ON Wednesday Canelo Alvarez descended an escalator into the lobby of Madison Square Garden, played into the public workouts by a troop of cheerful mariachi musicians. The Mexican star seemingly didn’t have a care in the world. He didn’t even feel the need to throw any punches. He strolled into the ring, waved to his fans answered questions politely enough, posed for pictures and was gone.
He has come through two close, controversial fights with Gennady Golovkin, emerging with a draw and a win, and with the WBA and WBC middleweight world titles. His brief sixth month ban for a failed drug test (traces of clenbuterol from tainted beef were detected earlier this year) is firmly in the rear view mirror and on Saturday he jumps up to 168lbs for the first time, to fight Liverpool’s Rocky Fielding.
It’s a fight that will kick off Canelo’s long term, hugely lucrative deal with DAZN, the sports streaming service new in America and it marks the first time the Mexican has fought at historic Madison Square Garden. It’s a good time to be Canelo Alvarez.
“This is the best moment of my career,” Canelo told the media on Wednesday. “The career I’ve had is based on the big fights I’ve made. If the contract came then it came but I’m here because of all the fights. The contract came to me because of my career, not the reverse and it wasn’t for nothing. So people know, people know my history and I’m going to keep doing and making history not because of the contract but because of me.
“For me it’s a landmark in my career to be able to fight at Madison Square Garden. It’s something that I’ve wanted for some time. So I’m happy to be here. For me it’s an honour to fight where important fighters such as Muhammad Ali have fought. So it’s very great to be here and it’s another motivation to keep moving forward and keep making landmarks in my career.”
But today (December 13) when he came face to face with Fielding, one thing was undeniable – the size advantage Rocky has over Alvarez. That is the concern for Canelo. “More than anything I’m going to worry about the weight and about his punching power. Because we’re obviously risking it by moving up and we have to see what he’s going to come out with in the first round,” Alvarez said. “Obviously I’m an elite level athlete and I have to be able to adapt to any situation.
“The most important thing is that I won’t be underestimating the weight. I know what I will face and the responsibility that I have. I’m going to ready in order to not have any surprises this Saturday.”
“I’m going to be going into his comfort zone, that’s the risk I’m taking but I’m a strong fighter. I know how to adapt to that and Saturday you will see that,” he continued. “I’m an elite fighter and I’ve gone through many fights like this and I know how to deal with this. I’ve always considered myself as someone who’s mentally strong. I know how to deal with this and I’m conscious of this. I never get overconfident regarding anything. I always train 100 percent. In this sport, this is the sport where you should least be over confident because one punch can change anything and at this level I can’t change that. So I’m always focused 100 percent in my training.”
He has only fought above 160lbs once before. When he outpointed a largely negative Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr in 2017. But Alvarez believes he can take nothing from that fight, given how poorly Chavez performed. “The truth is I can’t really say because that night I didn’t really have an opponent. I can’t say if I know how it is. That’s the intrigue. Like I said. I’m an elite fighter and I know how to adapt to any situation and I know that’s the challenge that I have in front of me to move up. But I’m ready,” he said.
He admits that the right division for him is middleweight and he expects this sojourn at super-middle to only last for the one fight. “The idea right now is to win this [WBA regular] title God willing and then go back to 160lbs. But if I can move up and down, why not if there are good fights? But we still don’t know. The idea right now, God willing, is to win this and go back down to my real division which is 160lbs,” he explains.
He can go no higher than super-middleweight. Even though he’s likely to step into the ring on Saturday at 173lbs, he couldn’t compete at light-heavy, 175lbs. “I don’t see me being able to do light-heavyweight. I don’t see that as a viable option so 168lbs max,” he says.
It confirm that super-middleweight is the upper limit for him. If this is a gamble, moving up a shade too far for Saturday, it’s clearly calculated. Alvarez is undoubtedly confident his skill, pedigree and class will be too much for Rocky Fielding, who holds a WBA ‘regular’ super-middleweight but hasn’t beaten one of the world’s top tier fighters.
But Alvarez insists, “I’m here to fight anyone and everyone. I always characterise myself as someone who fights with the best fighters, makes the best fights for the people.”
Nor will he look beyond Rocky to 2019. “I like to take one challenge, which is this Saturday, and then talk about other things,” he said.
“I’m ready to put everything on the table this Saturday,” he promises.