LOS ANGELES – Saul "Canelo" Alvarez knows that when it comes to taking on one of boxing’s two biggest superstars, speed is everything.
However, the Mexican super welterweight sensation is not talking about being fleet of foot or hand when referring to potential showdowns with Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao. Rather, he's referencing the timing of setting up a bout against one, or both, of boxing's biggest stars.
At 21, Alvarez is the apple of the eye of Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, and is seen as a fighter who can carry the torch for a troubled sport moving forward. Yet while he has been placed on a carefully crafted path designed to allow him maximum development on the way to the top, he will surely have a limited window in which to meet either Mayweather or Pacquiao.
"I want the biggest names out there and I am going to go after them," Alvarez said. "I want to take on the best."
The dilemma for Alvarez to get his head around is that if he is to take a fight with one of boxing's elite duo, it will almost certainly have to be before he has fully developed his skills.
Pacquiao's political ambitions in the Philippines mean he is on a strict time frame that is unlikely to see him fight again in the U.S. after the early part of 2013. Mayweather's plans are even harder to predict. After coming out of retirement to fight Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009, he fought Shane Mosley on May 1, 2010, then took a 16-month layoff ahead of Saturday’s contest in Las Vegas for Victor Ortiz's World Boxing Council welterweight belt.
Alvarez is also fighting that night, defending his WBC super welterweight title against Alfonso S. Gomez at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as part of a two-city card that will be broadcast on HBO Pay-Per-View.
"This is the next step in the road for me and I want that road to take me a long way," Alvarez said. "I want to be the best and show I am the best, but I have to accept that I am still young and I have a lot of time left. I don't want to rush things, but I know that Mayweather and Pacquiao will not be there forever.
"I want to have that chance and take the chance to achieve something special. But I have to be careful about going too quickly."
While the hype machine surrounding Alvarez is fully cranked, with Golden Boy throwing its weight behind him, others, including Mayweather, are not convinced that the young man's route to stardom is in any way guaranteed.
"[A reporter] asked me yesterday [about] Canelo and I didn't really know who he was until they told me," Mayweather said. "When they said, 'The red-headed Mexican kid,' that's when I knew who they were talking about. I didn't know at first. He's a pretty cool fighter. He's big. His country knows who he is. He's huge over there, they say. Huge. They'll be talking about him trying to knock me off the block next."
When Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told Mayweather that Alvarez's advisors had already discussed a potential matchup in 2012, Mayweather urged caution.
"Everything takes time," Mayweather said. "Tell them to pump the brakes. You know I take long breaks, so he may get me when I'm 38. You know I take long breaks."
Alvarez turned professional at 15 and has already racked up a record of 37-0-1. Fighting primarily in Mexico, he has also become a huge drawing card among the Hispanic community in the United States and is distinctive for his red hair and flashing fists.
His popularity initially led to distractions aplenty – he even dated Mexico’s Miss Universe contestant – so conducting training camp in the relatively calmer environment of California has been a positive.
"I am getting better every time I fight," Alvarez said. "A lot of it is just about the experience, getting that time in the ring and learning every step. I am doing this the right way and taking it all the way to the top."
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