Golden Boy Promotions has big plans for Saul Alvarez and it all begins with his HBO-televised bout against Matthew Hatton on Saturday.
The scheduled 12-round junior middleweight bout, which takes place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., is the first of three bouts in the U.S. this year that Golden Boy Promotions has planned for the popular 20-year-old fighter from Jalisco, Mexico.
Should Alvarez defeat Hatton, he’ll win his first major title (the vacant WBC 154-pound belt) and likely earn his way back on HBO for his next fight in the U.S.
“That’s the plan,” confirmed Eric Gomez, matchmaker for Golden Boy Promotions. “He’ll fight four times this year, three times in the U.S. and once in Mexico. We want all of his U.S. fights to be on HBO but it all depends on how much HBO likes him. We’ll see how he does on Saturday.”
An impressive victory on March 5 will not only lead to more HBO exposure but probably more alphabet titles for Alvarez (35-0-1, 26 knockouts), who was affectionately nicknamed “Canelo” (Spanish for cinnamon) by Mexican fans because of his red hair and freckled face.
“I know he wants a big fight by the end of the year, but we’ll see who’s out there for him and what the landscape is like,” said Gomez. “He can still drop down to welterweight, where there are a couple of titleholders that we’ve had preliminary talks with. There’s (Jan) Zaveck and the Ukrainian guy (Vyacheslav Senchenko).
“There’s also Austin Trout, who just beat Alvarez’s older brother Rigoberto for a junior middleweight title. That would be a tough fight for Canelo. Trout looked good against Rigoberto. He’s a good technical fighter and he has a little pop to his punches, but it would be a unification bout and there’s the revenge factor for Alvarez.”
Winning titles is how up-and-comers typically establish themselves in boxing, but collecting alphabet belts won’t necessarily earn a young fighter fame or loyal fans. Talented boxers such as Timothy Bradley and Chad Dawson didn’t become bigger draws at the box office by winning major titles.
Oscar De La Hoya believes Alvarez can be much more than a titleholder because of the large following he already has in Mexico and the buzz he’s currently generating among Mexican fans in the U.S.
“It could be an amazing career if all goes well,” said De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions and one of the most popular boxers ever. “He could be the next superstar in boxing for the next 10 to 15 years. He’s got the skills, the talent, and the crossover appeal.
“He’s a rock star in Mexico. So if we can cross that over in the States and get everyone to support him, we’ll have “Canelo-mania” on our hands for a long time.”
More than a few fans — especially the hardcore set — are skeptical of De La Hoya’s grand vision for Alvarez.
They’re quick to point out that “the Golden Boy” said roughly the same things about Vicente Escobedo and Victor Ortiz just before both were defeated.
However, there are a few differences between Alvarez and his Mexican-American stablemates, both of whom are still trying to regain the momentum their careers had as prospects. For starters, he’s been developed gradually in Mexico and Golden Boy Promotions didn’t rush his progress once he began fighting in the U.S.
From his first U.S. appearance on a Golden Boy card, against talented but light-hitting Larry Mosley in October of 2008, to his pay-per-view undercard bouts against experienced but undersized Jose Cotto and faded former champ Carlos Baldomir last year, Alvarez has been matched very carefully.
Hatton (41-4-2, 16 KOs), the 29-year-old younger brother of former junior welterweight champ Ricky Haton, is the most seasoned fighter Alvarez has faced who isn’t undersized or past his prime, but the European welterweight champ appears to lack the punching power and athleticism to overwhelm the younger favorite.
To his credit, however, Alvarez isn’t looking past Hatton.
“All fighters are dangerous once you step into the ring,” Alvarez told RingTV.com. “The easy guy can become the difficult guy (if you don‘t take him seriously). I have to expect the best from (Hatton).
“He’s a warrior, he comes forward. He’s very strong. He’s going to make for a very good fight.”
It’s good to know that Alvarez is expecting, or at least hoping for, a competitive scrap on Saturday.
Ultimately, it’s the entertainment value a fighter brings to his fights that determines his popularity, not title belts or shinning endorsement from former stars.
Alvarez seems to understand this and is excited about the opportunity the Hatton fight presents.
“I’m going to prove many things to the fans who watch this fight on Saturday,” he said. “This fight is fundamental (to my career). I’m going to show everyone who ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is.”