LAS VEGAS (AP) — Canelo Alvarez gets a pass, if only because everyone who fights Floyd Mayweather Jr. gets a pass.
Lose a second fight to someone not named Mayweather, though, and the red-haired Mexican's star could begin to fade. "I learned a lot from fighting Floyd, but I'm ready to get back in the ring to maintain the path that I was on before," Alvarez said. "This is what I love to do."
The path Alvarez was on took a detour in September when Mayweather dominated him over 12 rounds, handing Alvarez his first loss. He gets a totally different type of opponent Saturday night, taking on slugger Alfredo Angulo in a junior middleweight fight that likely won't be wanting for action.
The story line against Mayweather was whether a young and strong champion could solve a puzzle no other boxer had been able to. The story line against Angulo will be whether Alvarez can come back from the loss and establish himself again as one of the stars of the sport.
"What happened in September is in the past," Alvarez insisted. "I'm fully concentrated on this fight." Alvarez didn't pick a walkover for his comeback fight, the first of what he hopes to be three bouts this year. Angulo is a rugged and hard-hitting contender who may come into the ring as a big underdog but will have more than just a puncher's chance.
Angulo was stopped in his last fight by Erislandy Lara after his left eye swelled shut in the 10th round. But he had knocked Lara down twice earlier and was holding his own before suddenly turning his back to Lara in a sign he couldn't go on.
"I'm ready to chase him or fight him like a true Mexican warrior," Angulo said. "I plan to test him like he's never been tested before. I don't think anyone has ever hit Canelo as hard as I'm going to hit him."
The fight is part of a pay-per-view card on Showtime that was supposed to include a fight between IBF light middleweight champion Carlos Molina and challenger Jermall Charlo. That fight was canceled Friday, though, while Molina remained in a Las Vegas jail on a 2007 felony warrant for failing to register as a sex offender. Promoters elevated a lightweight fight between Ricardo Alvarez, brother of Canelo Alvarez, and Sergio Thompson to the televised spot instead.
Alvarez weighed in at 155 pounds Friday, the contract limit, to 154½ for Angulo. Angulo (22-3, 18 knockouts) has had his own issues with jail, spending eight months at a detention facility in California after turning himself in for being in the U.S. on an expired visa. The native of Mexico says he has since cleared up his immigration issues, and devoted himself to his boxing career at the age of 31.
"There were a couple times when I was in the immigration detention center that I wanted to quit," Angulo said. "But my team of lawyers always motivated me, wouldn't let me stay down for too long and kept telling me that justice would prevail and that I shouldn't give up. I always dreamed of being a headliner on a major card, and here it is. I am so ready for Saturday."
Alvarez (42-1-1, 30 knockouts) was overmatched in his fight against Mayweather, losing almost every round and never being able to figure out how to get inside Mayweather's defense. He vowed to use his first defeat as a learning experience, though, and wants to regain the stature that has made him a reliable pay-per-view attraction in recent fights.
To do that he must win — and win impressively — against a fighter who might have more guts than talent. "Angulo presents a difficult challenge because he's a fighter who can punch and take a great punch," Alvarez said. "I know I have to prepare and establish my game plan early. But you know how it can be with game plans. Sometimes, once a fight starts, you have to do what you have to do to win."
Angulo said that is just one of the reasons the fight should be an entertaining one, no matter how long it lasts. "Style-wise, this is a great matchup for the fans and both of us," he said. " Fans are going to get a great fight."