The Proving Ground

The ring is perhaps the toughest proving ground of them all. It’s cold and cruel, totally unforgiving. The canvas has very little give. Those who step between its ropes are trapped within them thereafter. But the very same ring that came provide a man with hour upon frustrating hour of punishment can also provide him with an unparalleled joy.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez faces such a test on Saturday evening. Standing across the ring from him will be Austin “No Doubt” Trout. Whereas Canelo has had seemingly endless speculation regarding whether or not he is in fact the real deal or a manufactured star courtesy of the Golden Boy hype machine, Trout has never been subjected to such ridicule.

Trout came up the way the hardcore fight fans prefer a guy to come up, achieving fame solely through his fists and the ability he possesses to punish another man with them. There was no hype machine, no marketing campaign, no promoter banking on him becoming a mega star.

On the other hand, we have Canelo. Fighting professionally since the age of 15, he has been blessed with a million dollar smile and the sort of good looks you don’t often see in a guy whose chosen to get beat up professionally. It’s all led to, some say, premature fame and acclaim for the 22 year old.

If you’re thinking this all sounds very familiar, you’re not the only one. Oscar de la Hoya, Canelo’s promoter, went through much of the same ridicule after winning an Olympic Gold Medal. Fight fans don’t like the pretty boys, don’t appreciate the swooning of teenage girls over a fighter. They want the hard luck cat they can relate too.

Luckily for Canelo, whereas even though de la Hoya hailed from East Los he couldn’t seem to get any respect in the community, Canelo is an extremely popular figure throughout all of Mexico. It seems as though every time he fights the boxing mad population stop in their tracks and gather in bars, cantinas and their living rooms to watch.

The hype machine has done it’s job. But Canelo has also done his job in the ring. He’s had the hand picked opponents any star on the way up has. But where some who’ve been given it to easy might eek out a win, or get a shady decision, or a early stoppage, Canelo has thoroughly dominated every opponent he’s come across.

He has at times, as all boxers do, looked to be in trouble. That only seems to bring a ferocity and urgency out in him that has to make any opponent question just how bad they really want to keep going at him. If you hit him with everything and he’s coming back even harder, what do you do?

Austin Trout on the other hand has comprehensively dominated two very worthy opponents in Delvin Rodriguez and Miguel Cotto. Victorious via unanimous decision in both cases, he’s shown the opposite of Canelo in that he keeps calm under pressure. He’s never to eager to get involved in dangerous exchanges.

Rather he picks his shots, has a great defence and moves around the ring with quickness and ease. Herein lies the proving ground for Canelo. He cannot simply go at Trout with flat out aggression, Trout likely won’t allow it and could get him with a counter. He will have to remain cool headed. Hard to do when you’re avenging your brothers loss.

Going into tomorrow evenings fight both men have questions to answer. But the pressure is all on Canelo Alvarez. Trout is the first in his prime challenger he’s fought that also has such a high ring aptitude and skill. Lose here and the detractors will celebrate, saying they knew all along. Win convincingly and they begin to quiet down. The bandwagon might even start filling up.

If Trout wins, it simply cements him in the high position of regard many hardcore fans already hold him in. Lose and questions start coming fast and hard. Not just the ones from the media, but the questions a man asks himself when he fails at anything. The ones you sometimes don’t want to admit the answer to.

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