Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez was only three years old when Erik Morales made his professional debut. Morales would go on to become one of the best ever in the storied history of Mexican boxing. In fact, Alvarez (37-0-1) had only fought eleven times when ESPN named Morales the #49 boxer in the history of the sport.
Somewhat amazingly, both men will be fighting on the pay-per-view undercard of the bout between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Victor Ortiz.
Since his late 2007 debut, the 21-year-old Alvarez has staked a claim as one of the brightest prospects (if you can call a man with 38 fights a prospect) in boxing. With a solid fanbase in Mexico and constant exposure via HBO, he is already establishing himself as a man who can draw. The combination of his aggressive, action fighter style and his appearance (Alvarez has pale skin, freckles and red hair) have made him hard for fans to forget.
What's even better, "Canelo" (Spanish for "cinnamon") appears to have his head on straight. In an individual sport like boxing, ego and and a sense of entitlement can destroy a young career faster than eating a clean left hook. When talking to ESPN L.A., Alvarez explained that while he wants to fight the best, he will do whatever his promoter tells him until that time comes:
"Let me be very honest, I prepare for whoever my promoter wants me to fight. I can fight anyone," Alvarez said. "I can fight the devil if you want me to. I'm ready for whomever. There's no rush, I'll just fight whoever my promoter wants me to fight."
At his young age it only makes sense to be patient, no matter how many wins he has already managed to rack up.
But, make no mistake, Alvarez wants to be the best. From the same ESPN article:
"I think I should be headlining my own cards," Alvarez said. "I want to be great. I want everybody to remember me. When they think of boxing I want them to think of Canelo and when they write the history of boxing I want them to write Canelo in big, bold letters."
While Alvarez's fight with former The Contender cast member Alfonso Gomez will be the featured undercard attraction on Saturday's pay-per-view, it will be the main event of a card separate from Mayweather/Ortiz. The Alvarez/Gomez fight is being held in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
On the other side of the age coin this Saturday is Morales, now 35. Morales was the last man to ever defeat Manny Pacquiao, winning a decision in 2005, but went on to lose his next four fights. Despite many fans feeling that Morales' days as a relevant fighter were done.
While wins in his next three fights over less than elite competition weren't enough to change that, his thrilling war with Marcos Maidana just might have been. Maidana was the heavy favorite (and the bigger man) that night. Morales was battered early and fought the rest of the fight with a badly swollen eye, refusing to back down and winning enough rounds to earn a 114-114 draw on one judge's scorecard. Despite losing the majority decision, the fight proved that "El Terrible" still has a little left in the tank.
Morales will be looking to pick up a win over solid prospect Pablo Cesar Cano (22-0-1, 17 KO) on the Mayweather vs. Ortiz undercard. Cano will enter the ring as a sizable underdog, but Scott Christ reminds why this is not a fight that should be overlooked:
But do keep in mind that the Erik Morales we saw battle Marcos Maidana tooth-and-nail in April is not the Morales we saw in his earlier fights on this comeback quest for a world title in a fourth weight class. Morales fought up to Maidana, and I guess you can argue fought down to some others, including Willie Limond and Jose Alfaro. A Cano win over Morales would be up there for Upset of the Year, but I have no doubt he'll give a great effort. It will come down to how much talent he has, and how good Morales is on Saturday.
Win or lose, no one can take away the amazing achievements of Morales in his career. While one can look back at the careers of men like Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez and Marco Antonio Barrera and then look at a guy like "Canelo" Alvarez and feel somewhat that the future has some shot of being as bright as the past.