BIG BEAR LAKE, CALIF. -- When Saul "Canelo" Alvarez steps into the ring on May 5 to defend his junior middleweight title against veteran and future Hall of Famer Shane Mosley, he will face a few challenges that have long-term implications on his career and legacy.
Most importantly, Alvarez (39-0-1, 29 KOs) will have a chance to record his first win against a brand-name fighter -- no small consideration for a 21-year-old champion whom some believe has been anointed before his first test.
But to Alvarez, there is also the matter of stopping his challenger's streak -- 21 wins and no losses -- against Mexican-born fighters. And what better day to end it than on Cinco de Mayo, when Mexicans celebrate their victory at Batalla de Puebla, in which the country's army gained its first victory against a foreign power -- in this case, the French Army, which had tried to claim control of Mexico.
"I have to put an end to that Mosley list," Alvarez said. "On Cinco de Mayo, that streak will be over. I expect to be the first Mexican to defeat Mosley. I will have to give my best on the Batalla de Puebla day."
On paper, it seems Alvarez will be in good position to do just that. His chief advantage: youth. Canelo is almost literally half Mosley's age (40). In fact, Alvarez was only 2 years old when Mosley made his professional debut in 1993, and was 6 when Mosley won the first of his six world championship crowns.
But Alvarez doesn't put much stock in the age differential. He considers Mosley (46-7-1, 39 KOs), even two decades into his professional career, to be a more formidable opponent than most. And he's excited to face a rival of Mosley's stature, as Canelo insists he wants to fight the biggest names.
"It's amazing. I saw videos of him to learn things when I was starting out," Alvarez said of Mosley. "He is 40 years old but is a fighter who has taken good care of his body.
"He is a complete fighter who has strength, is fast, smart and experienced. I liked the way he counterpunched, how he beat rivals slowly and suddenly pulled strong, fast punches. I simply wanted to learn from him. I have many things from him and I learned them from watching him, but I obviously have a different style."
Alvarez says he admired and studied Mosley's ability to combine strength with speed -- two areas the young champ says he has focused on during training for this fight. From those videos, he also hoped to pick up a few tricks that Mosley had gained from all his experience in the ring. It isn't lost on Canelo that those tricks may mean the difference between winning and losing to the man he learned them from.
"Mosley wants my crown, and I want his experience," Alvarez said. "That's it."
Alvarez said he has already learned much from his recent battles, and that fans can expect better from him. In the past few months, he has analyzed video of his previous fights to correct errors and identify his own strengths.
For his part, Mosley expects a tough fight against Alvarez.
"I think it will be a great fight because Canelo is young and hungry, and I'm hungry right now," Mosley said. "And this time I'm injury-free."
Whether Mosley, rejuvenated or not, is up to the task of knocking off a rising champion 19 years his junior remains to be seen. But both fighters share the same goal: to fight boxing's elite, including the winner of Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Miguel Cotto, which will headline the May 5 card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
"This [fight] is a steppingstone for me to be able to be a world champion again and fight these guys again," said Mosley, who lost decisions to Mayweather in 2010 and Cotto in 2007.
Alvarez's short list of desired opponents looks much the same and, it should be noted, doesn't include countryman Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Canelo wouldn't rule out the possibility of a Chavez fight in the future, but his immediate intentions are to take on the current cream of the crop.
"That's what I want. I always ask for the best," Alvarez said. "I'm always asking [to fight] the best, Mayweather and Cotto. Those are boxers that, right now, can decide who they will fight. And I hope my time to decide who I fight is also near.
"I want to be the best in boxing, and we are working on that. I want to have big wins and write my history in boxing."