Saul "Canelo" Alvarez throws a punch against Shane Mosley in… (Isaac Brekken / Associated…)
Whether it leads to one of boxing's great careers remains a point of intrigue, but the boldness Saul "Canelo" Alvarez carries into the ring is something the sport doesn't often witness from a 22-year-old.
"It speaks volumes that at 22 — this fighter who is Mexico's favorite champion and boxing's next superstar — he wants to fight the very best out there," Alvarez's promoter and mentor Oscar De La Hoya said.
Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 knockouts) won the World Boxing Council super-welterweight title in March 2011, and he'll defend his belt for the sixth time Saturday night against World Boxing Assn. champion Austin Trout (26-0, 14 KOs) at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
A crowd nearing 40,000 is expected for the Showtime-televised bout that could raise Alvarez's star to stratospheric levels.
In the 27-year-old Trout, Alvarez will be facing a safety-first boxing craftsman who in December thoroughly defeated veteran Miguel Cotto by a lopsided decision in Madison Square Garden — effectively Cotto's home arena.
Cotto was supposed to be up next for Alvarez, who was ringside for the Trout-Cotto bout. For the second time in two years, Trout spoiled Alvarez's plans. In 2011, southpaw Trout went to Mexico and dominated Alvarez's older brother, Rigoberto, also by unanimous decision.
In the weeks after Trout's dismantling of Cotto, some close to Alvarez, including promoter Richard Schaefer, advised the Mexican star to avoid jumping into a risky bout against a far lesser-known opponent who was capable of winning.
"We chose Trout because he beat Cotto and he defeated my older brother," Alvarez told The Times last week at his Santa Monica gym. "This is something personal for myself. Trout was ideal, because of the name and because he's the other champion.
"This is a real fight. This is boxing. That's why I'm preparing so well physically and mentally."
Alvarez, the youngest of seven boxing brothers, said he seethes when recalling how Trout laughed in the ring at the ease at which he beat Rigoberto Alvarez, who struggled against the speedier champion.
Those closest to Alvarez, including his brother Ricardo, said Canelo in selecting Trout is showing the same determination the redhead displayed while growing up in the gym.
"He has a big heart and so much pride," Ricardo Alvarez said of his youngest brother. "He doesn't want anyone messing with him or his family."
While Alvarez trained in the Southern California gym owned by film director Peter Berg, the Carpenters' gentle music and Mexican folk songs typically played.
"He's so poised, so dedicated, very confident," Berg said. "He loves this quote," pointing in the gym to a jersey from former NFL player John Riggins that the running back signed "Humble and fearless always."
Said Canelo: "I love challenges. In boxing, there's a lot of risk. I want this opponent. I'm going to beat him. I truly believe in my ability, my capacity, my hard work. I've trained for everything. Speed, intelligence, power. I trained it all."
And he's taken that attitude even further, standing up at the business table to unbeaten world welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Originally, Alvarez was supposed to fight Trout as the co-main event May 4 along with Mayweather's bout against Robert Guerrero in Las Vegas.
But Alvarez knows his drawing power, and he used that card to press Mayweather to sign a stipulation that if both won May 4 they'd fight each other in September.
"When the time came, Mayweather was giving me yes, no, wait, wait … I couldn't wait too long," Alvarez said. "So I created my own card, which has almost 40,000 people coming."
Mayweather noted this week that he "is a welterweight. We don't know where we'll go from here." Alvarez, Mayweather said, "is a good fighter. My main focus is the guy in front of me, not Canelo."
If Mayweather shies away from him, Canelo said, "That's OK. I'll move on, have my own shows. And you can see the results. I don't have to beg, don't have to be too eager to fight him now."
With Manny Pacquiao, 34, last seen hitting a canvas face first in December and Mayweather, at 36, trying to improve his performance after a tough decision win over Cotto last May, boxing's next superstar could emerge from a Texas ring Saturday.
"You may see a year from now a new pound-for-pound king," said Schaefer. "And he's going to be from Mexico."
Alvarez wants to avoid such talk for now, the way he separates his fight preparation from the increasing cash and fame heading his way.
"Maybe you don't believe, but I'm just focused on the person Austin Trout," Alvarez said. "Nothing else."