Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s baby face hides behind a stubbly beard now, signaling growth or maturity.
Perhaps a bit of both.
Because, at age 28, he’s no longer the boxer who was schooled in 2013 in his Las Vegas megafight debut by Floyd Mayweather Jr. With two world titles now and a fan base that extends well beyond the Mexican border, he’s what Mayweather was on that fateful September night.
The face of boxing. Inside and outside the ring.
Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 knockouts) is ready to test his talent again Saturday — during Cinco de Mayo weekend — at T-Mobile Arena against Daniel Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs) with the unified middleweight world championship on the line. The Mexican superstar is arguably the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter and oozes confidence reserved for only the best of the best.
He hasn’t so much reached the apex of boxing.
He’s become it.
“With him being the face of boxing, all of the world knows him as the best,” said Jacobs, the IBF champion. “Even if they don’t consider him the best, he’s one of the best, and people support him because he’s the face.”
Since losing to Mayweather, Alvarez has proved to be just that — posting a 9-0-1 record that includes signature victories over Miguel Cotto, Liam Smith, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Gennady Golovkin.
In October, the streaming platform DAZN signed Alvarez to an 11-fight deal valued at $365 million, signaling an unprecedented investment in his name and brand, and a commitment to deviating from the status quo of pay-per-view.
“People follow the fighter. The fact that Canelo is the man right now, they follow him wherever he goes,” said Alvarez’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions. “People are going to follow him and watch. The fact that we have this amazing platform that’s subscription based, people are going to be watching. DAZN is banking on the best fights possible.”
It’s also banking on Alvarez.
But the WBC and WBA champion is unfazed by the money, attention and contract, instead focusing on what propelled him to this point: fighting in the best fights and beating the best opponents.
Alvarez co-starred with Jacobs in “40 Days,” a docuseries co-produced by LeBron James about the lead-up to their title fight, but wouldn’t break training camp to meet the four-time NBA MVP. He spoke with certainty about defeating Jacobs throughout the week, but opted against insulting his opponent in favor of cordial promotion.
“I do my thing. I concentrate, I work hard, and things unfold and fall into place,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “Like the contract. Like the opponents. Like everything that happens. It’s just me continuing to do my thing.”
He’s the biggest draw in Las Vegas and on TV, be it pay-per-view or DAZN.
And it’s possible he’s just getting started.
“All eyes are on him. All the pressure is on him, and everybody wants to fight him,” De La Hoya said. “But he’s still young. He’s not at the end of his career. I think this fight here, there’s a lot to lose. But he’s a guy who knows how to handle it.”
Who: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs) vs. Daniel Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs) for the WBA, WBC and IBF middleweight titles
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: T-Mobile Arena
TV: DAZN (streaming)
Odds: Alvarez -500; Jacobs +375 (Westgate)