There is another gift that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has given to the boxing world: the return of the month of May to Mexican boxing superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
“The significance of Cinco de Mayo is that it represents Mexican resistance to foreign intervention, it is a moment where Mexico as a young nation rallied to defend itself," Raul Ramos, Associate Professor of History at the University of Houston, recently told NBC News. "But it was not a struggle for independence. Instead it represented a struggle against imperialism."
The Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862, where the Mexican Army defeated the French imperialistic invasion united the splintered nation of Mexico into a proud strong country. Although confused with Mexican Independence Day, it was not yet the event that actually strengthened the core of its people.
Canelo Alvarez (46-1-1) now represents his people as a non-English speaking champion, unlike his promoter, the Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, Oscar De La Hoya, who is from Los Angeles.
Like Kazakhstan native and Middleweight champion, Gennady "GGG" Golovkin, Alvarez is a foreigner who has Americans rallying behind his legacy as his good guy image and in-ring ferocity have translated easily to many.
But this new Mexican versus European invasion is against Amir “King” Khan (31-3), an Englishman that has sought this high platform his entire career and been denied countless times. Truly, the Battle of Puebla now lays center ring at the T-Mobile Arena in the desert of Las Vegas.
“I actually am nervous because you look at fighters who have given Canelo some difficulties like Erislandy Lara who moves side to side, who runs around the ring, that has presented some very real problems,” said Oscar De La Hoya before the final press conference. "You have Mayweather who beat Canelo by moving side to side. Amir Khan is the perfect example of a boxer who uses his skills to his advantage. He sometimes stays long enough in the pocket to make these types of fights exciting where he gets clipped."
"But Amir Khan has never been in a dull fight," De La Hoya continued. "Is it going to be a boxing lesson from Amir Khan or is it going to be a knockout in the late rounds from Canelo. That’s the million dollar question.”
Alvarez is one of the games biggest power punchers. However, he has been outclassed mainly by foes with better boxing I.Q.’s. What he lacks in technical skills, he has always made up for with piercing shots able to crumple any opponent.
However, this lack of technical skill matched with speed led to his split decision victory over Erislandy Lara and the boxing lesson he received from Floyd Mayweather, Jr. back in 2013. The latter is Canelo’s only loss and one that can be repeated if Alvarez can’t adapt to the strategic elusiveness of a defensive counter-puncher.
Khan is a speed junkie that has now learned the art of the defensive game from his current trainer, Virgil Hunter. The man who made Andre Ward an Olympic gold medalist and world champion aided Khan’s bounce-back from his devastating loss to Danny Garcia in 2012.
Possessing a fighter’ heart, Khan has been led down the road to dangerous slugfests with true power punchers before, and his ability to stick to strategy and not get goaded into a center ring brawl will be his best chance against the current champion.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” said Andre Ward. “I mean anytime you try to accomplish something significant the way that he is it’s going to be a challenge. It's rarely easy, the preparation piece of it as well as the actual fight. Canelo Alvarez is a great champion, he’s proven himself and he’s the real deal. I commend Amir for stepping up and raising his hand and saying look I’ll take on this guy. Amir Khan has done that throughout his whole career.”
In 2014, Alvarez knocked out another Hunter trained fighter in Alfredo Angulo in the 10th round, yet every fight is different. Khan, who looked massive and not fat from the weight gain on the scales yesterday, is untested at the contracted weight of 155 pounds. But if looks can be trusted, the two looked evenly matched physically.
Tonight the new Battle of Puebla will unfold on boxing’s biggest stage, one where the current champion Alvarez now lives, and that challenger Khan has wished for his whole career and been denied by Mayweather and Pacquiao for years.
The new boxing elite is being defined before our eyes, and only a weekend as impactful as Cinco De Mayo can properly prepare us all for the showdown.