ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And tomorrow night, a young boxer who's billed in Mexico as the sport's next big star takes to the ring. Saul Alvarez is only 20 years old, but he is currently the WBC's super welterweight champion.
Alvarez turned pro at the age of 15 and hasn't lost a fight since.
Tomorrow, he defends his title in his hometown of Guadalajara.
NPR's Jason Beaubien has this profile.
JASON BEAUBIEN: They call Alvarez El Canelo, or cinnamon, for his bright red hair, and over the last year, his career has been on fire.
At a staged workout this week in a public park in Guadalajara, Alvarez was mobbed by screaming teenage girls.
(Soundbite of screaming)
BEAUBIEN: Boxers don't tend to be a good-looking bunch, but Alvarez appears to be the exception. He has a huge following of female fans, and for a while, he was dating the former Miss Mexico.
Last year, Alvarez signed with one of the biggest promoters in the sport, Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions. Eric Gomez, the vice president of Golden Boy, says even though Alvarez already has a championship, they view him as a developing prospect with huge potential.
Mr. ERIC GOMEZ (Vice President, Golden Boy Promotions): He's already the biggest star in boxing here in Mexico by far, and we just want to do that transition over to the U.S.
Unidentified Man #1: (Unintelligible) Ryan Rhodes. Here we go.
Unidentified Man #2: Ryan Rhodes.
BEAUBIEN: At the public workout this week, Alvarez's opponent, Ryan Rhodes, clowned around in the ring and mugged for the cameras. After a halfhearted workout, Rhodes pretended to collapse, exhausted, in his corner.
Alvarez, on the other hand, was all business.
The 20-year-old is calm, serious. He quickly worked himself into a glistening sweat sparring with his partner.
Mr. SCOTT CHRIST (Editor, badlefthook.com): He's an aggressive fighter, but he's not overly aggressive.
BEAUBIEN: Scott Christ is the editor of badlefthook.com and has followed El Canelo's rapid rise over the last two years.
Mr. CHRIST: His trainer has called him a genius on the ring, which, you know, that remains to be seen. But, you know, as a 20-year-old kid, he's very patient. He's got power in both hands. His footwork isn't great yet. He's a little bit slow moving around the ring, but his hand speed is pretty good. You know, overall, he looks in many ways like a complete package. There are very few really glaring flaws about him.
(Soundbite of music)
BEAUBIEN: Guadalajara touts itself as the home of mariachi and tequila. And also recently, it's been home to some of Mexico's biggest sports figures. The golfer Lorena Ochoa, who was ranked number one on the women's PGA Tour last year, is from here, as is the 23-year-old soccer star Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.
Alvarez negotiated to have his first defense of his WBC title here in Guadalajara, saying it meant a lot to him to bring a high-profile fight to his hometown.
Before his last bout, El Canelo was fined $70,000 because he arrived almost 2 pounds overweight. He says that won't happen this time, and he claims to be in the best shape of his life.
His opponent, Ryan Rhodes, also comes into this fight with an impressive record of 45 wins and only four losses. The 34-year-old from Yorkshire, England, is the former light-middleweight champion in Europe.
Mr. RYAN RHODES (Professional Boxer): I've won British. I've won European. The only thing I'm missing is a world title, and on Saturday night, I will become world champion.
BEAUBIEN: The left-handed Rhodes predicts he'll knock Alvarez out. If he does, it will be the first loss of El Canelo's five-year pro career.
And even that might not derail the meteoric rise of Mexico's Great Redheaded Hope. His managers point out that he's still only 20 years old. He attracts huge TV ratings in Mexico, and he's got his whole career in front of him.
Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Guadalajara.