Canelo Alvarez speaks the words that every underdog in every sport speaks before facing the most significant opponent he or she has ever faced: I'm different. What's happened in the past won't happen to me. I'm willing to do anything to win.
The reality of what it will take for the 23-year-old upstart to hand Floyd Mayweather Jr. the first defeat of his legendary career will soon be upon him, however.
In exactly a month, he'll be standing across from Mayweather at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, a crowd screaming deliriously, millions of fans around the world watching intently.
It will be the biggest moment of his professional life, and perhaps one of the biggest in boxing history, if he does what he says, almost insists, he's going to do. Alvarez is utterly convinced that on Sept. 14 he'll be the one to end Mayweather's perfect record at 44 fights .
It's largely overlooked that Alvarez is also unbeaten, with only a draw in his fifth pro fight when he was barely 16, marring his 42-0-1 mark.
But not all unbeaten records are the same, and when it comes to quality of opposition, Mayweather has a significant advantage. He's beaten the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Jesus Chavez, Carlos Hernandez and Robert Guerrero, among many others.
The majority of the opponents on Alvarez's record are perhaps best described by the phrase Greg Haugen once derisively used to describe the caliber of opposition that the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. had faced: Tijuana taxi drivers.
Alvarez can be a gregarious, outgoing guy when he wants to be, and he seems to have a better handle on things than the average 23-year-old. Alvarez sincerely believes he's in the right place at the right time, much as a 21-year-old Mayweather was in 1998 when he faced the great Genaro Hernandez for his first world title.
And while Mayweather has been down this road so many times before, Alvarez isn't at all concerned. He's studied Mayweather for years, and he believes he knows what he is in for. And judging by what he has seen, he is utterly convinced he'll come out on top.
There were those who wanted to put Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, into the hospital and not allow him to fight Sonny Liston when he began to hyperventilate at the weigh-in.
But Ali went out and easily handled Liston, stopping him in six one-sided rounds to win the heavyweight title.
Alvarez said he's working on what he needs to do to win, and is not allowing the hype, Mayweather's taunts or anything that isn't productive to creep into his circle.
"I'm a strong-minded fighter," Alvarez says in such a way that you get he believes it to his core. "I'm not going to fight the fight he wants me to do. I will fight the fight I need to fight to win."
So many of the legendary Mexican fighters have called, or stopped by camp in Big Bear, Calif., to share some wisdom or provide some advice.
It's all appreciated, but he said he's not going to allow himself to lose sight of what is important.
He and his coaches have been preparing for this moment for the last several years. He's not going to shift his attention away from that work to do something that someone who doesn't have much invested in the fight suggests he do.
"There have been numerous tips and numerous people offering advice," he said. "I appreciate it, because it all comes with good feelings from the heart. But some of it we'll apply and some things we won't. We know what we need to accomplish."
A large part of his potential success will center around his ability to deal with all the distractions that are a natural outgrowth of fighting Mayweather. There are cameras everywhere, and beginning on Aug. 24, his story will be broadcast nationally as part of Showtime's "All Access" series.
That will only bring more attention to him. He'll have to answer the same questions hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times. He won't be able to go anywhere without someone shoving a camera in his face, a pen and a magazine toward him, without people wanting to pat him on the back and wish him well.
Mayweather lives his life inside that fishbowl and thrives upon it. Alvarez has had far more attention in his young career than the average 23-year-old, though, and he might be the kind of guy, just like Mayweather, who not only deals with it, but improves as a result of it.
He is friendly enough, but he seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder that compels him to want to prove something to the doubters, be they real or imagined.
"Every fight brings out something different in me, and it will be no different in this one," Alvarez said. "I have learned and gained from all of those experiences. And as I've often said, the public hasn't seen the best of me yet. I need someone like Mayweather to bring that out of me."
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