Canelo/Chavez: A Cinco de Mayo Showdown

While Mexican Independence Day may be the more significant holiday for the country as a whole, Cinco de Mayo has historically been linked strongly to Mexican boxing.

The great Julio Cesar Chavez became famous for fighting in some of his most memorable bouts on Mexican holidays. Then the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Juan Manuel Marquez carried the torch for Mexican fighters competing on Cinco de Mayo weekend, fighting with the warrior spirit that has become synonymous with Mexican boxers.

And then, for a time, it was a non-Mexican boxer that seemed to own Cinco de Mayo. Floyd Mayweather, the biggest star in the past several decades, fought nearly every year in the first weekend of May, and brought with him more attention than any other fighter in recent memory. Many who celebrated the date’s importance for Mexican fighters were angered by Mayweather’s presence — it didn’t help that Floyd defeated De La Hoya on May 5, 2007, and wore a mariachi outfit into the ring.

But now, with Mayweather out of the picture (at least temporarily), Mexican fighters are poised to "take back" the historic fighting weekend.

On Saturday, boxing’s biggest pay-per-view draw Canelo Alvarez (48-1-1) will take on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the son of Mexico’s most beloved fighter. They will not fight for a meaningful belt, or even in a set weight class (the bout will take place at a catchweight of 164.5 lbs.) Rather, the fight bears a significance that is almost exclusively cultural: these two men will walk into the ring with Mexican pride on their shoulders, and hatred for each other in their hearts.

In an interview with Fight Sports, Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya spoke about the importance of the fight for Alvarez, the top fighter in his stable.

"If he beats Chavez, Canelo cements his place in Mexican boxing history," De La Hoya said. "And he’s looking to cement himself on a more global scale. This will prove who is the best Mexican fighter today."

It is fitting that a fight between two Mexican fighters, who throughout history have been known for their aggressive, prideful fighting styles, has taken on an extremely personal tone. Canelo is moving up in weight to fight the biggest man he’s ever shared the ring with, and De La Hoya says that the animosity between the two men is a major reason for why the fight is even taking place.

"This fight is so personal for these guys," he said. "They want to rip each other’s heads off. They don’t respect each other, they hate each other. And that’s the reason why Canelo is moving up to the weight. It’s a big disadvantage, but he wants Chavez so bad that he’s willing to move up to the weight."

The malice between these two men is not fabricated nor exaggerated, and it all comes back to Mexico. Canelo, who grew up poor and rose to becoming one of boxing’s biggest stars, saw Chavez Jr. live a life where he was always comfortable, always having his father’s wealth to fall back on.

For Chavez Jr. (50-2-1), this fight represents an opportunity to build his own legacy. Often plagued by accusations of poor motivation, Chavez is entering the fight hungrier than ever. He has seen Canelo rise up the ranks of boxing and become Mexico’s signature fighter. No matter what he says publicly, that does not sit well with the son of the nation’s most beloved boxer.

But on Saturday night, Chavez Jr. will have the opportunity to carve his own name in history. On Cinco de Mayo weekend, where a fight of this cultural magnitude belongs, Canelo and Chavez Jr. will step into the ring together. When they leave, only one man will be seen as the true pride of Mexican boxing.

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