Canelo Álvarez has gone from selling ice cream on the streets of Guadalajara, Mexico, as a youth to the crème de la crème of boxing.
Álvarez (57-1-2, 39 knockouts) breaks the bank to the tune of nearly $40 million each time he graces a ring. The perennial pound-for-pound king and four-division champion will go down as one of the greatest fighters of his generation.
Álvarez will look to add to his legacy when he faces WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, continuing his lucrative tradition of fighting during the week of Cinco De Mayo.
Álvarez plans on fighting seven more years, and should he beat Bivol, a tantalizing trilogy against nemesis Gennadiy Golovkin awaits during Mexican independence day weekend on Sept. 17.
Confidence is at the center of everything Álvarez does.
The day after Álvarez punished and pulverized Caleb Plant in November to further stamp his supremacy, he celebrated the only way he knew how — by heading to Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas to feed his growing obsession with golf.
Álvarez operates by the mantra “No Boxing, No Life,” but once he gives up his gloves, he’ll look for greener pastures with a golf club. His goal is to be good enough to consider pursuing a professional golf career, after picking up the sport in May 2019.
“Golf is competitive, and I am very competitive. That’s why I love it,” Álvarez told The Times in his San Diego gym.
Golf has turned into Álvarez’s release, distracting him from the rigorous routines required to be a boxer, and he’s making it look somewhat easy, as his golf highlights go viral now along with his knockouts.
His handicap is currently at 10, he says. Last June, Alvarez won a celebrity tournament in South Carolina.
“I don’t come to play. I come to win,” Álvarez wrote in an Instagram post.
During an AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am event in February, Álvarez came within one foot of sinking a hole-in-one on the par-three 17th hole.
When he nails impressive putts, he shadow boxes.
Take a peek at his online presence, and it’s filled with as many images of him swinging a stick as swinging at opponents.
Golf has helped bring out a different side of Álvarez’s personality. The development coincided with his improving command of English after years of exclusively speaking Spanish.
But he’s honest with his self-assessment, acknowledging that one day he can play great golf and the next he can play poorly.
“Golf is such a really hard sport, and it’s a hard sport to be a pro. You need to be a golfer starting from your youth,” Álvarez said. “I consider myself a two-sport guy, but I don’t know if I’m a star or not yet in golf.”
Álvarez’s above-par play is even more impressive when you consider he didn’t grow up around a sport that is mostly reserved for the wealthy.
Although the PGA Tour held the Mexico Open in Puerto Vallarta this past weekend, Mexico is not considered a hotbed for producing golfers. Only three native Mexicans have won a PGA event. In 2020, Carlos Ortiz became the first Mexican to win an event in more than 40 years.
Álvarez will represent Mexico in a USA vs. World nine-hole, team matchplay tournament at Liberty National in New Jersey on June 30.
“The Icons Series is a big tournament and for me to represent my country. I’m really happy to be a part of it,” Álvarez says.
Thomas Brookes, founder and chief executive of The Icons Series, says Álvarez can be transcendent beyond boxing borders as a powerful influencer for Mexico and can grow the game across diverse audiences, much like Tiger Woods did.
“Golf has its stereotypes. It’s not a sport you would associate with a Hispanic fighter. It’s just rare,” Brookes says. “Canelo’s passion for golf will help grow the sport in Mexico — there’s no question about it. He’ll probably have more influence on golf’s growth in Mexico than a professional Mexican golfer would because so many Mexicans love boxing.”
Brookes said it won’t be uncommon to see fans flock to Álvarez outside of his fights to watch him golf.
“They want to see him in a different way — how he talks, how he thinks, how he goes about himself and competes in a different environment. It’s really interesting,” Brookes said. “I’ll put him in the one-to-watch category [as a top athlete-turned-golfer]. With the ridiculous amount of time he’s practicing, there’s no question he could get his handicap to a much better level.”
Álvarez plays golf with his inner circle as well as his famous friends. He’s gone toe-to-toe and traded shots with Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, played rounds with Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and kicked it with retired Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos.
Álvarez’s favorite golfer is Woods, and if he could gather a dream team for a round, the foursome would include Woods, Michael Jordan and Brooks Koepka.
Before he can further think about dream golf dates, he must face a potential nightmare in Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs). Álvarez will be fighting for just the second time at 175 pounds when he takes on the Russian.
How did Álvarez prepare for a fight that undoubtedly will be uncomfortable against a bigger, technically sound boxer who excels at fighting at range?
By hitting the range, of course.
From Monday through Saturday during training camp, Álvarez trained at boxing for three hours in the morning, and upon completion, he hopped into his Bugatti and headed straight to the Del Mar Country Club to play for four hours in the afternoon.
Once his golf desires were satisfied, he went home to his wife, Fernanda. He rested, ate, spent time with family and stayed glued to the Golf Channel before ending the day with another 90-minute boxing workout.
“My wife is always mad at me, but I love golf. I tell her there are many TVs around the house — you can put whatever you want besides Golf Channel,” Álvarez quips.
Álvarez acknowledges he’s addicted to golf.
“I don’t play golf to be a better boxer. I play golf because I love golf,” he said. “I love what the game of golf brings to my life. It’s a challenge for me to be a better golfer and better player. Golf makes me feel calm in my personal life, and boxing too.”
Matchroom Boxing head Eddie Hearn, who has served as Alvarez’s primary promoter ever since the fighter split from Oscar De La Hoya in 2020, caters to Álvarez’s appetite by arranging mini-golf in his hotel room and golf set-ups across hotel floors during fight weeks.
Much like Álvarez has two-time trainer of the year and lifelong confidant Eddy Reynoso in his boxing corner, he also has a team of golf coaches showing him the ropes on the links.
“He loves golf just as much as anyone I’ve ever seen,” says Aaron Dexheimer, a former PGA Tour player who has coached Álvarez. “The one thing that sticks out to me is his dedication to improvement. It’s pretty amazing to watch his confidence. It’s a testament to who he is as a boxer. With him always having the belief that he’s not going to fail — you can learn a lot from that. We’re all self-doubters, and golf is an extremely hard game, but I never saw him doubt himself. He might not have executed how he wanted to, but it wasn’t because he didn’t think he could do it. That’s what you need to be a great golfer.”
Dexheimer says Álvarez’s work ethic and mental approach are up there with some of the best golfers he’s coached.
“If you ask him to hit one shot 150 times, he’ll literally hit it 150 times. He understands hard work and what it takes,” Dexheimer says. “If he decides to be a professional golfer, it’s going to be a matter of transferring his body. I’m sure he can do that perfectly because that’s what he does now with boxing and doesn’t cut corners doing so. His future in golf is whatever he wants to make it.”
Before Álvarez can focus on hitting another ball, he must focus on hitting Bivol and the hullabaloo that comes with fight week.
Álvarez is promising a victory and hopes to leave the ring without a scratch.
And he has a celebratory tee time to make Sunday morning at Shadow Creek.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.