Saúl "Canelo" Álvarez says he was determined to fight at home again in Mexico this year. The massive financial sacrifice necessary to make it happen didn't bother him in the slightest.
“Sometimes it's not about money,” Álvarez said Thursday. “Sometimes it's about pride, and it's that time. I don't need to say how much I lose, because I don't care. I feel good to fight in my hometown, and I'm proud.”
When Álvarez steps into the ring in his native Guadalajara on May 6, he will make about half of what he would have made if the fight were held in Las Vegas, promoter Eddie Hearn told The Associated Press on Thursday in San Diego.
Álvarez is eagerly taking that major pay cut — quite possibly more than $10 million — to take on Britain's John Ryder for all four super middleweight world title belts in front of more than 50,000 frenzied hometown fans at Akron Stadium.
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“It's unbelievable, because it affected me,” Hearn said with a grin. "Actually, I think it's great. Saul has got a lot of money, so that's (a factor). but it’s still quite unusual. I’ve not really seen a lot of fighters that would take a lot less to do it at home.”
Although Álvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs) and trainer Eddy Reynoso were determined to hold the 168-pound champion's next fight to Guadalajara, Hearn still dutifully fielded offers from Vegas, London and even the Middle East for the next fight from arguably the sport's most bankable fighter over the past decade.
“The first round (of offers), it was already much more (than Guadalajara),” Hearn said. “And then when we went back and said, ‘No,’ it kept going up. And I kept going back, and in the end, (Álvarez) told me to stop. 'Stop. Shut up. We're doing it.'"
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Hearn can't yet give specifics about the size of Álvarez's payday, but Canelo was widely reported to have a guaranteed purse of $45 million for his trilogy bout with Gennady Golovkin last year — with his final earnings likely much higher, perhaps near $100 million. Álvarez also made well over the $15 million guaranteed purse for his bout against Dmitry Bivol last May.
The 32-year-old Álvarez turned pro at 15 in Guadalajara, but he hasn't fought in Mexico since November 2011, when the skyrocket of his career made it financially unwise. His last 22 fights have been in the U.S. in locales ranging from Vegas and Miami to the Dallas Cowboys' cavernous home stadium.
But Álvarez and Hearn have been working toward a fight in Mexico ever since the British promoter hooked up with the Mexican superstar six fights ago. While Canelo recovered from surgery on his left hand over the holidays, he and Reynoso decided the time had arrived to take a mandatory title defense in front of the fans who first roared for him. Even his grandmother will be in the crowd, he said.
“We are so crazy,” Álvarez said. “The vibes are just different. It’s amazing. You feel the energy. Everything moves when the people scream. It's just the best."
The move also comes with pressure: His fans will be expecting something spectacular against an opponent not thought to be on his lofty level. A certain segment of Mexican fans have soured on Álvarez for reasons ranging from his two unimpressive performances in 2022 to his primary residency in San Diego, where he plays golf almost daily.
And Ryder (32-5, 18 KOs) is no pushover: The North London native has won four straight fights to earn this shot, including a victory over former champ Danny Jacobs. Ryder has plenty of experience with hostile crowds after traveling to Callum Smith's native Liverpool in 2019 for a 168-pound title fight that began with fans making throat-slashing gestures at him on the way to the ring.
“I've earned it, and I think it's great fun,” Ryder said. “I'll keep the blinkers on, put on the hat and just get in the ring.”
Álvarez said his hand is healed from surgery, and his biggest challenge is regaining full confidence in his left hook. After this homecoming bout in which Álvarez will be a significant favorite, he wants an even bigger challenge: a rematch with Bivol, who sent Canelo to his first loss in nearly nine years last May in a light heavyweight bout.
“I wasn't 100% in that fight, and I have a lot to prove in that (rematch),” Álvarez said. “But first, I have to do what I want to do at home. That's the most important thing.”