How Do You Sell a Product like “Canelo”?
By Gabriel Montoya, MaxBoxing (Nov 22, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor, Doghouse Boxing)
Photo: Saul Alvarez
“He’s one of boxing’s brightest stars at just 21. He is becoming the next icon.”
-Oscar De La Hoya
November 2011
If men could couple and bear fruit and Brett Favre and James Dean had a lovechild in Mexico, his name would be “Canelo.” Their golden locks would embrace to become red in the oppressive Mexican heat yet their pale Southern and Midwestern visages would remain fair while freckled by the sun. Their drive to innovate and dominate on a physical and artistic level would of course motivate their child to take up the ultimate individual sport of boxing. His legion of fans would grow because, like his fathers, “Canelo” would get noticed at a young age. His fans would love him inexplicably, no matter if he got rocked in Vegas by a tiny journeyman whose better genetic material was only to be found in his brother, Miguel. They wouldn’t care that “Canelo” had won his title against Europe’s answer to the average Midwestern white guy. At a catchweight. No, instead, his fans would point to the brilliant mandatory defense against an older Brit. And how could they forget his dismantling of the dreaded two-headed boxing monster known only as “Baldomir Gomez”? They couldn’t; that’s how. No, if men could couple and bear fruit and Brett Favre and James Dean had a lovechild named “Canelo” in Mexico and he became a boxer, sometime around the age of 21, his icon of a co-promoter would be crowning him an icon-in-waiting. Time would tell which father’s staying power, in both time and legacy, the boy would possess.
This is not to say that all because young Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is not popular, he would not be a talented warrior. A potentially high boxing I.Q. lurks within the young man. Coupled with a stellar work ethic by all accounts, the kid could really develop into something. His team certainly believes that and he appears to as well.
“I’ve been working at sitting down on my punches a little more and being a little more stable in my footwork. Also working on my head movement,” Alvarez would be fond of saying. “I look at a lot of videos and am working at correcting mistakes I’ve done in the past.”
Depending on the night, you would in fact see improvement.
For all that he would be at age 21, there is one thing Alvarez would not be: a fighter able who can face the world- as his WBC junior middleweight title belt boasts. Golden Boy, his co-promoter, understands this [Writer’s note: Alvarez runs his own “promotional company,” Canelo Promotions. It is not licensed in Nevada but from what I understand, they do shows in Mexico. This is unconfirmed as of press time but his company does have Nobu Ishida under its banner- which IS confirmed]. They also promote a 27-year-old junior middleweight fighter named James Kirkland. Physically primed, very dangerous and unpredictable, Kirkland is a far cry from the Euro-Midwesterners and the Fredos of the world. Naturally, Golden Boy is looking for Kirkland to fight maybe Austin Trout or Cornelius Bundrage early next year. They have titles too, so it makes business and promotional sense to wait and see if Kirkland can make an obviously pay-per-view-worthy unification bout which is better for his company. Y’ know, go make James do the hard part in picking up the other two belts while redeeming his name among boxing fans while bringing casual fans back to the sport with his exciting go-for-broke style? In the meantime, “Canelo” cruises and croons his way to boxing immortality by racking up defenses.
So what do you do with the young Alvarez as he grows up to be a PPV legend? Well, Step One is already taken care of. Alvarez was maneuvered into a belt by Golden Boy Promotions. He fought Matthew Hatton, Ricky’s equally game but less talented brother- also a natural welterweight. Golden Boy and Hatton Promotions, run by the retired former junior welter champ, agreed to a catchweight of 150 pounds. Alvarez missed the contracted weight nonetheless. Still, he fought for the title and won it outright. Now “Canelo” is considered the youngest man to ever win a major belt at 154, though Fernando Vargas still holds that distinction in many fans’ eyes.
What that belt would become is a shield. The WBC can rank and funnel mandatories to Alvarez as he matured. The real play would ultimately be a shot at his built-in rival, silver-spooner extraordinaire Julio Cesar “Hit me, Baby, One More Time” Chavez Jr. somewhere between 154 and 200 pounds…give or take a pound.
While the Chavez Jr. fight simmers and Kirkland embarks on his journey, I’d match Alvarez often and step it up to a reasonable threat level every time. I might say, fight Alvarez for the fourth time this year live from the Monumental Plaza de Toros on Saturday, November 26. I’d do it live on HBO again, right there in Mexico City against Kermit “The Killer” Cintron. He’s perfect. Not exactly a great 154-pounder but a former welterweight titleholder and the guy who took away Alfredo Angulo’s “0.” His vaunted power at 147 didn’t make it onto the plane when Cintron arrived at junior middleweight so that makes him perceptually dangerous.
In introducing the fight, De La Hoya might say something like, “Cintron is a former World Champion and fought some of the greats in the game- Sergio Martinez, Antonio Margarito, Paul Williams and Alfredo Angulo” and it would be true. Cintron did fight Antonio Margarito, twice even, losing both times by stoppage (doing better in the rematch). Cintron did in fact win a belt though it was against a guy named Mark Suarez who you have never heard of and won’t again unless you read this article twice. The Martinez fight did happen. However, if I was marketing this particular fight, I’d leave out the knockout that wasn’t a knockout and the terrible scorecards that led to a draw. I’d talk up the Angulo fight until the sun came up. The Williams fight conversations would take place around 7 AM and would go something like this:
“Tell us your thoughts on the Williams-Cintron fight. Why does that fight experience point to a victory for the challenger here, Oscar?”
“I’m sorry?”
“The Williams-Cintron fight? Your thoughts?”
“I’m sorry. I’m not understanding you. Have you met ‘Canelo’? Max Kellerman and Roy Jones Jr. love his punch.”  
[Editor’s note: The aforementioned possibility is fully plausible. This indeed is an Oscar-ism.]
“Tell me about how ‘Canelo’ is going to win.”
Alvarez would jump in on cue and respond, “We had a great training camp in Mexico City and now I’m ready to go. I just have to make weight on Friday.” Succinct, focused and to the point. Beethoven.
“‘Canelo’ is ready for the tough challengers, for all those who try to derail the “Canelo Express,” De La Hoya would proclaim, the imaginary gauntlet echoing harmlessly off the conference call floor.  
If were helping to build Alvarez, I would be certain to temper the feverish public’s excitement with logic. I would also make sure to stamp out any idea that the win on Saturday night was preordained in any way.
“That’s not correct, that we picked Cintron because we feel he’s past his prime,” Eric Gomez, chief matchmaker for Golden Boy might say. “We picked him because he’s the next step in ‘Canelo’s’ development and he’s one of the top fighters in the world and it’s time to face these top fighters. So by no means did we pick him because we feel he’s weak or he’s done or he sucks. Kermit Cintron is a legitimate, world title-type fighter and he deserves to be on this kind of stage.”
“I’m here and ready. We had a great training camp,” Alvarez would intone out of the ensuing silence, hammering home the point on the foreheads of every writer within a two million-mile radius. “Now I just have to worry about making weight but I’m ready for Cintron.”
All the kid is worried about is the weight. That’s one for the books.
I’d make certain Alvarez looked back at his past victories with equal parts pride and scrutiny.
 “I felt good in the Alfonso Gomez fight. I didn’t stick to my game plan but still won,” would be good to say. It shows both adaptability and a dominance to come. “But Cintron is bigger and stronger and he’s a better fighter than Gomez. I’m not thinking about making a statement. I’m just going to do my job.”
Alvarez just does his job. Alvarez goes home. It’s genius in its own simplistic yet badass way.
Every great hero must undergo certain rites of passage. As a Mexican boxer, before he passes the PPV buys test, Alvarez must first defeat a dangerous Puerto Rican, the mark of any great Mexican warrior. But before I gave Alvarez someone truly dangerous like a Miguel Cotto, I’d get his feet wet with a guy like Cintron, who has always been a notch below Cotto in his career. It also doesn’t help Cintron that he didn’t look so hot in his last couple/few fights. Or maybe it did help depending on whose side you are looking from. In any case, “Kid Canelo” can add another memory to his growing Mexican legend.
“Well, yes, I am motivated but more than anything, I’m motivated by the level of competition that Kermit brings. He’s a tough fighter but I’ve prepared well,” Canelo would say, tossing aside the notion that this most important test means anything to him.
If I was selling “Canelo” to the world, I’d remember that, above all, two things must happen. First, at all times, ignore any sort of controversy that allegedly happens outside the ring. Don’t mention, say, a fight you allegedly had with a fellow boxer you outweigh by, like, 50 pounds. Above all, for this whole thing to work, for Mexico, America, HBO PPV, Brett Favre and James Dean, their struggles and glories must bear the sweet fruit of victory.
“I just have to win,” this red-headed (step)child/God of Winning would be fond of saying. “I don’t worry about all that other stuff.”

More of Gabriel's recent work:
Chavez, Jr Stops Manfredo, Jr Gabriel Montoya
Boxing Trainer Manny Robles Prepares his Matadors to Take on the World Gabriel Montoya

You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

* Special Thanks To MaxBoxing.

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