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Inside Canelo Alvarez’s humble gym in Guadalajara where he learned to box like his six brothers, close to childhood home

ON A RUNDOWN street in Guadalajara, Mexico, is a tiny gym that has become the stuff of legend in the world of boxing.

Five world champions have trained at the Julian Magdaleno Gym, including Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, the Mexican megastar who is rated by many the best fighter on the planet.

A young fighter trains under a photo of Saul Alvarez and his framed gloves at the gym in Guadalajara, Mexico
Stephen Woodman

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alavarez’s brother Rigoberto remembers teaching his younger sibling to box inside this gym in Guadalajara
Stephen Woodman

Inside, a couple of teenagers are dancing in front of a Canelo mural, punching furiously at the duck tape-covered heavy bags.

At the back of the gym is a creaky boxing ring.

Two sparring partners exchange blows under the framed shorts of local legends, including the purple pair Canelo wore as he battered brave British contender Mathew Hatton for the light-middleweight title in 2011.

Beneath the shorts is a sign with the gym’s motto, “The worst that can happen is you stop caring if you lose.”

Canelo, 30, is already a world away from this gym. He is the biggest draw in boxing.

With his clean-cut looks and good manners, Canelo fits the bill as boxing’s poster boy.

He recently has confirmed his next fight will be against Brit Callum Smith on December 19.

The Mexican superstar will return to the ring as a free agent having terminated his contract with DAZN and Golden Boy Promotions.

He was 11 years old and a kid of that age shouldn’t be able to punch like that. ‘God this is a great gift you’ve given us,’ I remember saying.

Rigoberto Alvarez

But behind the squeaky-clean image is a very different story.

From punch-ups, legal problems and even a brother accused of murder, the red-haired fighter is no stranger to scandal.

Canelo’s rags-to-riches story — and the controversy that is part of it — is well-known in Mexico.

Rows of boxing gloves and head protectors in the gym where Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez turned his anger into boxing talent
Stephen Woodman

Five world champions have trained at the Julian Magdaleno Gym, including Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s childhood home where he lived with his six brothers
Stephen Woodman

The boxing ring at the Julian Magdaleno Gym in Guadalajara is surrounded by framed shorts from Canelo’s title fights
Stephen Woodman

The small house in Juanacatlan on the outskirts of Guadalajara where Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez grew up
Stephen Woodman

The youngest of seven brothers who all fought as professional boxers, Alvarez is nicknamed Canelo (cinnamon) because of his red hair.

As a youngster, the Mexican brawler learned to fight off teasing classmates.

“He was always bullied for being red-haired,” Canelo’s brother Gonzalo told SunSport.

“He used to lose control and get into fights.”

As a child Canelo worked with his family selling ice lollies in the tiny town of Juanacatlan, western Mexico.

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has trained hard to become one of the biggest stars of world boxing
Splash News

The humble area of Juanacatlan where Canelo grew up with this six brothers
Stephen Woodman

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez poses with his six supercars to show how far he has come from his humble roots
Instagram @canelo

“It was a tough upbringing. We were always working,” said Gonzalo. “He didn’t enjoy secondary school. He preferred fighting.”

Rigoberto, the eldest Alvarez brother, who also became world champion, gave Canelo his first pair of boxing gloves.

“I helped him and another kid, who was a bit bigger, put the gloves on. In that moment, I had no idea what I was about to see,” Rigoberto said.

“He was 11 years old and a kid of that age shouldn’t be able to punch like that.

” ‘God this is a great gift you’ve given us,’ I remember saying.”

It was not long before Canelo was ready to train at the Magdaleno, where he sparred with world champions.

Because of its reputation, business is still booming at the ramshackle gym, with 70 students stopping in daily.

For the town he should be a hero and a source of pride. But sometimes instead of support you, people want to knock you down. There’s a lot of jealousy.

Gonzalo Alvarez

“Saul motivates us, we can all learn from him,” said trainer Jose Barrera.

“Lots of troubled children take up boxing and become much more disciplined… I had my vices too. I used to drink and take cocaine until I started coming here.”

Alvarez turned professional when he was only 15, because he ran out of suitable amateur opponents.

A year later, he had a daughter, which added more pressure to succeed.

Canelo Alvarez beat Amir Khan in a WBC middleweight title fight in Las Vegas lin 2016
Getty Images

‘I’m tired but not defeated’… Graffiti near the gym where Saul Alvarez learned to box
Stephen Woodman

AP:Associated Press
Canelo Alvarez punches Liam Smith during the eight round of the WBO Junior Middleweight title fight in Arlington, Texas in 2016[/caption]

Getty Images
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s only defeat was to Floyd Mayweather in September 2013 in Las Vegas[/caption]

His brutal style meant he was soon knocking out opponents much older than himself.

Canelo’s popularity soared in 2013, when he paid a visit to support hurricane victims on Mexico’s southern coast.

The boxing star spent the day talking to locals and stacking up sandbags.

But Gonzalo admits Canelo is not popular with everyone, including with some people in his hometown.

“For the town he should be a hero and a source of pride,” he said.

“But sometimes instead of support you, people want to knock you down. There’s a lot of jealousy.”

Canelo has also faced legal problems of his own.

Getty Images
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez jabs at Erislandy Lara in a bout in Las Vegas in 2014[/caption]

Reuters
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez raises the Mexican flag and his belt after beating Liam Smith[/caption]

Former bantamweight world champion Ulises ‘Archie’ Solis accused the bigger boxer of assaulting him and breaking his jaw in 2011.

Solis was out of the ring for more than a year, and a lengthy legal battle led to an out-of-court settlement.

As a result of the agreement, Solis cannot talk about the incident.

He said Canelo as a boxer was “a strong guy, with a lot of potential.”

Canelo has fully delivered on that potential, and his record currently stands at 53 wins, and one defeat, from his 56 fights.

A long way from the young tearaway learning his trade in a humble gym in Guadalajara.

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez uses an ice bath to help him recover from a training session

Canelo poses with his £250,000 Mercedes G-Class jeep, one of his fleet of cars




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