By Jason Keidel
On July 12, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Erislandy Lara are fighting in Las Vegas. While technically not a title fight, it's considered the de facto championship bout at 154 lbs., particularly since Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto moved on to more lucrative fights at different weight classes.
Lara, who actually owns a junior middleweight belt, was scheduled to defend it against Ishe Smith. But since both boxers are represented by Al Haymon - who also represents Mayweather - Smith agreed to step aside for the Alvarez - Lara bout.
It's been a public and perilous ringside courtship, at least for Lara (19-1-2), who has stalked and challenged Alvarez for some time, crashing myriad press conferences and calling out the younger, more heralded Alvarez (43-1-1). It worked, and now the 31-year-old Cuban must back up his tongue.
But before both men duck under the ropes, they spent a few minutes on the phone with CBS. Here is my chat with Alvarez...
JK: How are you feeling?
Canelo: Very well. Thank God.
JK: Has this training camp been any different in terms of time or regimen?
Canelo: My camps are always ten weeks. That's what makes me comfortable. Plus, I'm always active outside of camp, so I'm never really out of shape. But since Lara is a southpaw I've had more sparring partners with that stance.
JK: Are you into film study?
Canelo: I don't focus much on video. I watch here and there, perhaps two or three of my opponent's fights. That gives me a good idea of his style.
JK: Many see this fight as the classic case of the bull vs. matador...
Canelo: I'm not worried about characterizations. Sure, he's a technical fighter and I'm very aggressive. But I'm also clever in the ring.
JK: Nearly everyone agrees with the assertion that this is a very dangerous fight for you, much risk and little reward. You're the bigger name, bigger star, and bigger draw. Even your promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, did not want you to take this fight. Why do it?
Canelo: We know he's very dangerous. He's one of the best at 154 lbs. and a southpaw and very technically sound. But I need to fight the best to fulfill myself. I needed this fight.
JK: What's your walk-around weight?
Canelo: Around 170 lbs.
JK: You both beat Angulo and Trout. Do you take much from your common opponents?
Canelo: I don't take much from Angulo or Trout because each had different styles and styles make fights.
JK: Would you move up to fight at middleweight?
Canelo: I feel very well at 154 lbs. At least for the next few years. I guess when it moves up it moves up.
JK: Whom did you admire as a kid?
Canelo: Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley. I started boxing because of my brother. And then I came to admire the all-time greats, like Roberto Duran and Muhammad Ali. I'd say I admired Ali more than any fighter in my life.
JK: It's fitting that you are represented by Oscar De La Hoya. As the next "Golden Boy" yourself, do you feel even more pressure to perform for Mexico and for Mexican-Americans?
Canelo: It's a big responsibility and great motiviation to be a Mexican fighter who is admired and I thank God for the support I get from Mexicans on both sides of the border.
JK: Do you need to fight Floyd Mayweather again in order to be satisfied with your career?
Canelo: All I can say is I hope we cross paths again. If not, I will continue with my career and be happy. But I really hope I see him again.
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Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there's a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden.
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