The man who has been at Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s side throughout his preparation for the biggest fight of his career will not be at his side Saturday.
Oscar De La Hoya, the president of Golden Boy Promotions who promotes Alvarez, is back in rehab for substance abuse and will miss the junior middleweight title fight between Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather Jr. at the MGM Grand Garden.
“I will not be at the fight this Saturday to cheer Canelo to victory since I have voluntarily checked myself into a treatment facility,” De La Hoya said Tuesday in a statement released by Golden Boy. “I explained this Canelo, and he understood that my health and long-term recovery from my disease must come first.”
Alvarez said the news serves as extra motivation in his quest to become the first person to beat Mayweather as a professional.
“I understood when I talked to him, and I support him in his great battle,” Alvarez said Tuesday at the MGM. “He will win his battle, and I will win my battle.”
Golden Boy chief executive officer Richard Schaefer said he supported De La Hoya’s decision.
“The timing isn’t the best, but I’m happy Oscar is going to get the help he needs,” Schaefer said. “If you have the issues he’s dealing with, you don’t wait a week or two. This is an illness that demands an immediate response.
“Oscar needs to focus on himself; it’s about his health and his family. The promotion will continue on. Canelo will be ready to win on Saturday.”
De La Hoya was part of the 10-city promotional tour in June to hype the fight. He still was selling it last week, predicting that Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 knockouts) would knock out Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs).
“He knows what he’s doing,” De La Hoya said of Alvarez last week on a conference call. “He’s a fighter that has a game plan that is in the best shape of his life. People have hope, and people strongly feel that Mayweather is going to get beat.”
But De La Hoya now is dealing again with his own personal fight. In May 2011, he checked into a rehab facility for alcohol and cocaine addiction. Even Mayweather, his nemesis over the years, was sad to hear that De La Hoya had relapsed.
“I wish Oscar nothing but the best,” Mayweather said. “I hope he pulls through like a champion.”
For Alvarez to have a chance to defeat Mayweather, he can’t let this latest news become a distraction. And he says he won’t.
“I’m completely focused on the fight,” he said. “Oscar told me in the press tour to fight with a cold frame of mind and not let anything bother me.”
As he prepares for Mayweather, Alvarez received advice from another former world champion — Mike Tyson. The two visited Tuesday morning, and Alvarez held a framed photo of them.
“He told me, ‘Go attack him,’” Alvarez said.
Alvarez weighed 153 pounds Tuesday and said he’ll have no problem making the catch-weight limit of 152. He thought the Mayweather camp was trying to play mind games when it insisted he fight at an even lighter weight before settling on 152.
“They thought we were stupid,” he said. “But we were never going to fight (Mayweather) at 147. “They think they have an advantage because it’s 2 pounds less. But it won’t matter.”
Alvarez said he’s not surprised the interest surrounding the fight continues to grow.
“It’s the right time,” he said. “People asked for it, and everything is aligned for it to be a big night.
“I always envisioned it being this big a fight. I knew that if I wanted to be the best, I had to fight the best, and that’s what has happened.”
NOTES — Mayweather’s fight-night ensembles since his 2006 bout against Carlos Baldomir are on display in the MGM Grand’s lobby this week. The exhibit is located across from the registration desk. … Mayweather remains a minus-240 betting favorite at the MGM Resorts sports books. Alvarez is plus-200. … The WBC displayed a solid gold belt for the winner that was made exclusively for this fight. The belt reportedly includes 7 pounds of gold. Alvarez is the WBC junior middleweight champion, and Mayweather owns the WBA version of the title.