Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez makes first title defense at home in Mexico
Mexico's Saul "Canelo" Alvarez will make the first defense of his World Boxing Council super-welterweight title Saturday on HBO, returning home to Guadalajara to fight veteran English fighter Ryan Rhodes (45-4, 31 knockouts).
Alvarez, 20, won the belt in March, dominating another Brit, Matthew Hatton, at Honda Center, and his camp informed his promoter about the importance of starting the fighter's title defenses back in Canelo's home country.
"It's important to keep stars in their hometowns or countries when you can; these are the people who made him," Golden Boy Promotions Chief Executive Richard Schaefer said of Alvarez (36-0-1, 26 KOs).
Both fighters weighed in slightly under the 154-pound limit Friday.
The bout will be aired on "Boxing After Dark" on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. PDT on HBO East and at 10:30 p.m. PDT on HBO West. The television card also includes a compelling super-featherweight fight between unbeaten Adrien Broner (20-0, 16 KOs) of Cincinnati and Minnesota's Jason Litzau (28-2, 21 KOs).
Alvarez's decision to fight at home has exceeded expectations in terms of attendance, Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez said. The 12,000-seat Vicente Fernandez Goimez Arena is sold out, and an Alvarez autograph session attracted more than 5,000 fans this week.
"It's incredible -- this guy's like The Beatles," Gomez said. "For me, it's a flashback to what Oscar [De La Hoya] was like in his prime. As a promoter, you have fun at these big events."
Gomez said there are plans to have Alvarez in a co-main event fight on the Sept. 17 card with the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Victor Ortiz welterweight title fight, which is most likely to be staged at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
"That's the idea, but Rhodes is a tough fight, a legitimate super-welterweight and Canelo's first real test," Gomez said. "Rhodes has won everything he can in Europe; now he's trying to become a world champion. You have to remember Canelo's only 20 years old."
True, but with the massive crowd support and the ability to unleash power punches that demolished the respected but lighter Hatton, expect Alvarez to move on here to bigger and better things.
-- Lance Pugmire
Photo: Saul Alvarez connects against Jose Miguel Cotto during a welterweight bout in May of 2010. Credit: Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images