Maybe Saul Alvarez started to read his press clippings. Or, more accurately, maybe Canelo started reading the less than flattering ones.
They were out there. Lots of them. For all his marvelous talent, for all his power, for all his speed, for all his popularity, Alvarez has never fought anyone who had a prayer of beating him.
Jose Miguel Cotto in 2010? Got a couple of good shots in before he was wiped out.
Matthew Hatton in '11? He was roadkill on Canelo's way to his first title.
Shane Mosley in '12? Maybe five years ago.
In truth, Alvarez has been coddled, carefully matched against opponents who could only win if Canelo swung, missed and knocked himself out. That's not a knock against his promoter, Golden Boy; Alvarez was selling thousands of tickets and earning huge license fees from HBO and Showtime fighting bums. He was the company's golden ticket and, at 22, hardly a finished product.
But the criticism got to Alvarez. Clearly, it did. When Golden Boy approached Alvarez about his next opponent, they brought an offer of Alfredo Angulo to the table. Angulo is reasonably accomplished, a former interim 154-pound titleholder who packs a wallop. But Angulo is also a very hittable target, having been flattened by James Kirkland in the sixth round of an entertaining slugfest in 2011.
Was it a step up? Yes.
Was it what Alvarez wanted? Nope.
"He told me he only wanted to fight Austin Trout," Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer said. "There was no room for discussion. In the past, we would discuss opponents. He told us to go out and get it done."
For Alvarez, Trout, who Alvarez will face in a junior middleweight unification fight on Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio (Showtime, 10 p.m.) is the definition of a high-risk, low-reward opponent. Trout is dangerous, an undefeated former U.S. Olympic alternate coming off a decisive win over Miguel Cotto last December. But Trout is a pure boxer, cautious, methodical, the kind of opponent who wins fights but rarely does it entertainingly. Trout wasn't going to help Alvarez sell any tickets and he won't bring a crowd pleasing style into the ring.
It didn't matter, Schaefer said. Alvarez refused to consider anyone else.
"It was brought up that there are other fights and 'let's take other avenues,'" Alvarez said. "But I wanted this fight. There's always going to be critics, but criticism is also constructive and in this particular case it's always your next fight that they're going to criticize or talk about and that's your toughest fight. This particular fight, yes, it is the toughest and we'll silence the critics after."
Said Alvarez's promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, "This fight is the defining fight for Canelo Alvarez. This fight, if everything goes well, him winning this fight will take him over the top and will get the respect from the critics who don't believe."
To get that respect, Alvarez will have to solve a puzzle that Cotto could not. Trout fights an awkward, southpaw style that relies heavily on a long jab. He's deceptively quick with accuracy in both hands that helps him rack up points on judges scorecards.
"We wanted to fight Miguel Cotto but obviously when [Trout] beat him we saw a fight that we wanted to do," Alvarez said. "Austin Trout's undefeated. He's a world champion [with a] very difficult style, a strong southpaw, but this also gave me the motivation to go on and fight one of the best and we consider him as one of the best out there."