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'Canelo' Alvarez: From popsicle salesman to world champion

MEXICO CITY -- Long before he became a famous fighter and overcame his first major challenges in boxing, Saul "Canelo" Álvarez made history, alongside his brothers. On the night of June 28, 2008, in Zapopan, Jalisco, Canelo and his six brothers (Rigoberto, Ramón, Ricardo, Víctor, Gonzalo and Daniel) all featured on a card that would go down in the boxing record books.

Some of the brothers won on the night, while others lost, but the two that stood out as the best were Rigoberto and Canelo. It was Rigoberto, 12 years Canelo's elder, who encouraged the now-world champion to don the gloves despite others in his family insisting otherwise. Rigoberto was Canelo's first trainer.

In 2010, Rigoberto became the first titleholder in the family after winning an interim light middleweight belt. Canelo matched his brother's achievement a year later when he became light middleweight titlist on March 5, 2011 in a victory against Matthew Hatton (at a catch weight of 150lb). The student had equaled the master -- and Canelo would soon overtake and surpass his brother's accomplishments in boxing.

The two brothers worked together well even outside of the world of boxing. In his early years, before boxing became an all-consuming passion for Canelo, he had failed to do well in the family business of selling popsicles and ice cream. He was too embarrassed to go out selling popsicles on city buses.

"The first time, Canelo came back with all the popsicles we had given him to sell and told us he hadn't sold a single one," recalled Rigoberto, speaking to ESPN. "But I had already been through that. It was hard to get on the buses to sell popsicles, so he hadn't got on, but then I went out with him and we sold out of popsicles," the former champion added.

As well as Rigoberto and Canelo, Ramón and Ricardo also enjoyed some success in boxing. Ricardo has currently opted for the world of business while Ramón continues to strive for a world title. Víctor, Gonzalo, Daniel and their sister Ana also have businesses. His father, Santos, still works in the family's popsicle parlor. His mother, Ana María, takes care of the family home.

Once he began boxing, Canelo (46-1-1, 32 KOs) soon got people talking about his skills. He took on the toughest amateur opponents and beat them all. He then joined the Jalisco boxing team, but the lack of support led Álvarez to turn professional, backed by his older brother Rigoberto.

Canelo made his professional boxing debut at 15 years of age with José "Chepo" Reynoso and Eddy Reynoso in his corner and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, after 48 fights, Canelo is one of the biggest stars in the sport and, this May 7, when he takes on Amir Khan, Canelo will have the honor of topping the bill at the first boxing event to be held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.


The Canelo-Kahn One Nacion TV Special airs on Friday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.

This story was originally written in Spanish. Para leer el artículo en Español haz clic aquí.