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Canelo Álvarez explains why he changed his mind on fighting Mexican opponents, accepted Munguía bout

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — For 13 straight bouts over seven consecutive years, Canelo Álvarez has refused to fight another Mexican. The biggest star in boxing said he respected his nation and its top talents too much to deliver any setbacks to their careers.

Álvarez has changed his mind, and the Guadalajara native will step in the ring May 4 with Tijuana's unbeaten Jaime Munguía for his latest Cinco de Mayo weekend showdown.

Álvarez has realized there's another way to show his respect for his fellow Mexican pugilists: He can occasionally give them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to knock him off.

“Yes, I’ve said I don’t want to fight Mexican fighters,” Álvarez said Tuesday at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “But someone respectful like Munguía, someone who has earned this fight, it’s something that I’m glad we were able to make happen. ... This is a great source of pride for me because it’s Mexico all over. I’m proud of Munguia to come all the way he has.”

Álvarez (60-2-2, 39 KOs) and Munguía (43-0, 34 KOs) will meet in Las Vegas for the undisputed super middleweight title. Álvarez has held all four major belts at the weight since 2021, while Munguía only moved up to 168 pounds last year.

But the 27-year-old Munguía has been looking up to the 33-year-old Álvarez for his entire pro career. The fighters shook hands and interacted courteously throughout their promotional appearance in the hotel's famed Crystal Ballroom.

“There's a lot of respect, and I think everybody knows that,” Munguía said through a translator. “It might divide the fans, but at the end, it’s good for Mexico. Because no matter who you like, it’s going to be a fight for all of Mexico.”

Álvarez hasn't fought a Mexican opponent since May 2017, when he won every round in a thrashing of infamous nepo baby Julio César Chávez Jr.

Canelo has fought only three Mexican opponents in his last 37 bouts since April 2009, when Álvarez was becoming big enough to get a measure of control in choosing his foes.

Álvarez is now in complete control, with every fighter from 147 pounds to heavyweight seemingly angling for the biggest opponents' paydays in the sport. The bout will be the first all-Mexican matchup for a major world title at any weight above 160 pounds.

Freddie Roach, Munguía's trainer, called it “the biggest fight in the world right now.”

“This is all about making history,” Álvarez said. “I want my legacy to be about making the greatest fights possible. That’s what I want to continue doing: Defend my belt and bring the greatest fights to the fans.”

While boxing searches for new revenue streams and weathers the eternal promotional squabbles that habitually hinder the sport's best matchups, a fight with Álvarez is still a golden ticket to worldwide exposure and more money than most fighters can make anywhere else. Mexican and Mexican-American fans also are the engine driving the sport in North America, increasing the spotlight on their favorite fighters.

Oscar De La Hoya, Álvarez's former promoter and Munguía's current promoter, has been hyping up this matchup for months — long before the boxers actually agreed to hold it. The pay-per-view show will be available to buy in the usual places and on Amazon’s Prime Video platform, a new partnership that thrills De La Hoya.

“I’m glad he changed his mind,” De La Hoya said of Álvarez’s decision to fight a countryman. “In this sport, you can fight a family member. That’s how much pride you should have. All I know is we have this fight made. I’ve always felt that getting two Mexican nationals in the ring at an elite level, there’s nothing more fun. There’s nothing better to watch.”

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AP boxing: https://apnews.com/boxing