FROM STEVE BRENNER IN ARLINGTON
Everything adds up for Saul ‘Canelo’ Álvarez.
Fast horses, even faster cars, the adulation of a boxing-mad nation and the owner of rapier-like fists which have propelled the Mexican to the very top of the tree.
Englishman Liam Smith, the Liverpool-based fighter and the current WBO light middleweight champion, will experience first hand here on Saturday night if the strangely angelic-looking, flame-haired fighting machine is worthy of all the hyperbole.
“He came into the gym like any other kid, you start working with them and some are good and some are not,” said Álvarez’s trainer Chepo Reynoso.
“But the important thing is they learn and do what I teach. That is what happened with Saul. He was learning. It’s like math – two plus two equals four.
“You have to get to four to start with. He just kept getting better and better. What we are experiencing now is years and years of math.”
The missing part of the equation, however, is the meeting with Gennady Golovkin, the best middleweight on the planet, for which the clamor is growing incessantly.
“It will happen next year, and Canelo will win,” said Golden Boy Promotions chief and the former six-division world champion Oscar De La Hoya.
In boxing though talk can be cheap. And tiresome.
Canelo may be an adrenaline addict who loves nothing more than riding wild horses at breakneck speed, though some risks need more consideration than others.
He has been accused of dodging the fearsome Kazakh after ditching his WBO middleweight belts following the Las Vegas destruction of Amir Khan earlier this year and moving back down to 154lbs.
That he called Golovkin out just days before relinquishing his titles was hard for some to stomach.
The keyboard warriors let their feelings be known. Others still can’t understand why Smith, and not Golovkin, will be in the opposite corner on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium, the glitzy home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
“When Canelo beats GGG – and believe me he is going to beat him – people are still going to criticize him,” countered De La Hoya, who will hope HBO’s pay-per-view figures will reflect the popularity of his protégé.
“The critics are louder than your fans. The unfortunate part about critics is that people listen to them. I always remind Canelo that if there are 1,000 critics talking or tweeting, you will have tens of thousands cheering you on and millions watching around the world on TV.”
Canelo bristles at the concept of not wanting to put his neck on the line.
It’s a weighty issue.
He has never operated any higher than 155lbs. GGG would not want to fight at anything other than 160.
At Friday’s weigh-in, skepticism over the ease of making weight were raised when the Mexican stripped naked instantly before standing on the scales.
He made it, but Smith wasn’t convinced.
“If he was struggling to make weight I will bring it out of him,” he said.
“The last time he was under 154lbs he was dead on his feet, even if it was against one of the best ever in Floyd Mayweather.”
So, for now at least, it would be pure folly to send Álvarez into the lion’s den against the bigger man.
“Canelo and Jorge Linares, two prominent Golden Boy fighters, could get beat in the space of seven days and then name me another Golden Boy fighter,” said Joe Gallagher, Smith’s world-wise trainer who will leave Texas and head straight into another world title occasion with WBA lightweight champion Anthony Crolla taking on Linares next weekend in Manchester.
Golden Boy wouldn’t want their star attraction destroyed before their very eyes, no matter how much grief flies their way.
A potential test at that weight against WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders – a strong 160lbs fighter – would stand him in excellent stead for the titanic battle to come.
Yet Canelo, ever the consummate professional, is looking no further than Smith.
The Englishman is unbeaten, cool, calm and extremely confident ahead of the biggest night of his life.
“Liam is walking around like he’s won the lottery.” added Gallagher.
“He has the right tools. If you need someone with the right temperament, I’ve got that. Canelo will try to bully him but Liam can bully. If he wants to fight dirty, I’ve got a kid that can fight dirty.
“If he wants to box then I’ve got a kid that can box. Álvarez’s team have been complimentary towards Liam and I think they see him as a very educated fighter and not a crash, bang, wallop kind of guy.
“The backhanded compliment is that someone like Álvarez has taken Liam as a serious world champion.”
Naturally, most American critics can only see one outcome in Arlington, where an expected feverishly pro-Canelo crowd of over 40,000 still giddy from Friday’s celebrations of Mexican Independence Day will see their hero celebrate his 50th professional fight with his 48th triumph.
Smith may be an unknown quantity on this side of the Atlantic though Álvarez knows exactly what’s coming.
Both operate well in the pocket, hit hard and move intelligently.
Speed of hand and mind will be key.
“I expect a tough fight, he is coming to win and style wise it will match,” said Álvarez.
“It will be different to the Amir Khan fight – the styles are different, this is a tough, hard battle. He throws combinations and can take punches.”
For Smith, one of four proud Merseyside band of boxing brothers who used to create make-believe boxing rings in their living room as kids, he simply cannot lose.
“Growing up with my brothers all boxing has stood me in good stead for nights like these,” said the 28 year-old who is making the third defense of his title and arrives here boasting a 23-0 record with 13 knockouts.
“You should have seen some the fights we used to have in our front room.
“I used to rush home from school so I could be first on.
“We used tea towels for gloves until we got proper ones and were always breaking our mum’s ornaments. She’d come home and find us all sat in our boxer shorts, out of breath and our skin red raw.
“She hated it.”
Steven Gerrard, a close friend of the Smith brothers, is set to be ringside. Mexican shrills will drown out Liverpudlian bravado.
Yet no matter.
“I’ve not really experienced the feeling of being the away fighter but it doesn’t bother me. I am looking forward to it, the pressure is on him for that very reason.
“Being realistic, if I go in there and get stopped in the first two rounds, people will say they saw that coming so there’s no pressure .
“Does it bother me? Does it fuck.”
Considering the task in hand – Álvarez’s only taste of defeat came against Floyd Mayweather in 2013 while 33 knockouts have illuminated his highlights reel – Smith and Gallagher’s positivity has been infectious.
They, like Álvarez and the Mexican public, are dreaming big.
“Can you imagine the money that will be thrown at Liam Smith for a rematch if he wins this?” said Gallagher, a glint firmly in his eye.
“Do you not think Floyd Mayweather is sat at home thinking ‘I need a number 50 opponent and who better than the other man who beat Saul Alvarez?’
“Do you not think Floyd will think. ‘OK, Liam will do. May next year, at 154lbs, all the belts’.
“We’ve talked about it. That is what is out there. That’s the prize.”
Álvarez is heavily favored to snatch it away yet it won’t be easy.
The Mexican’s mettle is sure to be severely tested. Smith is fearless and talented. Fireworks should ensue.
Golovkin, feet up and popcorn in hand, will be an interested viewer like everyone else.