Saul Alvarez's career has been on a skyward trajectory since his early teens, and the hard-hitting 20-year-old has the chance to win a championship quicker than he imagined tonight.
The redheaded, freckle-faced slugger known as "Canelo" -- the Spanish word for cinnamon -- will fight for the vacant WBC super welterweight belt against Matthew Hatton (41-4-2, 16 KOs), the less heralded brother of former 140-pound champion Ricky Hatton, at Anaheim's Honda Center.
"I didn't expect it to happen this quickly, but I've been preparing for this for a long time," said Alvarez, who turned pro at 15. "I'm grateful for the opportunity, but I know I still have to earn it."
Alvarez (35-0-1, 26 KOs) would be the youngest fighter to win the 154-pound title. Given the power in his fists and the expectations heaped upon him by Golden Boy Promotions and the Mexican public, both Alvarez and Hatton realize Canelo is expected to seize his apparent destiny with ease.
Hatton has few major accomplishments beyond his European welterweight title, and they're fighting at a 150-pound catch weight in a concession to Hatton's size limitations.
"He's never fought anyone as good as me, anyone as fit and determined as me," Hatton said. "I was highly motivated for the fight in the first place, but to get to fight for the world title motivates me even more. I'll leave nothing in the locker room."
The WBC fell all over itself to add a big belt to the virtual crown Alvarez already wears in his native land.
Last week, the Mexico City-based sanctioning body abruptly ruled the winner of this fight would fill its 154-pound title vacated by Manny Pacquiao.
"This is a huge stage for Canelo, the biggest challenge he has ever faced," promoter Oscar De La Hoya said. "We all think he's ready for the challenges of this fight and everything that lies beyond it. I really believe he's the next big thing in this sport. He'll be bigger than me."