The best pound for pound fighter on the planet? Very possibly. The world’s first boxing billionaire? Highly likely. Four-weight world champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez ignites debate like few other modern fighters. But there’s one thing that can’t be denied, and it’s the fact that the man is the walking, talking (although he never says much) embodiment of a sporting maverick.
From his fighting style to his sense of self worth, there is nobody more single-minded than Canelo….
The teenage prodigy who turned pro at 15
This Mexican warrior has been boxing professionally half his life. He’s still only 30 years old. And yes, if you’ve done the maths correctly (extra points for showing your working out) that means Canelo turned pro at the tender age of 15. In fact, he made his debut just three months after his birthday, in a raw but impressive fourth-round stoppage against a much older and more experienced opponent.
His desire to box came from a difficult place, since red-head Canelo was bullied growing up as he looked different to his peers, and this was how he learned to use his fists. “I fought a lot,” he explained some years later. “I was different, there was name calling and I had to defend myself. For me, the boxing and fighting was something I was born with. It’s in my blood.”
He was a world champion at 20. In your face, bully boys! And there’s plenty more to come from the fighter who’s now won world titles at light middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight.
Own man, own fighting style
It’s funny how Canelo has spoken in the past about having to defend himself as a kid, because in many ways his boxing style has been built on his defence, his ability to avoid being hit and drill home the counterpunches. His head movement is insane. But it’s a style he’s been called out on, especially back home in his beloved Mexico. Don’t get us wrong, he’s a national hero and beloved by millions, but you know how it is, you can’t keep all the people happy, all the time. And with a population of 126 million, there’s a hell of a lot of people in Mexico.
So the argument runs like this, Canelo doesn’t fight in the traditional Mexican style. He’s not aggressive enough, he doesn’t come forward enough, he doesn’t brawl. Think of the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez, the ‘Lion of Culiacan’, he personifies the so-called Mexican style. Not only is his fighting relentless, but outside the ring he has the all-important Robin Hood appeal. He could still pass as a poor man, despite earning a fortune through the sport. This meant he always remained a folk hero, rather than a star. Mexicans prefer their heroes folky, not starry. Canelo is definitely the latter.
He’s not flashy but he’s never gone for the rags to riches back story either, even though his family are from humble beginnings. He’s always been authentically himself and this is never more true than when he’s in the ring. Intelligent and calculating, Canelo has dismissed talk that Mexicans should only fight in one way, he knows the game is more complicated than that. And he knows the style that he suits best.
365 million reasons why he knows his own worth
It was the biggest deal in sporting history. Canelo signed up to an 11-fight agreement with streaming service DAZN, for the princely sum of $365m. The contract stated they would pay him $18m for his first fight and he’d then earn $35m in each of his next 10 fights. The figures are mind blowing, but right now nobody knows if they’ll ever come to pass. Because just a few fights into the agreement, it all went batshit crazy.
DAZN want him to have a trilogy fight with his arch-nemesis Gennady Golovkin. The two drew their first battle and Canelo won the second, and a third fight would be massive. But Canelo believes he won the two previous encounters and has no interest in stepping into the ring with Triple G again. But here’s where things get extra complicated, so listen up. Turns out his promoters, Golden Boy Promotions run by Oscar De La Hoya, signed a separate contract with DAZN, agreeing to a third fight between the two greats. When DAZN threatened to pull the plug on the whole deal, what did Canelo do? He did what he does best, he fought back. He launched a $280m breach of contract lawsuit, not only against DAZN but also against Golden Boy Promotions. Nobody messes with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
Right now it’s all still up in the air, but hopes are it will get sorted soon and he can get back to letting his boxing do the talking. But remember this, Canelo was prepared to pull the plug on the biggest deal in sporting history because he knows his own mind, because he’ll always be his own man. Nothing screams single-minded more than that.