LAS VEGAS — It didn’t take long, during a meeting with reporters Wednesday, for Canelo Alvarez to be asked about the positive drug tests that put his fight career on a lengthy pause.
“For the majority of my career, I never had any issues. It was just that one problem,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “And, you know, I turn the page.Most importantly, I turn the page on that chapter. It’s over.”
Unfortunately for Alvarez and his team, it’s the chapter on which many boxing fans and media observers remain stuck as he prepares for his long-awaited middleweight championship rematch against Gennady Golovkin on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
The bout will be the first for Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 knockouts) since his controversial draw with Golovkin last September. In the interim, Alvarez was suspended for six months after he tested positive for he performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol, which scuttled the originally planned May 5 rematch.
Alvarez has never wavered in maintaining the positive tests were the result of tainted meat he consumed in Mexico. stood firm in that position Wednesday.
Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs) remains adamant that Alvarez’s defense doesn’t add up.
“I think it’s all nonsense,” Golovkin said through an interpreter. “I don’t like to hear these nonsense stories about contaminated meat.”
The bickering over banned substances has helped foster seemingly genuine bad blood between the fighters — which has only helped stoke anticipation for the rematch. During Wednesday’s news conference, the boxers refused to make eye contact despite being seated just several feet apart. They also did not submit to the customary pre-fight photo op in which they would have been posed opposite each another for a staredown.
Alvarez, for his part, has not taken the steroid talk kindly. The 28-year-old middleweight from Guadalajara, Mexico, has been vocal in his displeasure of the remarks from Golovkin and his camp.
“I’m very bothered, and I’m angry at their accusations,” Alvarez said in a recent teleconference. He added: “The respect that we had was lost. He crossed the line with his statements, with what he said, with the excuses, with all the crying from his team.”
Nonetheless, Alvarez undoubtedly values the opinion of the fans more than that of his opponents. And boxing fans seem somewhat more apt to overlook positive drug tests those of other sports. Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr. and Shane Mosley are among the notable modern fighters who have overcome positive tests with minimal damage to their legacies. Holyfield is in boxing’s Hall of Fame. Jones and Mosley are almost certain to follow when they become eligible.
The hope from Alvarez’s promoter, Golden Boy chief executive Oscar De La Hoya, is that all Alvarez needs is a win Saturday night to get past the steroid chatter and cement his standing as the post-Floyd Mayweather Jr. face of boxing.
“I don’t think his career will be tainted whatsoever,” De La Hoya said. “I think once he beats Golovkin in a spectacular fashion, then people will forget about it here in the States.”
Though Alvarez has more than his share of backers in the United States, his fan base long ago reached stratospheric proportions in Mexico. But on this front, too, he is facing a challenge from Golovkin. The Kazakh boxer has made a direct appeal to Mexican fight fans by boasting that he, not Alvarez, fights in the come-forward style of Mexican greats such as Julio Cesar Chavez and Marco Antonio Barrera.
“It would be nice if Canelo came to fight this time,” Golovkin said, chiding Alvarez for what he deemed to be an overly defensive style in last September’s bout. “I don’t believe what he says about how he will fight me this time. He said the same thing before our first fight.”
Alvarez bristled at the critique that he operated conservatively in his initial meeting with Golovkin, and rejected his foe’s notion that he’s not a “Mexican-style” fighter.
“There is no such thing as a Mexican style,” Alvarez said. “There have been many fighters from Mexico with different styles. My style is mine.”
“It’s a gimmick to win fans over,” De La Hoya said of Golvokin’s campaign.
The promoter and Hall of Fame boxer added that during his own career, he won over Mexican fans by “beating the best out there and fighting the best out there. Canelo did it the same way. He’s a Mexican national, and the Mexican nationals love him.”
Gimmick or not, Golovkin has tried to attach some pretty harsh labels to Alvarez: liar, cheater and runner.
The Mexican fighter, angered though he is by the talk from the Golovkin side, believes it’s all just a ploy to get under his skin — one which he says won’t work on fight night.
“I will utilize it in my favor because I have experience in this,” Alvarez said. “I know that if I get angry and closed-minded, that I might make some mistakes, and it will be wrong.”
And if he’s able to keep his cool in the ring on Saturday night, Alvarez might just get the chance to write that new chapter.
“That’s why I’m fighting,” Alvarez said. “To continue my history and my story.”
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