Abu Dhabi preseason games key to building championship-winning habits, says Dallas Mavericks’ head coach

Abu Dhabi preseason games key to building championship-winning habits, says Dallas Mavericks’ head coach
Abu Dhabi preseason games key to building championship-winning habits, says Dallas Mavericks’ head coach

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LAS VEGAS: It didn’t take long for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to consider Las Vegas his second home.

He came here to fight Jose Cotto on May 10, 2010, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and right away Alvarez felt the support from his Mexican compatriots.

Alvarez won that fight by technical knockout in the second round, the first of many trips to Las Vegas. He is back again, this time as the unified super middleweight champion preparing to face junior middleweight champ Jermell Charlo on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.

“I think it’s the capital of boxing,” Alvarez said of Las Vegas. “I just feel (it’s) like coming home because a lot of Mexicans go there and support me. So that’s why I like fighting in Vegas, and there’s a lot of history there.”

The 33-year-old Alvarez has been a big part of that history, whether it’s beating Gennadiy Golovkin twice with another fight ending in a split draw, or defeating Shane Mosley, Daniel Jacobs or Sergey Kovalev. His favorite memory is of the one-sided unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto in November 2015.

“He’s a great champion,” Alvarez said in the ring after that fight, “but now it’s my era.”

Alvarez (59-2-2) has the chance to add to his legacy when he faces the 33-year-old Charlo, who is moving up two weight classes for this fight.

Even though Charlo (35-1-1) is the one moving up, he is 4 inches taller than the 5-foot-8 Alvarez and has a 2 1/2-inch reach advantage. Alvarez said his experience will help him counter the size deficiency.

“I’ve been in the ring with a lot of styles, all kind of fighters,” Alvarez said. “My whole career, I’ve been fighting with (boxers) taller than me, so I know how.”

Charlo, who lives in Houston, already is talking about a rematch, which likely would come if he beats Alvarez.

“I don’t think Canelo has faced a fighter of my caliber,” Charlo said. “He’s been in there with great fighters, but there’s something I bring to the table that’s a lot different than anyone he’s seen. I defy the science of boxing.

“I’m one of the guys from the younger era and I’ve been fighting my whole life. What I’ve been through in life, a lot of people can’t compare to that. I deserve to be in my position and now I get to prove my worthiness.”

If Alvarez prevails, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman has declared David Benavidez will be his mandatory challenger for the super middleweight belt.

But Alvarez has not committed to facing Benavidez, a 26-year-old who is 27-0 with all but four by knockout. If Alvarez beats Charlo and turns down Benavidez, the WBC likely would vacate his championship.

“I’m going to win (versus Charlo), but I don’t know what is next,” Alvarez said. “I’m going to sit down with my team and talk about it because I’m 100 percent focused on this fight.”

As for his potential options post-Charlo, Alvarez said his intention would be to “make the best fights out there. We will see after this fight.”

The fight with Charlo should be enough on its own to capture Alvarez’s focus, especially given his most recent bouts.

He lost by unanimous decision to Dmitry Bivol in May 2022, though all three judges had the fight close at 115-113. Alvarez rebounded with a unanimous decision a year ago over Golovkin and then easily beat John Ryder in May on the scorecards. But Triple G had seen his best boxing days, and Ryder was simply outclassed.

Charlo will tell a lot more about where Alvarez truly stands. The odds are in his favor by a considerable amount — Canelo is minus-480 at FanDuel Sportsbook.

“I never overlook any fighter” Alvarez said. “I know what he’s going to bring and I’m ready. He hasn’t experienced this kind of level of fight.

“I want history for my career. I want to achieve a lot of things. This is another one of them and I can’t wait.”

Alvarez’s trainer, Eddy Reynoso, said this has been one of Canelo’s most intense training sessions.

“We’ve left behind the injuries and setbacks and we’re ready to show that Canelo is prepared to put on a great fight for the fans,” Reynoso said. “We’re very motivated to be here in Las Vegas for a great fight. We’re going to prove how motivated we are by giving the fans a great fight.”

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