Junior middleweight Rigoberto Alvarez isn’t the slightest bit surprised about the success of his brother, Mexican sensation Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
His own good fortune? That caught him off guard.
The elder Alvarez, who is 13 years older than Canelo, had more or less decided to retire last summer. He didn’t see any big fights on the horizon after losing to Marco Antonio Rubio early last year. And he had been fighting between 160 and 168 pounds, weights at which it was hard to find work in Mexico.
However, inspired by his brother’s rapid rise, he decided to stick with it. And the decision paid off.
Alvarez (26-2, 19 knockouts) was offered a fight with Nobuhiro Ishida for the interim WBA junior middleweight title last October in Durango even though he’d never made the 154-pound limit.
He jumped at the opportunity and went on to win a split decision. He now fights Austin Trout on Saturday in Guadalajara on Televisa (in Mexico).
“I left boxing for a little while,” Alvarez (26-2, 19 knockouts) said through a translator. “I wasn’t getting the fights I wanted, I was fighting at super middleweight. There wasn’t much action here. So I said to myself, ‘This isn’t for me.’ But I’ve watched my brother emerge and thought, ‘I can do it too.’ He was an inspiration.
“Now I’m a champion and making my first defense. It’s like a gift from God. I’m so happy with everything that is happening with my family.”
Again, though, he isn’t surprised that Canelo is emerging as a star.
It was Rigoberto who introduced his little brother to boxing shortly before he turned professional as a super middleweight in 2000. He said he saw something special immediately.
“I’m not surprised at all about the way Canelo is growing up in boxing,” he said. “I was the first person who put a pair of gloves on him when he was 9 years old. I was the one who took him to the gym.
“And since the beginning, I knew the kid had a lot of talent.”
The elder brother obviously had some talent too. He won his first 22 fights – all in Mexico – before traveling to South Africa and losing a fairly close, but unanimous decision to local fighter William Gare at super middleweight.
His only other loss was a ninth-round TKO in an exciting WBC middleweight title eliminator against Marco Antonio Rubio early last year. The fight was even on the cards when it was stopped with Alvarez taking a pounding against the ropes.
Three victories later – and six pounds lighter – Alvarez takes on the undefeated Trout (21-0, 13 KOs).
And if he wins, there’s talk of a fight against rising Cuban star Erislandy Lara.
“I’m very focused on this fight,” Alvarez said, referring to Trout. “If I win this Saturday, yes, I could fight Lara. Fighting on a big stage … against a great fighter … that would be the culmination of my dreams.”