By Felipe Leon
Photos: Tom Hogan – Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotion
Tucked away on a corner of a busy street in South San Diego, California, The House of Boxing gym is exactly that, a boxing gym. No mats for mixed martial arts or an octagon are found here but only vintage boxing posters and photos of ring greats on its walls along with a boxing ring and the assortment of heavy, speed and double-end bags to practice the art of the sweet science. Also about twice a year for the last three usually in the mid afternoon during a weekday, you will find a portable taquero in the back, a mariachi in the front and every major news outlet from both sides of border as well as nearby Los Angeles represented inside to welcome twenty-six year old Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (48-1-1, 34KO). Alvarez of Guadalajara, Mexico, some years ago purchased a home in the north county of “America’s Finest City” and since his 2014 fight against Alfredo “Perro” Angulo has trained in sunny San Diego.
Now Alvarez, the current WBO super welterweight champion, finds himself on the tail end of training camp for his first fight of the year, a twelve round attraction against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr (50-2-1, 32KO) of Culiacan, Mexico. The fight, announced in January, has sold out the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, for May 6th and has drummed up enough interest to also sell out a number of closed circuit venues in Sin City as well prompting Golden Boy Promotions, Alvarez’s promoter, to distribute the HBO Pay-Per-View event on movie screens across the country.
“It is different, I was born here in the United States, while these two fighters are Mexican-born but it is similar because all of Mexico will be watching and all the Mexicans, Hispanics, here in the United States will be watching,” Oscar De La Hoya answered when asked to compare this fight with his first fight in 1996 against Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. “It is an important fight for boxing, this fight wasn’t made just for the pride of both fighters but also for Mexican boxing to return to the top. We are very happy to be part of that.”
According to Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez, Alvarez himself was a catalyst for this fight to be made. “It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t too difficult. There was interest from both sides and when there is interest from the fighters, you can make things happen. More than anything, Saul wanted the fight and that is why it got made. He had other options, he could have faced Lemieux, with ten other fighters, and he would have had good purses but the important thing is that he wanted the fight and that is why we offered it to Chavez.”
The bout marks the first time Alvarez, a former WBC middleweight champion, fights over 155 pounds. The fight is set at a catch weight of 164.5 lbs.
“At this weight I am not going to lose power,” Alvarez stated before he began a light workout of shadowboxing, mitt work, some heavy bag and stretching. “In losing the last pounds in my previous fights, I would lose some power, I wouldn’t go in the ring as strong as I should. At this weight I have felt good in the sparring, I have sparred light heavyweights and they have felt my punch. I have felt good.”
Jose “Chepo” Reynoso, along with his son Eddy, Alvarez’s trainer through out the young man’s entire boxing career, also feels his fighter will not lose what many consider his best weapon in this fight, his speed. “I think he is going to be even faster. The fact that he is going up in weight doesn’t mean he is going to go up slow or with fat or overweight, he is a very strong fighter that who would suffer to make 155 or 154 pounds, now he is not going to suffer, now he will be more relaxed and that has the whole team relaxed.”
One change Chavez Jr has made for this fight is to hire arguably the most successful Mexican trainer of all time, Nacho Beristain, while training in the high mountains outside of Mexico City. Despite of that Alvarez is not convinced it will make a difference to what transpires inside the ring.
“I think he is going to resort back to his style, it is normal,” he said. “The only thing I expect is that we get the best Julio in the best shape so that we can give the fight fans a great fight.”
If Chavez Jr, the underdog since the fight’s announcement, wins the fight, a rematch clause is in effect. Gomez explains, “there is a rematch clause and its immediate. There is a timeline of a year depending if the fighters get hurt or not. If ‘Canelo’ wins, the plan is to fight against Golovkin. That has always been the plan, we have said it, Oscar has said it, Saul has said it so the plan is in September to fight (Gennady) Golovkin. First is first, he needs to win, he needs to look good and he need to come out healthy, not hurt. If Chavez wins and it’s a great fight, we will definitely do the rematch.”
Although the Alvarez vs Chavez Jr fight has been primarily marketed toward the Hispanic market, the fight the whole world wants to see is Alvarez against the WBC/IBF/WBA middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. All parties have talked about the fight in the press for more than a year but there is nobody more in the know than Gomez.
“We are about 90-95% close to a deal, we have talked a lot. We have agreed to a lot of things,” Gomez said in closing. “We are still in talks, obviously we need to wait until after this fight to close a deal but we are very close. We have been talking for a long time, almost a year. The important is this fight, we are focusing a lot on this fight, this is a very important fight and it is a dangerous fight. Saul needs to win and it is not fair to speak a lot of Golovkin until after this fight.”
“I’m excited for May 6 because we’ve never seen a fight that’s dull or boring with two Mexican fighters. It’s going to be a great fight and that’s exactly what the sport needs.”