Canelo Alvarez Fighting for Fans to See Past His Loud Red Hair
He looks like a bulked-up Weasley, a redheaded boxer who brings good looks and hard punches to the ring. The only thing people should worry about is if he has the talent to do the unthinkable.
First, you will have to look past Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's hair.
Grantland's Jay Kaspian Kang and Deadspin's Eric Nusbaum attempted to do just that: introduce the world to a boxer who is careful with his interviews and elusive outside his bigger-than-life persona crafted by his handlers.
Outside his near perfect record and his hard punches the one thing that strikes fans is that loud head of hair, and they rarely take the time to move past it.
It makes sense, because a Mexican with red hair draws the eye, especially one whose chiseled looks make him a fan favorite well outside his native country.
He is Ron Weasley with knock-down power or Blake Griffin with tremendous head movement. After that, what you get you will have to extrapolate from fight tape.
As Kang offers, you pretty much have to lead with hair, because the words are scarce.
For 15 minutes, I asked Canelo a list of questions through a translator. Canelo stared ahead into space, waiting for his oldest brother to tell a joke, any joke, which he unfailingly found hilarious.
Between jokes, Canelo ate his eggs, slowly and methodically, one of those weird eaters who does not compromise his posture while at the table so that every fork's journey from the plate to the mouth has to be executed with exact precision.
A boxer who is so entertaining for his willingness to mix it up in the ring rarely offers anything outside of it, a stark contrast to Floyd Mayweather Jr. who is more than happy to speak his mind up until the bell rings.
The most telling part of a fantastic column might be the excerpt that follows.
Getting nowhere, I just tossed out the questions I never expected to get answered. "Canelo, how much of your success do you attribute to Televisa? How do you respond to the ongoing criticism here in Mexico that you are a media creation, a TV idol?"
His eyes narrowed and he finally looked away from his brothers, although not directly at me. Instead, he fixed his gaze on a spot on the ground and muttered his answer to the translator.
"What am I supposed to do?" the translator relayed. "A fighter has to be on television, right? How can I fight on television without being on television?"
With pay-per-view buys on the line, boxing has become more about what you offer when you step on the other side of the rope.
Kang quotes beloved boxer Julio Cesar Chavez, who touched upon that very thing, via Boxing Scene. "I think Canelo has the talent, the skills, the power, and he is on his way up, but [what] I truly believe — and I always say things the way I think — is that at the moment you guys at Televisa have created a monster by way of publicity."
Nusbaum, in his piece for Deadspin, spoke with Alvarez's brother Rigo who was initially shocked to realize how talented his brother was at a young age.
I didn't have the slightest idea that hidden under that red hair there was an enormous talent.
We put on the gloves, started to box, and when I began to see how he defended himself, how he moved his hands, his eyes, the way he began to throw punches with that courage, I swear it surprised me. And I said, 'God, I think this is a gift you've given to our family.
He is stout and methodical to a point that some might call him plodding. He might not tap dance around the ring, and can't dance a lick, according to Kang, but there is a reason he is garnering such attention.
Try as he might, Nusbaum was rebuffed when he asked for an interview with the 23-year-old boxer. As he writes, trying to find some truth in the man behind the myth is pointless at this point.
The outward-facing Canelo is not a personality so much as a sum of his marketing; he exists in flesh and blood, but to most people in Mexico he is a character on television and in tabloids, a vessel for collective pride and anxiety.
For the moment, fans flock to Las Vegas for the latest boxer who promises to bring down a star who remains undefeated.
Even his victories give some pause. Take his five-round TKO on Josesito Lopez last September—a seemingly woozy Lopez was still able to connect on solid punches in the fifth and deciding round.
Where Mayweather is elusive in the ring and available to everyone with a microphone outside, Alvarez is the polar opposite.
Still, even Alvarez's apparent faults make his fights so captivating. While Mayweather fans marvel at 12 rounds of the boxer out-pointing his opponents, Alvarez faithful wonder at the offensive prowess of a vicious puncher who delivers the entertainment when it matters.
But isn't that all the sport has become, hyping boxers into caricatures over their real counterparts? Mayweather has transformed himself into a polarizing figure who demands PPV buys from people who love to see him win or would love to see him fall.
For Alvarez, the sentiment is similar. Instead of money and boastful smack talk, it starts with the hair and ends with his elusive interviews, garnering a mystery reporters and fans would love to crack.
We come back to that red hair, something so trivial in the grand scheme of things, but it rests comfortably next to the myriad antics Mayweather offers.
Many will plunk down sizable chunks of cash to watch these two fight on Saturday. For a good portion of the audience, it won't be because of Alvarez's success at landing punches—something Compubox states he is the most proficient at (42 percent Total Connect)—nor will it be about strategy or talent.
It's about what is being sold.
For the moment, we have the loudmouth versus the bright red hair. That will be enough to get them through the doors, which is all that matters anymore in this sport.
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