SAN DIEGO — Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was in the midst of a shadowboxing warmup drill Friday when the beat to one of his favorite songs began to play.
Alvarez quickly turned his head and started to nod along to the common ’80s sound before the lyrics hit.
“If you would have always told me the truth,” Alvarez shouted in Spanish.
That was the opening line to Luis Miguel’s 1987 Latin pop song “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar (Now You Can March)” — a song about catching a significant other in a web of cheating lies and starting the process of moving forward.
Luis Miguel’s Dusty Springfield sample of “I Only Want to Be With You” as the first song on Alvarez’s Spotify playlist to begin his workout Friday is fitting, but it’s unclear in what way.
Is the Mexican boxing superstar the one lying about cheating? Or is he the one moving forward from an unfortunate mishap?
Alvarez, 28, is adamant about being the latter. He’s in Luis Miguel’s role. Time to march forward.
Alvarez’s credibility was put into question March 5 when his promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, said in a release that its star boxer had failed two drug tests with the banned substance Clenbuterol.
That led to Alvarez withdrawing from his May 5 rematch against Gennady Golovkin at T-Mobile Arena and a six-month suspension from the Nevada Athletic Commission that ends next month.
Golden Boy Promotions said the trace levels of Clenbuterol were consistent with meat contamination that has affected many athletes in Mexico.
Alvarez vowed to cooperate with the commission’s investigation. He met with commission executive director Bob Bennett in Las Vegas, answering every question, submitting blood and urine samples, and even taking a hair follicle drug test. All came back clean.
But Alvarez also said the truth will prevail from this embarrassing situation. That’s the tricky part.
There’s no surefire way of proving Alvarez’s innocence. The former two-division champion says eating steaks and tacos from street vendors in his home country of Mexico triggered the positive tests.
It’s up to the individual whether to believe him.
“The commission knows what happened,” Alvarez said. “They are confident that it wasn’t intentional, and that’s why they gave me this short punishment. They know.”
Alvarez is attempting to turn the page by training for his rescheduled rematch with Golovkin on Sept. 15 at T-Mobile Arena.
His attempt at moving forward? Keeping the routine the same inside his hidden gym in Southern California.
Alvarez continued to sing during the workout like he’s always done.
Jose “Chepo” Reynoso, Alvarez’s manager and coach, still was in charge of the stopwatch.
Eddy Reynoso, Chepo’s son and Alvarez’s lead trainer, was still calling the shots inside the ring.
The only change was the sleeve Alvarez was wearing over his right knee that covered the two circle-shaped scars he got from surgery in April to remove a cyst.
Alvarez is acting like nothing has changed, but the reality is, his boxing life was altered when he received a phone call from Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez in February.
Gomez called Alvarez and asked him to stay calm before he delivered the bad news.
A shocked Alvarez said it was a mistake. He reminded Gomez that he had never tested positive.
“I told him, ‘Look, let’s hope for the best,’” Gomez recalled. “Obviously, this was an accident. This was a mistake. Let us keep working with the commission.”
Gomez said initially he wasn’t concerned. He dealt with Clenbuterol and contaminated meat situations before with Mexican fighters Erik Morales and Francisco Vargas. The New York commission allowed Morales to fight Danny Garcia, and the California commission cleared Vargas before he fought Orlando Salido.
The rules were different in Nevada. A suspension of one year or six months was coming for Alvarez regardless whether it was intentional or not.
It was an embarrassing moment for Golden Boy Promotions for this to happen a third time and cause cancellation of the megabout.
“It was a learning process for all of us,” Gomez said. “For Canelo not being allowed to fight was very hard for us.”
It’s hard to fathom a mistake like this could occur to a boxer of this magnitude and whose two most important people were former longtime butchers.
Eddy and Jose Reynoso for many years worked at meat markets before becoming full-time trainers. Eddy Reynoso called it negligence and never assumed it could happen to Alvarez.
“It’s an accident, things like this happen in Mexico,” he said. “In reality, it was a small negligence because you start living a normal life … but it could happen to anyone, and it has happened to many athletes in Mexico.”
Jose Reynoso has known Alvarez since his preteen years. Not for a second would he let himself believe Alvarez was looking for a competitive edge with banned substances.
“I was disappointed, but I know Saul and I know he’s a clean man,” Jose Reynoso said. “He’s always been, and if there’s anyone who truly knows him, it’s me.”
What’s Alvarez — the 15th highest-paid athlete on Forbes’ 2018 list — doing eating a lower grade of meat? That’s a question many nonbelievers have asked.
“I can stop in a corner and eat tacos,” Alvarez said. “I can stop at any stand or any location and eat tacos. Just because I have money doesn’t mean I can’t stop at certain spots to eat.
“I’m a regular person, and I’m a person who grew up poor, and I can’t change just because I have money.”
But Alvarez said he’ll be more careful in the future by asking questions. He doesn’t have plans to give up beef — a staple in Mexican eating habits.
“It’s the way of life in Mexico,” Gomez said. “The people who are saying that are the people who don’t live in Mexico. If you look at all the stories in the Mexican press, (Mexican athletes) have all supported Canelo because they live there, they know what it’s like.
“You can be walking down the street with your girlfriend or your wife and you see a taco stand in the corner, you buy tacos, that’s the way of life in Mexico. Everybody does it. I’ve done it.”
Alvarez understands this black eye on his career will never fully go away, but a dominant victory over Golovkin with no failed tests before or after the rematch could go a long way to turning the page.
“No one will be talking about this after Sept. 15,” Alvarez said. “I will win.”
When: Sept. 15
Where: T-Mobile Arena
TV: HBO pay per view