There’s a blip on the remarkable record of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and it has nothing to do with his sole defeat in 51 fights.
That loss was against Floyd Mayweather in 2013, which was oddly scored a draw by one judge and a comfortable win for the American by two more sensible colleagues.
No bucking of expectations, just a well-timed fight by Mayweather against a 23-year-old who, at 13 years his junior, was already a huge name but was always unlikely to have the subtleties of style needed to spring an upset. As time goes on, it is a name that looks better and better on the Mayweather CV; as the Mayweather legacy grows, the loss has done no harm to Alvarez, either.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez faces Gennady Golovkin in a middleweight mega-fight on Saturday night
The two fighters came face-to-face for the final press conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday
Alvarez’s one defeat came at the hands of Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas in 2013
What is curious, though, is the relative lack of attention given to another name on the Alvarez resume. Mayweather might be the only man to beat the brilliant Mexican, but he is not the only man to avoid defeat. That distinction is shared with Jorge Juarez, a virtually anonymous 8-26-3 journeyman from Mexico who scored a draw against the future two-weight world champion in 2006.
The setting and context could not have been much more different to the bonanza of Alvarez’s fights with Mayweather and this weekend’s barnstormer against Gennady Golovkin – the Mayweather fight filled the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, drew 2.2million pay-per-view buys and a $150m revenue. It was shown by 45 broadcasters worldwide.
The Juarez fight was put on at the Auditorio Municipal in Tijuana, a basketball arena for the large part with space cleared for the occasional fight or wrestling match. The June 17 bout was only Alvarez’s fifth professional fight, and by virtue of his prodigious talents it is notable that he was still a month shy of 16 when it took place.
Alvarez also drew against Mexican journeyman Jorge Juarez in a basketball court in 2006
Both Canelo and Golovkin have left the door open to fighting for a second time in the future
By knockout: 34
By knockout: 0
By knockout: 2
By knockout: 15
Juarez was eight years older, but still a relative novice himself, just eight fights in, with Alvarez put up as the ninth. He was at the start of the journey for the classic journeyman career – three losses had been followed by three wins and then two more losses for a 3-5 record. He wasn’t meant to be up to much.
By contrast, Alvarez, the youngest of seven boxing brothers, already had some hype, partially because his siblings had started to make their name, but largely because of his amateur career. He was the 2005 Junior Mexican National Boxing Champion at 15 and by the time he had gone 42-2 unpaid, the opponents had started pulling out. It’s one reason why he went professional so young.
The first four Alvarez fights had been encouraging, with four straight wins, including one against Miguel Vazquez, who was making his debut and would later win the IBF lightweight world title. Those fights had all been in or close to Guadalajara, Alvarez’s home city; the Juarez fight was in his opponent’s backyard in Tijuana, more than 2,000km north.
The two fighters smile for the cameras at the end of a respectful build-up to the mega-fight
Hector Velazquez had beaten Guadalupe Contreras in the main event and by the time Alvarez entered the ring for his welterweight four-rounder, the crowd had virtually disappeared. Juarez remembers just the two fighters, their corner men, the referee, and the three judges being in attendance and no one else.
There is no available footage of the fight, just the record that shows three local judges gave the fight as even – 37-39 Juarez, 39-37 Alvarez, and 38-38.
Over the next eight years and 38 fights, right up to Mayweather, Alvarez would beat all comers. But Juarez barely gets more than a single mention in profiles. In interviews, Alvarez is equally dismissive.
‘That’s in the past,’ Alvarez said in 2013. ‘It doesn’t bother me anymore. It was a learning experience but that’s in the past. I keep it in the past. I’ve moved on now. I’m in a different position now.’
It is telling, though, that after the experience, it was years before his handlers let him fight so far afield again.
Juarez, for his part, got on with the undulations of his career. He won his next two, lost four of his next five and ambled on to 2011, when he quit and started working in a gym. He came back in 2015 and the 34-year-old currently on a 15-fight losing streak, taking his record to 8-26-3, with 15 of his defeats by stoppage. His last fight was a TKO defeat in July, in Mexico, the country he has never left in a 12-year career.
He is rarely sought out or heard from, but was tracked down by ESPN before the Mayweather fight.
Canelo said he had ‘nothing to say’ to his opponent ahead of their middleweight showdown
‘They brought me in to test him,’ Juarez said at the time. ‘It ended up that we were almost alone in the arena. There were no people left because Hector Velazquez’s feature fight had finished, so it was practically just the judges, the referee and us.
‘That kid – because he was still a kid – he threw his right hand at me with all his force. He was a one-hit fighter, and the truth is, he was strong. But he got tired in the second round, and I started to get my hands in there, and at the end they had to make a decision. At the time, I felt that I had won, but they called it a draw, they favoured his youth and desire.
‘The fight was hard-fought, he was a bit of a novice, but we got it on good. I had already had a lot of fights with tough rivals. At the time, that fight didn’t mean anything to me because I never thought he would thrive the way he is doing now. I never thought that people would end up admiring him the way they do now.’
Indeed, Alvarez is arguably the biggest active name in the sport, a 49-1-1 monster and heading into one of the biggest fights boxing has known. It remains to be seen if Golovkin can join the tiny list of mega-famous and obscure names who have got in his way.