From suffering bullying to throwing right hooks: the story of Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez is one of humble beginnings and huge dreams
Saúl Álvarez dreamed of boxing in the major leagues while selling popsicles on the streets of Juanacatlán, Jalisco with his father. He sold fruit drinks in the mornings and traded jabs in José “Chepo” Reynoso’s gym in the afternoons.
He was born on July 18, 1990 in San Agustín, on the outskirts of Guadalajara. He was taught work ethic by his father, and discipline by his brother Rigoberto, who gave Saúl his first gloves at the age of ten.
The neighborhood of San Juan de Dios still remembers the Álvarez Barragán family and their fruit popsicles; but the talented Saúl left his own mark on the Magdaleno Mercado gymnasium where he had his first training sessions. Chepo Reynoso became his coach and continues to accompany Saúl through each new challenge and victory.
Saúl’s fair skin and freckles – inherited from his mother – made him stick out when he was growing up. It’s no secret that Saúl suffered bullying at the hands of schoolmates and local children who nicknamed him “Canelo” (cinnamon-colored). But by writing his own story in the ring, Canelo turned the name they’d given him into a symbol of strength.
Shortly after turning 15, he made his professional debut in the Chololo Larios Arena in Tonalá. On October 29, 2005, spectators first bore witness to Álvarez’s flawless fighting style. He beat Abraham González by TKO in the fourth round: a harbinger of the flood of victories to come.
From the very start, Canelo was up against opponents who were more muscular than him, and up to ten years older. But that didn’t hold him back. 11 of his 13 victories were achieved by knockout. Álvarez won the Jalisco middleweight title in 2006.
When Canelo steps into the ring, tickets are guaranteed to sell out.
Much has been said about Saúl Álvarez’s boxing style: that he knows how to defend himself from onslaughts; that he’s forceful in attack; that his greatest talent is for counterattacking. And of course, there’s the eternal debate of whether a Mexican boxing style exists and if he represents it. But there’s one adjective that appears in every professional review and fan discussion: thrilling. Canelo is a thrilling fighter to watch.
Álvarez is a media star and wherever he dons his gloves, tickets are guaranteed to sell out.
In 2008, he prevailed against Carlos Adán Jerez, as well as Tony “Mazatleco” Fitch. He ended the year by winning his first belt from the FEDECENTRO World Boxing Association by defeating Gabriel Martínez. In 2010, he was victorious against José Miguel Cotto. His story was being written, and this was just the beginning.
Leaving school to focus on boxing involved sacrifices but he reaped the rewards. At the age of 21, he won the World Boxing Council (WBC) middleweight title in a courageous fight against Matthew “Magic” Hatton. He defended this title against Ryan Rhodes, and went on to claim victories against Alfonso Gómez and former world champion Kermit Cintron.
Saúl defended his WBC belt against “Sugar” Shane Mosley, and won a resounding victory against Austin Trout, former WBA super welterweight world champion.
In 2016, Álvarez ended the year with his fourth WBO world champion belt.
Victory wouldn’t taste as sweet without some moments of struggle along the way. During his career, Canelo has emerged triumphant from 51 of 54 fights. He has drawn two and lost just one. 35 of his victories have been through KO or TKO.
When Saúl steps into the ring, a spectacle is ensured, one well worth watching live and up close. His fights pack out the world’s greatest arenas, including the T-Mobile Arena in Vegas and New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Álvarez’s performances never disappoint. In 2015, he was awarded the WBA knockout of the year award for his win against James “Mandingo Warrior” Kirkland in Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
One year later, 51,000 spectators were at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas to see Canelo obtain his fourth world champion belt, after knocking out Britain’s Liam Smith in the ninth round.
His fights all sell out and his victories are celebrated all over the world.
Canelo is the current world middleweight champion and Super WBA, WBC, WBC, IBO, and Ring magazine title holder
One of his most exciting fights was on May 7, 2017. In this highly-anticipated duel between two Mexican fighters – Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez and Julio César Chávez Jr – the man from Jalisco blew his opponent away by the unanimous decision of the judges.
All those years of training and sacrifice were rewarded in one of 2017’s most exciting fights: Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin and Saúl Álvarez faced off to compete for the WBA, WBC and IBF titles. That match ended in a draw. But Álvarez beat Golovkin in the rematch one year later, silencing the doubters.
Saúl ended 2018 on a high. He is the current Super WBA, WBC, IBO and Ring world middleweight champion. He is also the highest paid athlete in history, thanks to a multi- million contract with DAZN, the live sports streaming service.
But there’s much more to his story than generating millions of dollars in ticket sales, sponsorships, bets, and pay-per-view. Outside the ring, Saúl is known for his impeccable style, his charisma, his fondness for childhood memories, and his Mexican roots.