In July 2010, eight months before Canelo Alvarez won his first world title as a 20-year-old junior middleweight, he was ringside in Las Vegas as a spectator at the lightweight championship rematch between Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz.
On that night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, in one of the pay-per-view undercard bouts, Alvarez watched as middleweight Daniel Jacobs suffered the first loss of his career, a fifth-round knockout to Dmitry Pirog for a vacant world title.
Little did Alvarez, or Jacobs for that matter, suspect at the time that nine years later they would both be elite middleweights with world titles and be set to unify them May 4 (DAZN) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in what is so far the most significant fight of the year on the boxing schedule.
“I was there when he was knocked out,” Alvarez told ESPN through an interpreter Thursday from New York, where he and Jacobs were doing media day after meeting for the first time at the news conference to kick off the promotion for their much-anticipated fight. “At that time [fighting him] wasn’t in my plans. It was a surprise to everybody that he lost, but he wasn’t in my immediate future.”
He is now as Alvarez heads into the second fight of his athlete-record five-year, 11-fight, $365 million deal with DAZN, which also recently signed Jacobs, who stands to earn around $15 million for the three-belt unification fight.
All the money aside, Alvarez is a fighter at heart, and like most fans he expects a good tussle with Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs), 32, of Brooklyn, New York, who claimed a vacant belt by split decision over Sergiy Derevyanchenko in October.
“It’s going to be a very good fight. I have a very good opponent in front of me who is going to be very difficult, very complicated in the first few rounds,” Alvarez said. “But once I figure it out I’ll be fine.”
The fight is going to have to sell itself, because there is unlikely to be any trash from either side. That is not how either man rolls, and when they met head-to-head at the news conference they showed each other nothing but respect, and the same went for when they made other joint media appearances.
“It was respectful,” Alvarez said of their meeting. “We’re here to work. It’s not my style to be trying to sell a fight by saying bad things or bad-mouthing anyone or attacking my opponent. It’s never been my style, and I just prepare myself to go in there and take care of my business and win my fights. I think at this point he is the second-best middleweight in the division after myself.”
“There is still much more to complete. You set new goals and my main goal is to keep writing history and making history fight after fight. My goal this year is to sweep the division and win all the belts.” Canelo Alvarez
About as close as Alvarez got to saying anything negative about Jacobs was when he was asked about the prospect of scoring a knockout victory given the fact that he had seen Jacobs get stopped, even if it was many years ago.
“It’s been done once before, it can be done again, and that’s what we are going to prepare ourselves to do,” he said. “Work hard, train hard to get it done by knockout, and if that doesn’t come then we’ll be ready for whatever comes.”
That Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs), 28, boxing’s biggest star, agreed to fight a dangerous opponent such as Jacobs should not be a surprise, Alvarez said.
He said he wants to continue fighting all of the biggest fights that he can make. He has had many in his career and said he has no plans to stop now.
Alvarez, of Mexico, had back-to-back battles with Gennady Golovkin in 2017 (the controversial draw) and 2018 (a tight majority decision in September), though a positive drug test and suspension delayed the rematch. After beating Golovkin to win the unified middleweight championship, and seeing HBO exit the boxing business, he signed with DAZN and kicked off the deal with a one-fight move to super middleweight in December to crush Rocky Fielding with an unrelenting body attack in a third-round knockout victory to win a secondary super middleweight belt in his New York debut.
But now it’s back to middleweight, where he said he has unfinished business and goals still to achieve.
“There is still much more to complete. You set new goals and my main goal is to keep writing history and making history fight after fight,” he said. “My goal this year is to sweep the division and win all the belts.”
If Alvarez defeats Jacobs, he would have three of the major titles. The fourth belt belongs to Demetrius Andrade, who is — conveniently — also a DAZN fighter. Though few have ever sought a fight with Andrade, a southpaw who can make any opponent look bad, Alvarez said he would embrace the fight.
“If it’s Andrade [later in the year], or whoever has the belt, my goal is to unify all the belts in the division,” he said without hesitation.
Daniel Jacobs believes his May 4 opponent Canelo Alvarez is a great champion and said the mental aspect is the biggest thing to work on ahead of their middleweight world title unification fight.
Beyond that there is the prospect of a fight with fellow Golden Boy fighter Jaime Munguia, a junior middleweight world titleholder, who is likely going to move up to middleweight to begin next year.
“As far as fighting another Mexican, look, I represent Mexico. I’m a Mexican,” Alvarez said. “I would not like to fight another Mexican, my countryman, and break that apart. But if eventually that’s a fight the fans want, and it’s the fight that’s there in front of me at the time, then we will consider it and we will look into that.”
And then, of course, there is the prospect of a third fight with Golovkin, which would still be a huge event. GGG remains a broadcast free agent, but there is an increasing likelihood that he will sign with DAZN, which would make a trilogy inevitable.
“Yes, the possibility always exists,” Alvarez said of a third fight with his rival. “If the people want it, if the fans want it, then we’ll give it to them. And if it doesn’t happen, then we will keep doing our path and fighting the best fights out there.”
For now, he said, the focus is on Jacobs, who was clearly the bigger, taller man when they faced off for photos after the news conference Wednesday. No sweat, Alvarez said.
“He is a fighter who obviously will try to use his height and his reach and that’s natural and normal,” he said. “But I’m a fighter that knows how to adapt and I am very versatile. I have to get inside and do my fight.
“My main thing is to concentrate on continue doing what I’m doing in my career as far as fighting the best, winning my fights and things fall into place on their own.”
And if that happens, Alvarez, who already owns wins against opponents such as Golovkin, Miguel Cotto, Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout and Shane Mosley, said he’d like eventually to be in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
“I would hope that, yes, they would set aside a spot there for me to be in the Hall of Fame one day once I retire,” he said.