SAN ANTONIO – When less than two days away from the biggest fight of their pro career, most boxers begin to feel the pressure that comes with high-profile matchups against formidable opponents.
This Saturday’s junior middleweight championship showdown between Saul Alvarez and Austin Trout is undoubtedly the biggest fight of both fighters’ careers.
It will be televised live on Showtime. It will be fought in front of close to 40,000 fans at the Alamodome. Both are facing the toughest opponent of his pro career and putting his unbeaten record on the line.
Yet neither fighter showed or expressed even a hint of anxiety when talking to the media after the final press conference on Thursday.
“There’s no pressure,” Alvarez said through Eric Gomez of Golden Boy Promotions, the lead promoter of Saturday’s event. “I know that most of the fans that will be there on Saturday are there to see me win, and I have a great responsibility to make that happen, but I’ve always wanted to be in this position. I’ve worked very hard for this.”
Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 knockouts) is only 22 years old. Most prize fighters are still prospects at that age. Alvarez, who is a bona-fide star in his native Mexico and one of the top ticket sellers in the U.S., holds a major title (the WBC belt) and is in line to face the likes of Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather in mega-pay-per-view headliners.
Most fighters in his position would be on edge going into a fight against a boxer as tough and tricky as Trout, who many hardcore fans and boxing writers are picking to beat the popular red head on Saturday. But “Canelo” says he’s not worried.
“When boxers have butterflies or doubts in their heads going into a fight it’s because they are not prepared,” he told RingTV.com. “I don’t have that fear because I always prepare to be at my best. I always come ready and I never have any doubts.”
Speaking of doubts, Trout’s nickname is “No Doubt,” and the 27-year-old resident of Las Cruces, New Mexico, is as steadfast in his self belief as Alvarez is.
“You can’t have fear in this sport,” he said. “I don’t have fear. I see it in other fighters sometimes and, in my opinion, those fighters feel that way because they’ve been spoiled. They haven’t been to hell and back.”
Trout (26-0, 14 KOs) has definitely not been spoiled. The El Paso, Texas native has traveled to Panama and Mexico (three times) to earn victories over hometown favorites (one of whom was Alvarez’s older brother Rigoberto in 2011) and work his way up the 154-pound rankings.
Last December the southpaw dominated Cotto in the Puerto Rican star’s home-away-from-home, Madison Square Garden in New York City, en route to a unanimous decision victory.
“New York was the most hostile environment I’ve experienced,” Trout told RingTV.com. “The people in Mexico were cool and Texas has been great. Fans have been warm and welcoming, but even if they were hostile, it wouldn’t bother me.
“When I’m fighting, I feed off the crowd’s energy whether it’s positive or negative. If they boo me, like they did in Madison Square Garden, I want to silence them. If they cheer for me, I’ll fight even harder.”
Some believe Trout will have to fight harder than he ever has against Alvarez, and completely dominate the media darling, if he wants to avoid getting jobbed.
Almost 20 years ago at the Alamodome, another savvy American southpaw, Pernell Whitaker, fought a Mexican star, Julio Cesar Chavez, and soundly outboxed the icon in the eyes of everyone but the official judges who handed out a controversial draw verdict.
Hardcore fans warn Trout that the same thing could happen to him. Trout doesn’t disagree but he isn’t worried about the possibility of a bad decision.
“We watched the Whitaker-Chavez fight,” Trout said “and yeah, he outboxed Chavez but he could have let go of that left hand a little more. I’m going to step on the gas when I need to.
“To be honest, I don’t think it will go the distance. I feel I’m the bigger, stronger fighter. I’m not a 147 pounder like a lot of the guys Alvarez has fought. I’m a real junior middleweight. I’ve been at this weight or heavier for a long time and I’ve fought bigger guys.”
Trout isn’t alone in criticizing Alvarez’s competition. It’s hobby for more than a few hardcore fans.
Alvarez feasted on smaller and sometimes older opponents – including Carlos Baldomir (KO 6), Lovemore Ndou (UD 12), Matthew Hatton (UD 12), Alfonso Gomez (TKO 6), Kermit Cintron (TKO 5) and Shane Mosley (UD 12) – while making his name in the U.S. as a 19-, 20- and 21-year-old phenom.
His most recent opponent, Josesito Lopez, who he stopped in five rounds last September, normally fights at 140 and 147 pounds.
Alvarez is aware of the criticism. It’s one of the main reasons he took the fight with Trout.
“Obviously, this is a great test for me,” he said. “I’ve never fought anyone like Trout. I can’t wait to prove to everyone what I can do.
“I know it will be a complicated fight. Trout has a complicated style. But I like to think inside the ring. I like challenges.”
Trout echoed Alvarez’s sentiments.
“This fight is a dream come true,” he said. “This is the kind of fight and atmosphere I’ve always wanted. When I’m done boxing I want to be remembered as someone who fought and beat the best and was willing to travel the world to seek challenges.”
Photos / Stephanie Trapp-SHOWTIME