When Saul "Canelo" Alvarez walks into the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night, March 8, in Las Vegas, the boxing world will be meeting a brand-new fighter for the first time. In his last bout, the old Alvarez, the undefeated young prospect, the marketing dynamo who had never tasted defeat, left the ring with his eyes cast down—a look of one-half despair and one-half disbelief etched on his face.
When a man loses for the first time there are two paths he can follow. It can become a habit, an acceptable outcome barely worth noting if not watched carefully and kept in check. Or, in the greats, it can breed new toughness, smarter training and more realistic expectations.
Which path will Canelo take? Will the most popular young fighter in Mexico rebound from his first setback? Or will Alfredo Angulo take heart from Floyd Mayweather's demonstration of Canelo's essential humanity?
Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions are betting fans will be willing to pay big bucks to find out.
It's those fans—the ones chanting his name, buying his merchandise and making him one of the most marketable fighters in the world—who drive Canelo to greatness. They've made him a commodity worth nurturing and protecting, one worth the trouble Golden Boy has gone through to mold him into a star.
And, he said at a pre-fight press appearance which, like most of the fight's hoopla, was broadcast live to the world via the Internet, it's the fans who continue to drive him forward.
"Between the fans, my family and myself, I'm always motivated for my fights," Canelo said. "The support I get has always motivated me. I fight for them, on behalf of them. Everything I have is because of the fans. I know I'm young and they have so much faith in me. I can just be who I am and continue to work as hard as I can."
Across the ring will be a man who hasn't walked the same easy road to success.
For Angulo, obstacles have been a way of life—none bigger than his stay at a detention center after an immigration dispute. Now safely, and legally, in America, he's living the American dream, fighting on the biggest stage in the most important bout of his life.
"I'm ready to chase him or fight him like a true Mexican warrior," Angulo told the press. "I plan to test him like he's never been tested before. I don't think anyone has ever hit Canelo as hard as I'm going to hit him."
Can Canelo withstand the hard-charging Angulo? Was his confidence shattered by Mayweather? Or will his speed, youth and skill prove too much for a fighter with more guts than talent?
We checked in with our staff of boxing experts to get their takes. Canelo or Angulo?
Let us know what you think in the comments.