Michael Rosenthal

Alvarez focused on Rhodes even if no one else is

Everything is about the future when the subject is Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

The red-headed star-in-the-making from Mexico probably will face the toughest challenge of his young career when he defends his junior middleweight title against Ryan Rhodes on June 18 in Guadalajara, Mexico, Alvarez’s hometown.

And that’s where Alvarez’s focus is. Everyone else seems to be looking past the experienced Englishman, though.

One report this week indicated that a Mexican billionaire offered Manny Pacquiao $65 million to fight Alvarez, which apparently turned out to be bogus. And the fact Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. won his first major title by beating Sebastian Zbik last Saturday rekindled talk of a showdown between Mexico’s two young champions.

Alvarez didn’t want to go there.

He said through a translator on a conference call that didn’t give the alleged offer to Pacquiao a second thought because he didn’t believe it was real. And while he’s open to a fight against Chavez at some point, he steered a reporter asking about it back to Rhodes.

“We’re concentrating on this fight,” Alvarez said. “Ryan Rhodes is a tough customer. I have to get past this fight. Nothing is written in stone. If everything comes out OK, we’ll talk [about the future].

“I’m concentrating on Ryan Rhodes. And he’s a big obstacle.”

Rhodes was on the conference call listening to the talk of the Pacquiao offer and a possible fight with Chavez, as well as a question about Alvarez possibly fighting on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Victor Ortiz undercard on Sept. 17.

Such talk seems to amuse – and motivate – him.

Rhodes (45-4, 31 knockouts) is a veteran of 49 fights and, according to many, a legitimate Top 10 junior middleweight contender.

“I see all these stories about who [Alvarez] will take next as his opponent and I just giggle to myself,” Rhodes said. “I think everyone else around him … I don’t know whether Canelo does or not … everyone else is talking about other big fights.

“Carry on talking. The only fight he’ll be wanting after June 18 is a rematch with Ryan Rhodes.”

Comparisons to Matthew Hatton: Some observers seem to assume that Rhodes is of the same ilk as Matthew Hatton, who Alvarez easily outpointed to win the vacant title, because they both live in England.

That might be a mistake. Hatton is a decent fighter but naturally much smaller than Alvarez and a light puncher. Rhodes has fought as heavy as 169½ pounds and can whack. He’s also a southpaw, which also will present a challenge for Alvarez.

Rhodes is rated No. 4 among junior middleweights by THE RING, Alvarez No. 9.

“I’m nothing like Matthew Hatton,” Rhodes said. “No. 1, I can punch. I can punch hard. I switch hit, which can make things awkward for my opponent. And I’m the first legitimate junior middleweight who Canelo is fighting.

“I’m used to fighting at middleweight but decided to come back down to junior middleweight. Comparing me to Matthew Hatton … if people want to do that … that’s a massive mistake.”

Homecoming: Alvarez will be making the first defense of his title in his hometown, at the Arena V.F.G. Officials expect to fill all 15,000-plus seats in the arena, which is named after Mexican singer Vicente Fernandez (Gomez).

“It’s a dream come true,” Alvarez said. “I’m very excited, very happy to be be defending the title in my home country, in front of my people, my public in Guadalajara, the people who have supported me since day one.”

Rhodes traveled from his home in Sheffield to Guadalajara this week and will have been there 18 days by fight time, acclimating himself to the environment. Temperatures have been in the low 90s (low-30s Celsius) and Mexico’s second most-populous town is about 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level.

“I’m used to flying to Tenerife [in the Canary Islands] to train, places like that,” Rhodes said. “It’s really hot there, as well. I like training in places like that. The altitude was a bit of a question but I’ve come out here and adapted to the altitude as well.

“I’m doing my work exactly as I do it back home in England and getting used to the heat and altitude. I’m happy about that. That’s one reason I came out 18 days before the fight.”

Rhodes was asked whether he believes he could receive a fair decision in Alvarez’s home country.

“I feel a knockout would be a big plus for me in this fight,” he said.

Television: The Alvarez-Rhodes fight will be televised on HBO at 10:30 p.m ET and PT, delayed on the west coast.

Around the web