By Lem Satterfield
WBA “regular” 168-pound champion Rocky Fielding’s embraced his underdog role entering his American debut against two-division champion Canelo Alvarez, who is rising in weight for their December 15 clash at New York’s Madison Square Garden while retaining his WBA and WBC 160-pound titles.
The 28-year-old Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs) is 8-0-1 with four knockouts since a majority decision loss to Floyd Mayweather in a September 2013 unification bout, and the former 154-pound title winner's expressed confidence toward capturing a third crown in as many divisions.
But Fielding (27-1, 15 KOs) is equally intrepid regarding his initial defense of the crown earned with July’s one-knockdown, fifth-round TKO that dethroned Germany’s previously unbeaten Tyron Zeuge (23-1-1, 13 KOs), with “The Rock’s” third stoppage among six consecutive victories happening in Zeuge's home country.
"Obviously traveling away from home and getting the win like I did is a big achievement. No one gave me a chance...But I just feel like [Alvarez is] a lot bigger," said Fielding, during a recent conference call.
"Everyone knows the arena, the media, everything's a lot bigger. So apart from that, it's a ring and that's it. It’s a massive fight for me at Madison Square Garden and a big challenge in Canelo Alvarez. Camp has gone great. I’ve sacrificed everything. It’s going to pay off hopefully on December 15."
Fielding was 21-0 with 12 knockouts in November 2015 before being floored three times during a first-round stoppage loss to 6-foot-3 Callum Smith (25-0, 18 KOs), a 28-year-old nicknamed “Mundo” whose seventh-round knockout dethroned George Groves as WBA “super” 168-pound champion in September.
Alvarez dethroned Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs) as WBA/WBC middleweight champion by majority decision in September’s rematch of their draw in September 2017 before signing a $365 million multi-fight deal with the streaming service DAZN.
If successful against Fielding, Alvarez plans to unify against one or more opponents, if not, clean out an entire 160-pound division. Those ambitions may include a third bout against Triple-G” Golovkin if not fights with champions Daniel Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs), Demetrius Andrade (26-0, 16 KOs), Rob Brant (24-1, 16 KOs) and Jermall Charlo (27-0, 21 KOs), holders of the IBF, WBO, WBA “regular” and WBC interim crowns.
"That's the idea after defeating Rocky Fielding...To return to the 160-pound division where I feel that I’m at my best,” said Alvarez. “So right now, that’s what I have in mind is [to beat Fielding] and then go back to 160 and look for all of the best fights.”
Alvarez’s resume includes a non-title split-decision victory over Cuban left-handed former champion Erislandy Lara in July 2014, a one-knockdown unanimous decision to add southpaw Austin Trout’s WBA crown to his WBC version in April 2013, and unanimous decisions over one-, three- and four-division title-winners Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (May 2017), Shane Mosley (May 2012) and Miguel Cotto (November 2015).
Alvarez also owns stoppages in the fifth, sixth, ninth and 10th rounds over former champions Kermit Cintron (November 2011), Amir Khan (May 2016), Liam Smith (September 2016) and Alfredo Angulo (March 2014).
“I’ve fought many great fighters in Lara, Trout, Cotto, Mosley, Triple-G and Mayweather,” said Alvarez. “Each of those fights is important to my legacy. But every fight is a risky fight, and [for Fielding,] I’m training hard to minimize that risk."
Asked what he'll do to foil Alvarez's future plans, Fielding said, in part, "Just punch him in the face hard until he goes down."
"Where I’m at, you can’t look past your next opponent," said Fielding. "I’m just focused on Canelo, and whatever else goes on with him or the rest of the fighters or whether he just signed a big deal...doesn't bother me."