April 18, 2013

KO Digest Previews Saul "Canelo" Alvarez vs Austin "No Doubt" Trout

Remember the Alamodome
By Joel Sebastianelli - Those who fail to acknowledge the past are doomed to repeat it, and in the sport of boxing, history tends to reproduce moments of significance quite often. Travel back to Texas on September 10th, 1993. Sixty three thousand strong packed the Alamodome in San Antonio to observe the highly anticipated welterweight title fight between undefeated Mexican hero Julio Cesar Chavez and slick southpaw Pernell Whitaker. Official documents recorded a majority draw, but public perception expressed a different story—one of anti-climactic robbery, forever placing an asterisk next to the spotless record of the revered Mexican.

On April 20th, boxing fans will flock to the Alamodome once again, vociferously supporting another undefeated Mexican champion, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs), in his quest to retain the WBC junior middleweight title and unify against WBA champion Austin Trout (26-0-0, 14 KOs), a smooth American southpaw touting an unblemished professional record that sets a similar stage reminiscent of nearly twenty years ago.

Canelo Alvarez has been hailed as the high profile successor to Mexican legends like Chavez Sr. and Oscar De La Hoya. Bearing the pride and expectations of a boxing crazed nation upon the wings of myriad strong performances against weaker competition, Alvarez now stands on the cusp of validating his status as world champion and penning a new chapter in the book of boxing greats from his homeland. Like Chavez, who entered his one and only bout against Whitaker with a pristine career record of 87-0-0, Alvarez’s meteoric rise to stardom channeled memories of the past and fostered lofty expectations for the future. Already, fight fans have begun frantically calling for Alvarez to step into the ring with top echelon moneymakers like Floyd Mayweather Jr., despite an expansive career tally that features wins against respected opposition that's fallen short of the Mexican icon in terms of  talent. Nonetheless, the man bestowed with the hopes and dreams of passionate patrons numbering millions strong across the globe is deemed the favorite, already anointed with the crown of a proven commodity.

The parallel storylines and details shared by Chavez-Whitaker and Canelo-Trout jump out at the WBC champion, but Alvarez says he hopes to write his own version of the tale furnished with a different result. “It is a very similar fight. I watched it on video several times and Austin Trout, like Pernell Whitaker, is a southpaw, slick, difficult fighter. He's very difficult but that's what we're training hard for. We're training hard for that and come the night of the fight, we're going to make it where it's not so difficult for us.”

Austin Trout, the WBA titlist who hails from Las Cruces, New Mexico, enters the ring as an underestimated underdog with upper echelon skills. Trout erased much of the doubt surrounding his career by outclassing former champion Miguel Cotto on Cotto's home turf at Madison Square Garden in December 2012. The unanimous decision victory shed the 27 year old’s facade of a “paper champion” placed on him by skeptics unimpressed with wins against subpar competition, the likes of which include Canelo’s younger brother, Rigoberto Alvarez.

Yet despite the promise of stardom in the American market, Trout is not the main attraction of the fight card, overshadowed by Golden Boy Promotions’ prized pupil. “I don’t feel uncomfortable as a B-side. I’m more comfortable as an A-side, but it doesn’t bother me because B-side is a state of mind,” Trout told KO Digest during an international media conference call held in anticipation of the upcoming title fight. “I’m coming for the win, for the respect. That’s what I’m fighting for—to get the respect in this game that I feel I deserve.”

Trout’s status as the overshadowed fighter is supported by the lead-up to his brightest opportunity and toughest test to date against Alvarez. Earlier in 2013, the powers that be in promoting the fight proposed Canelo-Trout for the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s May 4 fight against Mexican-American Robert Guerrero. Although the fight was pushed forward two weeks, Canelo has continued to lobby for a big money bout against “Money” Mayweather, and a win against Trout could reel in the opportunity against the pound-for-pound kingpin of boxing.

Trout leaves No Doubt at MSG against Cotto
“If he is overlooking me, then that’s better for me,” Trout replied in response to any perceived disrespect by the Mexican champ looking through him. “Regardless of who he wants to fight later, he still has to deal with me on April 20th. He’s been doing this a lot, but things happen to have been going his way. I like the trend that he’s setting, overlooking people.”

Canelo has asserted that he's been doing no such thing, and while this is the correct response to offer to the press, it is difficult to imagine the prospect of a Mayweather fight not weighing on the shoulders of a man who's faced minimal resistance in his rise to stardom from recent foes such as Josesito Lopez, Shane Mosley, Kermit Cintron, and Alfonso Gomez. Anointed and projected even in his youth as the next economic bell cow of the sport, Alvarez still has something left to prove to a legion of unsatisfied skeptics shrinking by the day. At just 23 years of age, Canelo is still a young gun, but the experience and expectations make this bout a must win.

“This fight is the defining fight for Canelo Alvarez,” said promoter Oscar De La Hoya, the last Mexican to reign supreme on the throne of Sweet Science supremacy. “This fight, if everything goes well, him winning this fight will take him over the top and will get him the respect from the critics who don't believe. So it's a very important fight, but it's a fight that the people are going to enjoy and I think both fighters are going to really, really fight their hearts out.”

Canelo pummels Josesito Lopez to the canvas
Austin Trout is a tactician between the ropes, utilizing a systematic style of outpointing opponents from the outside, peppering the jab and using it to set up straight rights. Coupled with strong defense and the ability to ease out of range of his opponents, Trout’s game plan contrasts with the more in-your-face style of Alvarez who lets power shots and combinations flow more freely than his American counterpart, a more fan friendly style that airs more on the side of excitement and brute force than caution and calculation. However, Alvarez’s previous opponents signed contracts as sacrificial lambs, most posing little threat to the prospect’s untainted record or well-being.

Canelo acknowledged that due to the style and effectiveness of Trout, there is an impetus to reign in his aggression and fight a mentally sound fight. “The key is to not get desperate, to not get wild. Take round per round, win round per round and see what comes up and counter that during the fight,” said Canelo through a translator.

After a brilliant performance by Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker in which he was untouchable throughout, the landmark bout against Chavez ended shrouded in controversy that swirled around WBC President José Sulaimán. Trout now makes the trek down into the depths of Texas, a state where corruption has been known to rear its ugly head more often than Joan Rivers, frequently involving the World Boxing Council. If history traversing numerous decades is any indication, Trout will surely need a convincing effort against Canelo in an environment where the crowd will roar at even the most menial maneuvers made by the favored Mexican.

The similarities between Chavez-Whitaker and Canelo-Trout are staunch and run as deep as the San Antonio River, resembling a sequel to a screenplay several years in the making. While the cast of characters are different, the storyline is largely the same. As Canelo Alvarez and Austin Trout enter into battle on April 20th at the Alamodome, both of the junior middleweight division’s top combatants have their feet set firmly in the present, but whether or not the future will echo the past remains to be seen.

Written by Joel Sebastianelli - exclusively for KO Digest  

Joel joined KO Digest in January 2013 and has been a fixture on press row in the New England area for three years. In 2012, he served as the host of “The Boxing Fix” on Leave it in the Ring Radio. Sebastianelli is the future of boxing journalism and broadcasting.  

Joel can be found Tweeting on Twitter @JJSebastianelli