Canelo Álvarez has chosen the next series of challenges for himself atop the boxing world.
And as usual for the Mexican pound-for-pound superstar, he's charting a path with his legacy in mind.
The undisputed super middleweight world champion will move up to light heavyweight for the second time on May 7 to take on WBA champion Dmitry Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs) in Las Vegas.
If Álvarez (57-1-2, 39 KOs) wins, and if Gennady Golovkin beats Ryota Murata in Japan in April, Álvarez and Golovkin will complete their highly entertaining trilogy in the late summer or early fall.
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“For me, it’s to continue to make history, right?” Álvarez said Wednesday as he opened promotion of his showdown with Bivol, slated for T-Mobile Arena. ”I like the idea to go to 175 and fight (Bivol), the second-best fighter in that division, the champion. That’s a good challenge for me.”
Álvarez also intends to take a third fight in December, likely against either a cruiserweight champion or a super middleweight mandatory challenger. It all adds up to another busy year for boxing's most bankable star, one whose work ethic hasn't flagged with his increasing fame and fortune.
“I like to be busy,” said Álvarez, who fought four times in 11 months while claiming all four 168-pound belts last year. “I feel I’m in my prime. I feel more confident in everything, more strong, so I don’t know if it’s because I’m more active or not, but I like to be in the ring.”
He will have significant height and size disadvantages against Bivol, but that's all part of the challenge to Álvarez, who stopped Sergey Kovalev in his only previous light heavyweight bout in 2019.
After blasting through every 168-pound belt-holder last year, he decided not to take another fight at super middleweight against the likes of two-time champion David Benavidez or middleweight star Jermall Charlo, who would both love the payday guaranteed by sharing a ring with Álvarez.
“I know I’m the best fighter, but I fought the best fighters in the division, and I beat everybody at 168,” Álvarez said. “You still say, ‘No, but you need to fight ...’ Why? I don’t understand that. But right now, I can do whatever I want, and I just do the best things and I fight with the best, with the champions. ... (Bivol) has something to offer me. He’s a world champion at 175. He’s a better fighter than (Charlo or Benavidez).”
Álvarez will go back down to 168 pounds to fight Golovkin, who battled him to a draw in their first bout before Álvarez got a narrow decision in the second matchup. Álvarez had been notably reluctant to accept a third fight with the Kazakh middleweight star, claiming a personal grudge against him, but streaming service DAZN has been eager for Álvarez to take the most marketable bout possible for both fighters.
Álvarez began promotion of his showdown with Bivol in San Diego, where he lives and trains and plays 18 holes of golf almost every day of the year. He told NBC 7's Darnay Tripp he logs scores at the Grand Del Mar and The Farms Golf Club in Rancho Santa Fe, and said the weather in San Diego reminds him of back home in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Alvarez has a taco shop opening soon in Chula Vista, and, as you'd expect from a world-class fighter, didn't miss a chance to talk up his menu.
El Pastor Del Rica taqueria is coming to Broadway Avenue in April or May.
Wednesday, Alvarez rolled up to the tent outside the harborside hotel in a black-and-blue Bugatti Chiron, and he briefly delayed his first interview session to answer texts from his wife.
Don't let Álvarez's comfortable American life fool anyone, though. He remains an inveterate gym rat who stays sharp constantly with trainer Eddy Reynoso, and he is returning to training camp just four months after he beat Caleb Plant last November to complete his busy 2021.
“He’s set the bar,” said Eddie Hearn, one of Álvarez's promoters. “Normally the excuse for big stars is, ‘They only fight twice a year.’ Well, he’s just fought four times. I do think other stars ought to be more active, and he's setting the example.”
Bivol has his own concerns as a Russian athlete put in a painful position by the invasion of Ukraine.
Bivol was born in Kyrgyzstan, but his parents moved to St. Petersburg when he was 11 years old. His wife, children and family are still in Russia while he prepares to train for this bout in the U.S.
“I have a lot of friends in Ukraine,” Bivol said. “I have a lot of friends in Russia. My family is in Russia. I have a lot of friends everywhere, and I wish them only peace and only the best. It’s really sad for me. Every day I wake up and read the news and I hope it will stop.”
Bivol and Hearn both said they expect the bout to be held as scheduled, while realizing the world could change dramatically in two months. The four major sanctioning bodies in boxing haven't yet attempted to stop Russian fighters from competing, but have refused to sanction title fights in Russia.