Michael Rosenthal

‘Canelo’ set to take big strides in 2011

Golden Boy Promotions has big plans for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2011.

Oscar De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy, said Alvarez probably will fight in March in Los Angeles on HBO and then three more times before the end of the year, once in his native Mexico.

And we’re not talking about meaningless fights even though Alvarez is only 20. The first name De La Hoya mentioned as a possible opponent was Viacheslav Senchenko, a veteran welterweight titleholder. He also mentioned Matthew Hatton, the marginally talented brother of Ricky Hatton.

These are the next steps in building him into a crossover star, or so Golden Boy hopes.

“The idea is that he wants to fight four times next year,” De La Hoya said. “He wants to do three here in the States, big fights. And he wants to move to Los Angeles, learn English and get his career going in the States.

“He wants to become a superstar here. The way he has captured Mexican hearts, he wants to capture hearts in this country.”

Those in Alvarez’s camp say they don’t want to rush him but they – the fighter included — also believe he’s very close to facing big-name opponents.

Senchenko (31-0, 20 knockouts) is difficult to gauge. The 33-year-old Ukrainian is undefeated and experienced but has fought outside his native country only three times, twice in Russia and once in Monaco. Hatton (41-4-2, 16 KOs) is tough and fairly well known but limited.

Alvarez, flush with confidence because of his success, said he's still learning but could beat Manny Pacquiao in a year. And his trainer, Eddie Reynoso, agreed.

“He’s capable of fighting for the title now,” Reynoso said through a translator. “Some champions out there are not at the same skill level he’s at. To fight the big names – Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayeather – I think that’s about three fights away.”

Alvarez seems unfazed by it all, his rapidly growing status as a cultural figure in Mexico, his blossoming boxing career and the grandiose expectations.

The red head seemed perfectly comfortable surrounded by a group of about 20 reporters and photographers the morning of the Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana fight in Las Vegas, all eyes on him.

It’s as if he was a champion boxer in a previous life and has been through all this before.

“It’s just something that’s in me,” Alvarez, speaking through a translator, said of his unusual composure. “It’s natural. I was born with it. I’m just someone who is very focused. When I want something, I focus on it and get it.”

Said De La Hoya: “I’ve never experienced anything like it. At 20 years old, he can handle everything and anything. That’s why I feel he can be a special fighter.”

One potential pit fall, of course, is getting caught up in the fame and fortune. Beautiful women and exciting night life are powerful intoxicants for famous, good-looking young men.

Reynoso said he isn’t worried, that Alvarez, who turned professional at 15, has always been as focused as he says he is.

And Alvarez has a role model very close to him who knows a little bit about the impact running wild can have on a boxing career.

“My advice to Canelo would be, ‘Don’t do what I did,’” said De La Hoya, a champion partier in his day. “Don’t chase women, don’t go out and party. That’s my advice. It shaved four years off my career, at least four years. Imagine if I didn’t drink, if I didn’t go out and party.

“He’s a very disciplined fighter. He knows what he wants. He knows he has the talent. He knows he can go very far.”

We’ll get a better feel for just how far he can go in 2011.

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