Animosity sells in the sport of boxing.
This Saturday’s Cinco de Mayo showdown between two-division world champion Canelo Alvarez and former WBC middleweight world champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has proved as much – selling all 20,048 seats at T-Mobile Arena more than two months before fight night.
The hatred between Alvarez and Chavez Jr. appears to be real. It’s not promotional talk to sell pay per views — the kind where the fighters hug and make up as soon as the final bell rings.
“He’s another one of my 50 opponents,” Alvarez said. “I’ve wanted to rip their heads off; I wanted to beat them; I wanted to them knock them out, but this is a little extra. There’s a little bit more motivation, of course, because of the rivalry.”
There will be no belts on the line Saturday when Alvarez and Chavez Jr. meet at a catch-weight of 164.5 pounds. Just the right to carry the flag of Mexico’s boxing pride.
“That’s why this fight is happening and Saturday night we will see who carries that flag,” Alvarez said Wednesday. “Titles are very important to me but this is above that. This goes above a title, any title. It’s for honor, for pride, and it’s very important for me.”
Alvarez (50-1-1, 34 KOs) is one of boxing’s biggest current stars, while Chavez Jr. hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations following in his legendary father’s footsteps. Chavez Sr. is the most beloved Mexican fighter of all time, but says Saturday night’s bout matches or surpasses any fight he was in.
“I’ve lived many big moments in my life, but this is one of the biggest moments and fights,” Chavez Sr. said. “This fight is consuming Mexico.”
And the fight pitting Mexico’s biggest boxing stars against each other on Cinco de Mayo weekend is promoted by another Mexican boxing legend — Oscar De La Hoya.
“We haven’t had a Mexican showdown on Cinco de Mayo weekend in a very, very long time, and the demand has been incredible,” said De La Hoya, whose Golden Boy Promotions is putting the event on. “These are the types of fights that take you to a whole new level in terms of your boxing abilities inside the ring. It makes you obviously train harder. It gives you that extra motivation. If you want to go run 10 miles today, well, guess what, you’re going to run 11 or 12 because you’re just so amped, because this fight is so personal.”
Alvarez’s dislike for Chavez Jr. stems from multiple failed drug tests throughout the years.
“Well, in the sport, I can’t respect him,” Alvarez said during HBO Sports’ Faceoff With Max Kellerman. “Because for me, personally, he hasn’t done anything. He has shamed his country with what he has done with his career, which he hasn’t handled correctly. He has done many things that have (no) place (in) the sport of boxing. So I can’t respect an athlete like him. I can’t do it. And that’s the truth.”
In 2009 Chavez Jr. tested positive for Furosemide, which is a diuretic commonly used to help cut weight or used as a masking agent for steroids. He then failed a drug test for marijuana in September 2012 and has also struggled making weight for fights throughout his career.
Chavez Jr. (50-2-1, 32 KOs) has called Alvarez out multiple times for dodging a potential fight with Gennady Golovkin.
“The reason we made this fight was because it’s what people wanted to see,” Chavez Jr. said. “I came here to win, not just to fight. Everything has already been said. We’ve all spoken and I’m here to win this great fight.”
Alvarez is a prohibitive favorite entering the fight, currently minus-600 in the sports books (must wager $600 to win $100). Adversely, Chavez Jr. is plus-450.
“All of the support the fans are giving this fight, that’s why I’m extra motivated to give them a good fight,” Alvarez said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make this one of the most historic fights in the history of Mexico.”
By Jesse Granger
Las Vegas Sun