LAS VEGAS – When Saul "Canelo" Alvarez was asked at his post-fight news conference whether he's ready to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr., the young champion showed off both his growing grasp of English and his flair for the dramatic.
"I was born ready," he said to laughter and cheers.
Even at this early stage of his pro career, Alvarez is confident his moment for global stardom is rapidly arriving. After all, he sold out the MGM Grand Garden for his first major event as a headliner in the U.S. on Saturday night, even for a fight against an overmatched opponent — and even while another beloved Mexican boxer fought just a few blocks down Tropicana Avenue.
Promoter Richard Schaefer says the weekend's show, culminating in Alvarez's beatdown of 12-to-1 underdog Josesito Lopez, only proves his 22-year-old redhead is a superstar who's ready to take on the biggest names between 147 and 160 pounds: Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Sergio Martinez or anybody else willing to tangle with Canelo.
The Golden Boy Promotions CEO thinks the bout and the crowd's reaction to it was "the coming-out party for Canelo Alvarez."
"You saw the quality. You saw the reactions from fans, the electricity in the air," Schaefer added. "It was maybe one of the best nights of boxing Golden Boy has ever put on."
Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs) has won 37 consecutive fights, and he defended his WBC 154-pound belt with brute efficiency, battering the undersized Lopez until referee Joe Cortez stopped it with 5 seconds left in the fifth round. Alvarez had barely celebrated the win before his mind turned to the next challenges available — including Mayweather, the undefeated pound-for-pound king who has given little indication when he'll fight again.
"I'm happy to fight anybody," Alvarez said through a translator. "I want to challenge the best, and I'm ready."
Schaefer said he'll rely on Golden Boy's matchmakers to tell him whether Canelo is truly ready for the biggest challenges in the sport, but he feels there's little reason to hold back the young champion at this point. Even a loss to Mayweather or Cotto isn't likely to dim Canelo's star, and actually might be a valuable learning experience for a powerful, durable fighter who still has flaws in his game, including a tendency to abandon movement and elusiveness in favor of brute power.
Mayweather almost certainly could exploit those flaws, but Canelo would learn from it, win or lose.
"Other promoters believe in marinating. I don't," Schaefer said. "You never know what's going to happen in life. If there's an opportunity to have a big fight, and it's something that fans want to see, I think you have an obligation to your fighter to get him in there."
Alvarez's star power is recognized by more people than his promoter. Staples Center in Los Angeles and Barclays Center in Brooklyn are eager to showcase Canelo in their venues, and a fighter who is already a smash on Mexican television appears to be growing as an American TV draw.
Schaefer also made sure everybody noticed the lively sellout crowd packed into the Garden even while Martinez's dramatic victory over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. raged down the street at the larger Thomas and Mack Center. Golden Boy and Top Rank both refused to move their Mexican Independence Day weekend shows in the same city, yet both promoters appeared satisfied by their ticket sales and television attention.
And just in case anybody thought the enormous discord between boxing's top two promotional companies had abated, Schaefer said this weekend might not be the last time they counterprogram each other in Las Vegas.
"We are not going to be influenced by what they do and when they do it," Schaefer said. "Canelo Alvarez is a superstar, and he'll fight when he wants to fight. (Saturday night) was really a special night, even with another card going on down the street."
Manny Pacquiao will fight Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time in Vegas on Dec. 8, and that's among the dates Schaefer is considering for Alvarez's next fight. Cotto is already booked for Dec. 1 against Austin Trout, and Mayweather likely wouldn't be ready to fight that soon, but another contender could step in against Canelo — and Schaefer claims he wouldn't hesitate to take on Pacquiao and Marquez.
"I would do it again," Schaefer said. "Whatever is the biggest challenge out there, we'll take it on. I believe in our cards. I believe in our fights. ... We don't let another promoter or TV network jerk us around. This is Canelo mania, and it's only going to get bigger."