5 Questions with Canelo Álvarez: How a Tapatío Teenager Became the Face of Boxing

It would be hard to argue that Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez isn’t boxing’s biggest star. Manny Pacquiao’s recent fall from grace and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s retirement have made the 25-year-old Mexican the face of the sport. While some believe boxing now lingers in the shadow of UFC, Canelo remains on the rise.

Álvarez is a pelirojo peligroso who, unlike Mayweather, boxing’s previous mouthpiece, is actually well-liked. In contrast to the American pugilist, people pay to see Canelo win. On May 7, Canelo will reclaim one of boxing’s biggest dates: the Cinco de Mayo Weekend Battle. He’ll do so against Amir Khan, one of England’s most popular and talented boxers.

During a recent media tour in New York City for the upcoming fight (and thanks to Canelo’s new Tecate endorsement), we caught up with Canelo Álvarez and his manager José “Chepo” Reynoso to talk about the past and future of the fighter’s career.

[to Reynoso] You have trained Canelo since his beginning in boxing. In 2004, he won the silver medal at the Junior Mexican National Championships, his first major victory in his career, but also his first loss, [since he didn’t get the gold]. What memories do you have of this stage of Canelo’s career?
I was not present during that particular tournament because I was at camp with Oscar “Chololo” Larios. But from what I heard it was a bad decision. I’ve also heard that the guy that beat him now promotes himself by saying he defeated Canelo, but the fact is that he’s barely making his debut this year, while Canelo is already a world champ.

[to Reynoso] Canelo is now at the top of the sport. How does that feel, given the fact that you have trained Canelo since he was a small child?
When Canelo first walked into my gym, he didn’t [even] know the ABCs of boxing, but we took him slowly to where he is. At the time, the main fighter at our gym was Oscar Larios, so we would take Saúl to the training camps so he could motivate himself to work hard in order to be like him one day. We now take our young boxers to Canelo’s training camps so they can motivate themselves also; it’s a cycle.

[to Canelo] Oscar de la Hoya says your fight with smaller boxer Amir Khan is comparable to Hoya’s own battle against Manny Pacquiao. How do you prepare yourself for Khan’s speed and avoid surprises?
I prepare differently for every fighter. Khan is very different from others I have fought in the past, so I have to prepare especially for him – for his speed, arm length, and fighting style.

[to Canelo] In 2005, you won the Mexican Junior National Championships. With the Rio Olympics just around the corner, do you have any regrets about not trying to win an Olympic gold for Mexico?
In my personal boxing story, winning that gold medal at the Junior National Championships was very important, because it was the beginning of everything to get to where I am now. It gave me the motivation to stay in the sport. I don’t have any regrets, because I never received the necessary support from the government during my amateur career, so I was never motivated to win the Olympic games or World Championships.

[to Canelo] From this media tour – and anywhere you go, really – it’s clear that the fans simply love you. Despite always being a humble guy, was there a point in your career – maybe after a specific fight – when you felt like you had “made it?”
Never. I am still going at it. I am a fighter that moves forward day by day, who learns something new everyday, and I haven’t changed from the person I have always been. I am more mature, more solid, but still learning, and I still haven’t given my best.