the fight. Sugar Ray Leonard against Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Manny Pacquiao against Miguel Cotto, and Bernard Hopkins against Antonio Tarver are all examples of smaller fighters moving up in weight and defeating naturally bigger men.
Yet, at the young age of 25, history is not lost on young Canelo. The fighter from Jalisco, Guadalajara, Mexico has welcomed all opponents in a career that has already spanned 48 fights. And when he steps into the ring on Saturday, he will do so knowing that being favored means nothing once the bell rings, and that the power he carries in both fists is meaningless without the timing and discipline to use it effectively.
Recently, Complex News visited the San Diego training camp of Mexico’s favorite son and the current face of boxing, to discuss how he got into the sport, how he's motivated by his country’s boxing traditions, and the difficulties Amir Khan will present in the ring.
Check out the unabridged transcript below and watch the accompanying video above.
How did you get into boxing and how did your brothers influence your career?
I got into boxing because of my oldest brother. He was the one who got me started. I saw the profession and that was when the desire to become a fighter was born. From that point I began to train and I never left boxing. I like it very much.
Mexico has a rich history when it comes to boxing. How much does that history motivate you in the ring?
There are great legends and great fighters in the history of Mexico, and there will be more to come. That motivates me to become one of those great legends—not just to make history in this sport, but to become [another] legend in my country. To represent my country, Mexico, is a great [source of] pride for me.
Amir Khan is a fast fighter like Floyd Mayweather. How will the loss to Floyd prepare you for Amir and the speed he brings to the table?
I believe he is very different. And three years have passed. I have more experience [now], I have fought [boxers] with all styles. It is a fast fight, yes, but I fight with all styles and I am ready for this. The fight with Floyd may have helped me, but other styles similar to that of Amir Khan have also helped me. Yes, it will be a difficult fight, but I’m preparing for this.
Do you think you can win a tactical fight if it turns into a situation where you’re chasing Amir Khan around the ring?
I’m prepared for Amir Khan moving swiftly—or for whatever style he comes out using. I prepared with sparring, in the style similar to what he uses. We’re preparing a lot and that is where fights are won, and with experience, too. I will [use] both in the ring to smoothly and easily win.
everyone gets into the boxing ring with a plan, a strategy, and we all end up doing something else. That is why we train—to be ready for anything.
How has your relationship with Eddy Reynoso and his ascension into one of the top trainers helped you to get to where you are?
Training with Eddy has been very important to my career. We have arrived at this point together, so for me he is more than a trainer. He is family. And this makes us a solid team, a strong team. And we are similar. We are equals, 100 percent dedicated to what we do and this has brought us here.
Have you watched tape on Amir Khan? Do you think he brings anything to the table that you haven’t seen before?
Yes, I have seen videos of Amir Khan. I’m going to be very careful with everything, but I believe it’s going to be a difficult fight where I will have to hunt my rival. Because that is the style of fighter that he is, one that moves rapidly, so there will be a strategy that I will have especially for him, to try and counteract his speed. We are training for this, and making a strategy. But everyone gets into the boxing ring with a plan, a strategy, and we all end up doing something else. That is why we train—to be ready for anything.
Amir has a documented history of having a poor chin and not being able to deal with power. When you’re training, do you think, “I could knock this guy out with one punch”?
I don’t base my plans on this. I’m training and preparing because nothing is predictable in boxing. I’m preparing for those rounds, and if it happens that I get a shot, whatever advantage I have, I will be ready for 12 rounds.
With Manny and Floyd now officially retired, people look at you as the next face of boxing. Do you feel any pressure to assume that honor?
Those that consider me [to be] the face of boxing at this moment, well, more than pressure, for me it is motivation. But I really don’t focus on this. I always like to train 100 percent. I train to fight, to win. And the people can put me where they want to put me. I’m not preoccupied by whether I am or am not. I believe that for me the most important things are to train, to dedicate myself 100 percent, and to win fights.
A win against Amir Khan propels you on to huge fights. Everyone knows that to fight Floyd you had to lose weight. Do you think it’s fair, if you end up fighting Triple G, to have him cut weight?
I believe that we each have to make our sacrifices if we want something, if we want a certain fight, if we want to reach the highest point in this sport. I had my moment of sacrifice. At this point, I’m at the stage where I already did, I already gave, I already sacrificed. And I continue to sacrifice my body, and everything, as I train everyday. But I don’t plan on giving the advantage to anyone. I’m in the position, which I have earned based on past fights, based on my efforts, and I don’t plan on giving any advantages to anybody.
How would a loss to Amir Khan affect your career? Do you even consider that when you’re training for a fight?
I do not think about defeat. I only think about winning. Anything can happen. But in that moment, my mentality is only victory. I go victory.
What is your number one motivation?
My number one motivation in boxing is my daughter. She is the one who motivates me to go forward.