Current unified, super middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Álvarez is set to square off against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, a former champion himself, in what is supposed to be the exciting closure to their fight trilogy on Saturday in Las Vegas. Coming off his second career loss to Dmitry Bivol in the light heavyweight division last May, Álvarez is looking to bounce back against the 40-year-old Golovkin in Las Vegas.
Fans are anxious to see how Canelo responds after a loss, especially since his last loss goes back to 2013 against Floyd Mayweather. But result aside, Canelo will have all of Mexico in his corner. His skills and genius inside the ring would be more than enough to warrant that, but he brings something to the table that previous prides of Mexico did not.
Being red-haired, fair-skinned, and freckled face, common cultural stereotyping would not lead most to think Canelo is Mexican, much less born and raised there. Yet Canelo’s pride persists, physical features aside. He is a product of Guadalajara. No appearance changes that. And that is what brings Mexico together. That is what brings Mexicans like me together.
Stories have been told for years about how Canelo was bullied for his appearance and standing up for himself is what led him down the boxing path. Although I never fought anyone after classes, I share those feelings of an identity crisis. Being told by others what ethnicity I am is one of the most frustrating things I have experienced because it never makes sense to me. Outside of my family, I was taught I was not Mexican enough for reasons varying from my name to my own appearance. Lack of acceptance pushed me to want to be someone I never was.
Not bearing the last name of my grandparents from Ensenada or fully looking the part does not undermine my roots or who I am, but it took me years to realize that. As cliché as it sounds, Canelo helped me with that acceptance.
Seeing a Mexican fighter wearing his country on his sleeve who, according to what society taught me, looks nothing like where he is from, was crucial to me. I saw someone of my ethnicity not look like whatever stereotypical mold I was compared to and be proud of who they are.
Whether he means to or not, Canelo Álvarez has inspired a generation of Mexicans. Mexicans who do not fit the mold that the world compares them to. Mexicans who are told they are not enough to be who they claim to be. Mexicans just like Canelo. Mexicans just like me.