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“Canelo” Alvarez and Alfonso Gomez Square off in L.A.

Photo © Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Photo © Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions

If you can say one thing about WBC junior middleweight titleholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, he’s active for a titleholder. Most titleholders who fight on premium cable networks these days fight once or twice a year. However, Alvarez is a unique fighter in that his popularity and status as a titleholder is a bit ahead of his skills as a fighter. At just 21 years old as of last week, the young redhead from Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, Mexico is still growing inside that squared ring and the opponent selection reflects that. For his second title defense, “Canelo” will take on welterweight Alfonso Gomez. The bout will be held at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA September 17 as part of a split-site PPV in conjunction with Victor Ortiz vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Vegas that same night.

The two men met this Tuesday in downtown L.A. to discuss their upcoming bout. Between Gomez’s freestyle rapping and Alvarez’s stoic approach to promotion, the hottest thing there was the sun that beat down on the press and fans who showed up in respectable numbers to get a glimpse of this burgeoning young star and the latest sacrificial lamb being fed to him.

"What Golden Boy Promotions has done with the split-site pay-per-view is the single most creative thing I’ve seen in boxing in 20 years,” said Gary Gittlesohn, Gomez’s manager. While I can’t speak for him, the idea is innovative. In one night but in separate venues, fans in L.A. and Vegas will get a chance to see several big names in one night. And with two gates in two cities, Golden Boy, who promotes the card, will see a lot of money at the gate.
In Las Vegas, the pay-per-view will open with junior welterweight prospect Jessie Vargas, who is rumored to be facing Josesito Lopez. Next up will be Erik Morales, who will likely be facing Jorge Barrios for the WBC junior welter belt if Jose Sulaiman has his way. Then the lights at the MGM Grand in Vegas will darken and those in attendance will see the Alvarez-Gomez fight on giant screens. Finally, when that is over, the lights at Staples Center will lower and all in attendance will get to see Ortiz-Mayweather. The Alvarez-Gomez card is said to have some of the younger talent available in Golden Boy’s stable. Details, however, have yet to be worked out. Following the conclusion of the Ortiz-Mayweather fight, there will be a two-hour concert at Staples. Not bad for one night.
"This is the first time there has ever been a split-site event on HBO Pay-Per-View and it is the biggest pay-per-view Golden Boy Promotions has done,” said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer. “To be able to see stars like Morales, ‘Canelo,’ Ortiz and Mayweather all on same card is unheard of.”
In this day and age, Schaefer is right. Thinking back to the days of Don King cards that had multiple title fights with names like “Tito” Trinidad and Ricardo Lopez in the mix, present-day cards are a far cry from those in recent memory. It’s innovation like this that is slowly putting Golden Boy on the map with Top Rank in terms of promoting. How they are developing talent is another thing.
In Alvarez, 37-0-1 (27), they have a young star whose popularity appears to not be a fabrication. He does excellent numbers on Mexico television and in the US; he consistently puts a large number of asses in seats but what of his opposition? Right now, Vanes Martirosyan, a Top Rank fighter, is Alvarez’s number one contender. So why fight welterweight Gomez? For one thing, Ryan Rhodes, “Canelo’s” last opponent, was his mandatory. This fight, held on Mexican Independence Day weekend, is a voluntary defense against a Mexican fighter.
"’Canelo’ is a champion but Alfonso Gomez is a great fighter. He is a Mexican fighter and it will be a big test for ‘Canelo,’” declared Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez.
Overstatements of champion and greatness aside, Gomez is the kind of fighter who brings it. No matter that he was blown out in five rounds against Miguel Cotto in 2008, the guy comes to fight and is now on a five-fight winning streak with a good win over Jesus Soto Karass and the shell that houses Jose Luis Castillo’s soul among them. Seeing the two fighters face off, the size difference is nominal. And unlike Rhodes, Gomez is barely 30, has some miles but not too many, and shows a willingness to fight even in losing situations.
“From the first second I heard about this fight, I have been in the gym. This road I have been on has been too hard to take anything for granted at this point,” said Gomez, who admitted he knew Golden Boy picked him because of a perceived weakness. "I am going to ruin all of [Golden Boy Promotions’ and Alvarez’s] plans. I am going to unleash this beast that is within me.”
Gomez followed that up with some freestyle rap that ended with a warning to Alvarez, “You better f**king watch me.”
Alvarez seemed nonplussed by the rap and the warning.
"I don’t like to talk too much, so I’ll keep it short. Everyone here knows the Mexican saying ’A dog that barks does not bite.’ On September 17, Alfonso Gomez will know who ‘Canelo’ is,” said Alvarez. “I do my talking with my fists in the ring because I am a man, not a clown. I’m going to show this kid who ‘Canelo’ is.”
Of that, the Golden Boy matchmakers have little doubt. Gomez has 12 knockouts in 23 wins and will be fighting around 154 pounds for the first time, if you don’t count his August 2009 meeting with Raul Munoz, coming in at 152¼. It will be a long time coming before an opponent shows “Canelo” who he really is.
“Thanks to my preparation, I have never been faced with those situations,” said Alvarez regarding Gomez’s claim that “Canelo” has never faced adversity. “I am going to prepare how I do for all my fights and if I see adversity, I will be ready for it. I need to be ready.”
There are still questions about Alvarez. How will he handle a speedy fighter? How will he handle a puncher or handle a fighter in his prime? Alvarez seems to understand there are still questions and hopes to answer them.
“I have to correct some things,” he said. “The last fight with Rhodes, I saw some things I didn’t like. I know I have to correct them but I am young. Like when I throw my right hand, the other hand moves from my chin. They are small things but I need to correct them.”
Will Gomez be the one to expose those flaws or will he be just another guy lined up for Alvarez to look good against as “Canelo” develops as a fighter, builds as a draw and prepares to take on the younger, stronger, fresher names at junior middleweight and beyond? Something tells me it’s the latter. 
You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.


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