When Saúl ‘Canelo’ Álvarez steps out in front of a sold out Estadio Akron in his home town of Guadalajara on Saturday night to fight John Ryder, it will feel like a full circle moment for the Mexican boxer.
For the first time in 12 years – since his November 2011 victory over Kermit Cintrón in Mexico City – Álvarez will be fighting on home soil and, in his words, returning home as “the best,” as he aims to defend his WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO super middleweight titles.
Since his first professional fight back in 2005, Álvarez has gone on to become one of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers in history and even he is incredulous at what he has accomplished during an illustrious 18-year career.
“I feel very happy to be here, be able to offer this fight to my people, the people who saw me grow from the beginning,” Álvarez tells CNN en Español’s Javier Cardoso in Mexico.
“I am happy and proud to return as the best and to be able to offer them the experience that I’ve been living in other places, that they can experience this with me. It is an honor for me.
“Many things have happened [in my career] for the better and mistakes or not, it has always been for the better. I have achieved many things in my career that I never imagined.
“I imagined the best, but you never imagine until you start to achieve everything and I feel very happy with everything I have been achieving in my career. It’s very hard to believe.”
Álvarez is undoubtedly one of Mexico’s greatest sporting exports.
Standing alongside him, though, is boxing legend Julio César Chávez, who in 1993 sold out the iconic Estadio Azteca for his WBC super lightweight title defense against Greg Haugen.
With more than 130,000 people in the stadium that day, it remains one of the biggest attendances in boxing history.
Now with a stadium sellout of his own – 50,000 fans are expected at the Estadio Akron on Cinco de Mayo weekend – Álvarez says he is “grateful” that he can “give this fight to the people.”
“And, more than anything, to be able to continue making history,” he adds. “It is something that is very motivating for me, for my career and for everyone around me.”
When once he was a young, aspiring boxer looking up to the professional fighters of that day, Álvarez says “it means a lot” to now be the one people are looking up to.
“I started like this,” he says. “I started with dreams, too, seeing others, wanting to be like them and now I am the one who is in that position, so that the children see themselves in me, that it is a motivation.
“I feel very happy and I hope to be a good example for them. I’m proud because, obviously, you imagined the best, but you never imagine the magnitude of what you can achieve, right?”
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Álvarez last fought in September when he retained his belts in the trilogy bout against Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin, which followed his loss to Russia’s Dmitry Bivol in their light heavyweight title clash last May, just the second defeat of Álvarez’s career and his first in nine years.
But if Ryder wins on Saturday, it will go down as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport.
Despite being the overwhelming favorite, Álvarez is all too aware of the danger his opponent poses and is certainly not taking the challenge lightly.
“He’s a complicated fighter,” Álvarez explains. “He’s a southpaw, his punches are complicated, he throws punches from lots of angles, so I need to be attentive because more than anything he’s a dangerous fighter.
“He has nothing to lose and everything to win and that makes him even more dangerous, so I need to be watchful of everything.”
How to watch
The ring walks for the main event are expected to begin at 11 p.m. ET on Saturday and 4 a.m. BST on Sunday.
If you’re in the US or Canada, you can watch on DAZN pay-per-view and in the UK with a DAZN subscription.