Saul (Canelo) Alvarez will fight in front of a sold out crowd in Las Vegas on Saturday. He will box before a television audience plunking down $50 or $60 to watch him on pay-per-view, and after the fight, he will cash a check for $1.25 million, with substantially more coming once all the revenue is totaled.
He will be treated like a star before, well, before anyone knows if he actually is a star.
It's hardly unusual. Canelo's Mexican compatriot, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., is treated the same way. Chavez can show up on fight week bloated or disinterested—sometimes both—and HBO will still roll out the red carpet, because Chavez drives ratings. Golden Boy has a stable of prospects who have proven nothing (here's looking at you, Gary Russell, Jr.) but who get nationally televised slots against opponents who have no business being in the same ring with them.
The difference is that no one thinks Chavez is a star. The consensus is that if Chavez steps into the ring with Gennady Golovkin, Andre Ward or Carl Froch, it's going to be an ugly night. Similarly, should Russell end up squaring off with Vasyl Lomachenko later this year, he will find Lomachenko's skills a touch better than those of his recent string of opponents, some of whom took fights with Russell on short notice.
But there is a perception in boxing that Alvarez is different, that the former 154-pound titleholder with the sparkling record and telenovela looks has the substance to back up the style.
The question is: Why?
Think about it: Is Alvarez's résumé that much more impressive than Chavez, Jr.'s? Alvarez's last six opponents were Alfonso Gomez, Kermit Cintron, Shane Mosley, Josesito Lopez, Austin Trout and Floyd Mayweather. Chavez's last six were Peter Manfredo, Marco Antonio Rubio, Andy Lee, Sergio Martinez and Bryan Vera, twice. The name that stands out is Mayweather, but if there was anything positive to be taken away from Alvarez's one-sided whipping at the gloves of Mayweather, most missed it.
Here's what we know about Alvarez: He has power. He has knocked out 30 of his 44 opponents, displaying pop with both hands. He has speed. When Canelo puts his punches together, he does it faster than most in his division. He has a questionable chin. Jose Miguel Cotto nearly put him on the deck in 2010, and since then, Alvarez hasn't been tested by anyone who would be considered a crushing puncher.
On Saturday night, Alvarez (43-1) will face Alfredo Angulo (22-3) at the MGM Grand (Showtime PPV, 9 pm). Angulo is the anti-Mayweather, a bull in a china shop who is easy to find. But Angulo—with 18 knockouts on his résumé—is also the biggest puncher Alvarez has faced. In his last fight, Angulo dropped talented Cuban Erislandy Lara twice before a fractured left orbital bone ended his night.
Angulo was handpicked by Alvarez because of his one-dimensional style, and because, coming off a lackluster loss to Mayweather, Alvarez needed to be in an entertaining fight. And as a 4-1 favorite, Alvarez is expected to win handily. Angulo's power, however, and his relentless rushing style can't be overlooked.
"Angulo is a very dangerous opponent," Alvarez said. "He doesn't mind getting hit as long as he can hit back. It's a fight that can change in one punch on either side."
At 23, Alvarez faces his first crossroads. A loss to Mayweather didn't diminish his brand. A loss to Angulo—and let's face it, we all know what losses to Angulo usually look like—probably would. His plans to fight three times in 2014, to reclaim a world title and to position himself, perhaps, to fight Mayweather again in 2015 would crumble.
"We know the significance of this bout," said Alvarez's manager, Jose (Chepo) Reynoso.
Indeed, as the hype around Alvarez continues to rise, it's time for him to prove that he is worthy of it.