THERE WAS a time when Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez required a translator for all of his many media obligations in English.

It meant the responses were always very limited and the true character of the Mexican icon could not truly shine despite his rapidly rising star inside the ring.

But now, there is not even a translator present for this interview with Boxing News, as he holds court regarding the weekend’s clash with John Ryder in Guadalajara, Mexico. The 32-year-old’s tireless work to improve his English is beginning to bear fruit. And it seems that part of that education has even included one particularly well-worn phrase when it comes to the subject of Canelo.

“Yes, I know this term ‘Brit basher’,” he says with a smile. “But, you know, there are really good fighters in the UK and I respect every single fighter in the UK.”

He shrugs. “I’m sorry to the UK people but these are the people in front of me so I have no choice but to do it! Ryder’s next.”

Seven men from these shores have tried and failed to beat Canelo. It is a run that stretches back more than 12 years when Matthew Hatton lost a decision to the 20-year-old, who was amazingly already 35-0-1 at the time. Ryan Rhodes, Amir Khan, Liam Smith, Rocky Fielding, Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders have since been vanquished by the ginger kid, who is now 7-0 (5) against the English. Now he’s even speaking the lingo.

“I just think that people can get to know me a little bit better now,” he adds. “It’s not the same when there’s a translator – it’s never quite what I’m trying to put across but now I can say what I want to say. I realised I needed to learn it in order for people to really know me and to understand me. I want to speak to the people.”

Of course this weekend, there will be far less need for English as he fights for the first time in Guadalajara after 12 years of working away from his hometown. In fact, the last time he boxed there was the 12th-round stoppage of Rhodes in what was the first defence of a sanctioning body title he won against Hatton three months earlier.

Fifteen-thousand people crammed into the VFG Arena that night as Canelo continued his ascent toward superstardom. He was part of Golden Boy Promotions back then and matchmaker Eric Gomez had said: “This guy is incredible, he’s like The Beatles.” The chief executive, Richard Schaefer, meanwhile, stated how important it was to keep stars fighting in their hometown. It did not exactly pan out like that.

Despite the obvious talent and the undeniable buzz around the youngster at the time, it was not assumed that he would go on to dominate quite like he has between then and now. After Rhodes, he managed another five successful title defences before running into Floyd Mayweather. The proceeding rebuild was swift and belts at 154lbs, 160lbs, 168lbs and 175lbs would follow. There was a time when he was considered by everyone to be the No.1 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet and although you could argue that status now there is no doubt he is still the biggest commercial attraction in the sport.

This time, more than 50,000 fans are expected inside the Estadio Akron, in the north-west of the city, where Mexican premier league side C.D. Guadalajara play their home games.

“It’s hard to put into words how much my life has changed since the last time I boxed there,” he says. “It has changed a lot, I’ve won a lot of championships in a lot of different weight classes, had a lot of good fights.

“All of that has changed my life so much, in a good way. Now I can come back to Guadalajara, be in front of my people again after all the experiences I’ve had in other places. That is really good for me and I think for my people too.

“Man, I’m excited. It has been 12 years since I last fought there and I am returning after accomplishing everything that I have accomplished. I’m so proud to come back and fight here in front of my people, the people who supported me right back in the beginning of my career. To be able to fight here makes me very happy.”

But for a man now accustomed to the biggest stages possible in this sport, how will a hometown run-out feel?

“I think I’ll feel a bit of pressure and it will feel different than usual to me,” he admits. “You know, I want it to be perfect for my people but I’ve been in big fights in some big stadiums and I think I have the experience to handle it. I’m ready for everything: the pressure, the fight, the opponent – everything.”

Alvarez in the gym (Meg Oliphant/Matchroom)

Ryder, for his part, has been given little chance by the bookmakers. In fact, Canelo is a 1/18 favourite with some of those, which is wider than against any of the other Brits on his record. But he is coming off a far from stellar 2022 which included a defeat to Dmitry Bivol in May and a decision win over Gennady Golovkin in September, which was a somewhat lacklustre affair when compared to their first two battles. He has also had surgery on his left wrist in the break.

As such, Eddie Hearn, who promotes both men, has suggested there is no better time for Ryder to face Canelo. The Mexican disagrees.

“Look, every fighter, every opponent has a chance,” he says. “I know this.

“You never know in boxing but that’s why we’ve been training 100 per cent – to have less risk of that upset coming, right? I want as little risk as possible.

“I’m going to put all my experience, all my ability into this fight – into winning. In every single fight I try to put everything into it and this is not going to be the exception.

“My wrist is very good, I’m happy. I’m motivated because my wrist is very good now. It’s feeling very strong. I have been hitting very hard during this camp and it has felt good and that motivates me a lot because I’m able to train 100 per cent.

“At the beginning I had to get used to my left hand working well again, and try to avoid landing on the hard parts – like an elbow or a head. But now I’m comfortable, have been able to train 100 per cent and land punches very hard, wherever I want.”

There have been suggestions that Canelo may be gazing past Ryder, that he is already looking ahead to a September rematch with Bivol and that there could be some complacency on this Cinco de Mayo weekend. That word is not part of his new vocabulary.

“All I think is that it’s going to be hard for him,” he says.

“I’m going to go into that ring and I’m going to win the fight so that alone will make it a very hard night for him. He’s a good fighter, he throws a lot of punches, he’s a southpaw. It’s going to be difficult for me but over the course of my career I’ve faced every single style so I know how to deal with it.

“I’m ready for every single style, I’m ready for him and I know I always have to be at 100 per cent because when these guys come to fight me they bring everything, they have a stronger mind and have absolutely everything to gain on the night.

“It’s a danger for me but I’m used to being in this position and I’m ready.”