By Jake Donovan
Nobody would blame Saul Alvarez if he was distracted ahead of his September 17 super welterweight showdown with Alfonso Gomez.
For starters, he’s headlining his own show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, exactly 52 weeks after enjoying a breakthrough performance in the very same arena when he knocked out Carlos Baldomir.
The bout shares pay-per-view space with the Vegas portion of the split-site show, when Floyd Mayweather returns to the ring after a 15 month break as he takes on Victor Ortiz.
On that same date and across the border in Alvarez’ home country, budding rival Julio Cesar Chavez Jr is slated to make the first defense of his alphabet middleweight title against another son of a ring legend in Ronald Hearns.
Then of course, there’s the part about the weekend being part of the annual Mexican Independence Day celebration.
All told, the fact that he’s facing Gomez is perhaps the least significant portion of the weekend as far as the general public is concerned. For Alvarez, however, it’s simply all that matters.
“I’m concentrating on the fight, on Gomez,” Alvarez (37-0-1, 27KO) insists as he prepares for his second title defense of the alphabet junior middleweight title he acquired earlier this year. “I know it’s a big night of boxing and a big pay-per-view. I don’t worry about that stuff; I just focus on the fight.”
At just 21 years young, the red-headed Mexican – better known to most as “Canelo” – remains among the sport’s most active top fighters, even as his handlers continue to upgrade his opposition. Gomez is the latest entry in the Canelo sweepstakes, entering the fight riding a five-fight win streak against mostly respectable competition.
The fight is being suggested by some as a high profile showcase for Alvarez, who continues to tear through the competition put in front of him. The fight will be Gomez’ first major fight above the welterweight limit since his time spent on the inaugural season of the now-defunct reality series ‘The Contender’, way back in 2005.
Since then, Gomez has taken over-the-limit tune-up bouts, but nothing on the level of Alvarez. His two biggest post-Contender fights – his retiring of Arturo Gatti in 2007 and a five-round beatdown at the hands of Miguel Cotto less than a year later – took place at the welterweight limit.
His challenging of Alvarez will be his second attempt at a major title, and by his own admission quite possibly his last shot at proving he belongs at the top level.
It’s that mentality that has Alvarez’ handlers cautious about looking too far past September 17.
“This fight, there is so much at stake in Alfonso’s career. I know that he’s going to try to come to prove something against Canelo,” believes Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, who serves as Alvarez’ stateside promoter. “Someone as competitive as Alfonso is, you can never count him out. So with that in mind, he has everything to gain, while Alvarez has everything to lose.”
Fortunately for Schaefer and company, the 21-year old manchild has no problem keeping his eye on the ball.
“My biggest objective is to win,” insists Alvarez, when asked of the pressures of looking good while his already celebrity-like status in Mexico continues to rise and now spill over into the states. “I’m inviting everyone to support me as always, but my objective is to win.”
Where temptation to look beyond his next fight is in the potential matchups to be made down the road. Chief among them, an all-Mexico showdown with fellow unbeaten titlist and ratings magnet Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
With both young stars fighting on the same evening, much has been made in the media of the rivalry growing and that all roads lead to a head-on collision sometime in the near future.
If such is the case, then it’s news to Alvarez, which is saying something considering such talks would have to go through his own Canelo Promotions outfit.
“I don’t know anything about (a fight with Chavez being discussed). The only thing on my mind right now is Alfonso Gomez. If they are working on something for the future, great. Just let me know the time and date and I’ll be ready. Until then, I’m only concentrating on Alfonso Gomez.”
While his focus remains on Gomez, attention has to be paid to the fact that he’s headlining his own show while appearing on the same pay-per-view telecast as Mayweather. Whispers in the media suggest that their respective egos won’t allow for them to ever again appear on the same card, as was the case last May, when Alvarez defeated Jose Cotto in the chief support to Mayweather’s dominant points win over Shane Mosley.
Golden Boy Promotions – which has a hand in both promotions that evening despite their taking place in separate states – doesn’t lend much credence to the claims of arrogance being the reason behind the split site, although confirmation was offered that the days of Alvarez serving as a chief support on any show are long gone.
“Canelo is no undercard fighter; he’s a main event fighter,” Schaefer proudly proclaims. “Los Angeles is his town and it’s important for him to capture the boxing market out here. Los Angeles has been waiting for the next great star they can embrace ever since Oscar de la Hoya retired and they now have that in Alvarez.”
It’s just one more reason for Alvarez to carry it as if his feet don’t touch the ground. However, serving as a rising superstar is something he treats as an honor rather than an entitlement.
“I’ve become accustomed to fighting on these big dates. I’ve done it before and it’s a big honor. My biggest objective is to win. I’m inviting everyone to support me as always, but my objective is to win.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]