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Cultural phenomenon adds to Canelo Alvarez-Liam Smith title bout

In Canelo Alvarez is the personification of what makes boxing a revered cultural phenomenon in Mexico.

He emits the masculine qualities of bravery and aggression of the Aztec warrior, but all the while with the grace and beauty of a mariachi dancer.

Canelo, as he is known, is the national treasure of Mexico. And tens of thousands of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans will descend on AT&T Stadium on Saturday night to watch the boxing heir of Julio Cesar Chavez and Alberto “Baby” Arizmendi, who became a legend honored in song, with a ballad that just as easily could about Canelo, the biggest boxing star in Mexico and one of the biggest draws in the world, for that matter.

There’s a lion in California

And he wants to be champion.

And he’s covering with glory the Mexican flag …

He’s the famous champion

Of my dearly beloved land;

He knows no fear,

He’ll fight with anyone.

The Canelo-Liam Smith showdown is for the Brit’s WBO junior middleweight title, but more than that it’s a jubilee showcasing one of Mexico’s most popular national games, a festival with all of the cultural richness of Mexico’s historic festivals and, to boot, on the weekend of the country’s Diez y Seis de Septiembre — Mexican Independence Day.

“For us, we believe, like all boxers, we are warriors,” said Manuel Aguilar, a Spanish-language broadcaster and radio personality with KNOR/93.7 FM in Dallas. “That’s why when we see Canelo and some of the others fighting in the ring, it’s us who’s fighting. It’s in our culture. It’s in our blood.”

Organizers said the fight has already sold more tickets than any of the other two major boxing events at AT&T Stadium. In 2012, Manny Pacquiao defended his WBO world welterweight title by defeating Joshua Clottey in front of 50,944.

Canelo is also a pay-per-view rainmaker. In his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. — Canelo’s only loss — eight of 10 households in Mexico with televisions watched the fight, according to Golden Boy Promotions.


Oscar De La Hoya, the 10-time former world champion and founder of Golden Boy, the promoter of the event and the stable of Canelo, said he expects a crowd in excess of 60,000 with a hearty walk-up ticket market.

“Whenever we stage a fight of this magnitude, it’s like a Super Bowl. It’s bigger than the Super Bowl,” De La Hoya said. “We love boxing. We love a hero who can win fights and become that role model for our kids. It’s special. That’s why this fight is such a big event.

“The Mexican and Mexican-American communities are driving out in force to support the sport they dearly love.”

Canelo, 26, is 47-1-1 with 33 knockouts. Smith, 28, who knows a little about song as a son of Liverpool, is 23-0-1 with 13 knockouts, including eight consecutive.

Canelo, a former champion at 155, is moving down from the middleweight division after sending Englishman Amir Khan into left field with a right hand in the sixth round. The victory did little for Canelo’s fighting reputation, for Khan had glass for a jaw and was fighting two weight classes above his ideal weight.

But afterward, Canelo perhaps suggested a verse for a song written about him, calling his chief middleweight rival, Gennady Golovkin, into the ring and telling him brashly: “Like we say in Mexico, we don’t [fool] around.”

That did nothing to hurt Canelo’s reputation, despite vacating his middleweight title rather than take on a mandatory title fight at 160 pounds with Golovkin.

That’s a fight that will undoubtedly take place, as soon as next year, it presumably being a matter of creating more buzz and having enough cash registers to account for all the money.

As former champion Bernard Hopkins said Thursday, “we have to enjoy what we’ve got” in this bout. And it’s expected to be a good one.

That it’s on Mexican Independence Day weekend makes the occasion all the more significant.

“It’s a great motivation to know that on a Mexican evening there will be a lot of support and a lot of love from the Mexican fans,” Canelo said. “It’s a great honor obviously to represent Mexico, but it also comes with a lot of discipline and hard work and that’s what I’m willing to put in for that.”

While American athletes are often lacking in knowledge of history of their sport, that’s not the case with Mexico’s boxers, who know well that more than 200 world champions have been either Mexican or of Mexican descent, none greater than Chavez, who was 107-6-2 and didn’t lose in his first 87 bouts.


De La Hoya likes to tell the story of his victory over Chavez, who was so popular that some “in my own family wouldn’t talk to me.”

“Being in those shoes myself, it’s a lot of pressure” being the star of Mexico boxing, De La Hoya said. “But then again, it’s not. This is what a fighter lives for … a fighter lives for this type of attention, the media, the fans. Not everybody can draw 60,000. Canelo has that opportunity.”

In Fort Worth, Mexican-Americans have produced some of the city’s best fighters from a once-prolific boxing town. From Rudy Barrientes to Stevie Cruz to Paulie Ayala and under famed trainers such as Joe Barrientes, Paul Reyes and Henry Mendez. They certainly weren’t the only contributors, but Hispanics have made such a contribution that the city’s reputation would not have been what it was without them.

Boxing represented strength and resilience.

“It’s no different from anybody else,” said Rudy Barrientes, the city’s first national Golden Gloves champion, in 1968. “We didn’t have the best of the best, like our neighbors across the tracks. We didn’t have that. We had to struggle and crawl and fight and get our teeth knocked out, our nose bloodied, a black eye … that’s the way it was with us.”

In Mexico’s boxing fans, too, the host of Saturday’s events sees a market of opportunity. The Dallas Cowboys enjoy a huge fan base down south and south of the border.

Owner Jerry Jones said his incentive for being part of the Canelo-Smith card were the Cowboys’ “great Mexican fans, and their great hero, Canelo.”

“I know how much boxing means to Mexico,” Jones said. “I know what Mexican fans mean to de los Vaqueros de Dallas.”

Canelo Alvarez vs. Liam “Beefy” Smith

Saturday, AT&T Stadium, Arlington

▪ Doors open at 2 p.m. First fight at 2:20 p.m. HBO telecast 8 p.m. Main event approx. 10 p.m.

Tale of the tape

Canelo Alvarez

Liam Smith





41-1-1 (33 KOs)

23-0-1 (13 KOs)













Normal chest



Expanded chest





















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