LAS VEGAS – Eight years ago Hall of Fame matchmaker and promoter Don Chargin traveled to Mexico to see a freckled-faced, red-headed kid who looked like Howdy Doody and punched like the Terminator.
Outside of his interesting physical features, there was something special about Alvarez that kept Chargin coming back.
“I saw Canelo in Mexico probably in his first 10 or 11 fights,’’ said Chargin, a consultant for Golden Boy Promotions. “I was really impressed with him. I never thought he’d draw 40,000 people, but I thought he was a real comer.’’
Chargin was the matchmaker for shows at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles for 25 years. So he knew boxing talent when he saw it. He advised Golden Boy to sign Alvarez.
Alvarez wasn’t raw. He grew up in a family of boxers. But his early solution to those round hole-square peg puzzles in the ring was a sledge hammer.
“He would really just cut loose on a guy. Every punch was thrown like it was a knockout punch,’’ Chargin said. “I saw him twice when he was in against guys with a good chin. The first time when he saw the guy wasn’t going to jump out of there so quick I could tell he was trying to think, which was good.’’
In the eight years since he first started traveling to Mexico, Chargin has seen Alvarez grow as a boxer, progressing from a blunt instrument to a thinking tactician.
That might be Alvarez’s greatest asset when he steps into the ring to defend his RING and WBC junior middleweight titles against Floyd Mayweather Jr., the No. 1 boxer in the game and the most brilliant ring strategist of this generation. That’s what Chargin was thinking at the final press conference Wednesday as he watched a subdued Alvarez confidently speak of handing Mayweather the first loss of his 17-year pro career
How Alvarez went from being a prodigy to stepping into the ring against Mayweather in a potentially record-breaking boxing event is a remarkable testament to his rapid progress as both a Mexican icon and an outstanding boxer. It also speaks volumes about Alvarez’s skills as a salesman.
“We sat down and had that meeting to get the Austin Trout fight done. I was against the fight and so was Oscar (De La Hoya). But the kid demanded the fight,’’ said Eric Gomez, matchmaker for Golden Boy.
“He looked us straight in the eye and said, ‘I don’t want to discuss any (other) opponent. Just tell me what the pay is. I want Austin Trout.’ And then he went on to explain to us why he was going to beat him and how he was going to beat him and some of the flaws that Trout had. I got to admit he made me a believer right then and there the way he spoke. He was so confident about it. The same thing happened with this fight.’’
Gomez said he had an eerily similar experience with Shane Mosley when they were making the match against Antonio Margarito.
“He (Mosley) got up and started showing us what he was going to do to Margarito and how he was going to expose him and that he was going to knock him out,’’ Gomez said. “Me and Richard looked at each other and said this guy has gone crazy. Margarito can take a punch. He’s the toughest guy ever. He had just knocked out Cotto.’’
Of course Mosley stopped Margarito by KO.
Alvarez went through the same process before the Mayweather match, pointing out flaws and laying out a strategy to exploit them that has convinced Gomez that he will win.
Since the victory against Miguel Cotto, Alvarez has felt as if he has been ready to fight Mayweather.
“Maybe because I’ve advanced with each fight that I feel like I’m ready for this fight,’’ he said. “Each fight was a progression. The Trout fight made me really believe. I feel like Floyd will bring out the best in me.’’
Alvarez said he isn’t nervous, just anxious for the fight. He is enjoying every minute of the promotion leading up to the fight – the media attention, the ever-present Showtime cameras for the “All-Access’’ shows, the crush of adoring fans.
Gomez doesn’t see Alvarez shrinking under the lights of the big event – not even on fight night.
“We’re way past that. That moment could have happened in the Trout fight. There were 40,000 people,’’ Gomez said of the match at the Alamodome in San Antonio. “That could have happened when he fought in Veracruz, where there were 30,000 people. This kid has been on big stages before and nothing fazes him.
“A lot of Floyd’s opponents, with the exception of Oscar and Hatton, were just happy to get the fight and happy to be in the fight. He’s not just happy to have the fight. He wants to win.’’
Chargin, who has been around boxing for over 60 years, isn’t so sure how tightly Alvarez can keep a grip on his pre-fight nerves.
“That’s something that we really don’t know,’’ Chargin said. “I’m very surprised at how calm he is. You can get those guys like Robert Guerrero, who was trying to act calm and he was a wreck and you could see it. Same thing with Victor Ortiz.’’
Alvarez has convinced Gomez that there will be an upset at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night.
“I truly think it’s time. It’s time that Mayweather loses. It’s time that Canelo exposes many things,’’ Gomez said. “Without a doubt, if Floyd wins this fight, I will consider Floyd the best fighter of our era. But if Canelo wins, the kid did it to me again. He made me a believer.’’
Photo by Naoki Fukuda