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CANELO: THE 24- CHAMPION CARROT; BOXING CANELO v KHAN; Red-head Alvarez looks Irish, fights like a Mexican and is just about the most exciting boxer on the planet.

Byline: DAVID ANDERSON Boxing Correspondent in Las Vegas

NOT since Samson has a warrior been so shaped by his hair as Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez.

Canelo looks as Mexican as a pint of Guinness with his ginger locks and pale skin.

According to family legend, an ancestor fought in the St Patrick's Brigade of Irish exiles for Mexico in the 1840s war against the United States.

Red-head Canelo was bullied growing up as he looked different to his peers and this was how he learned to use his fists. "I fought a lot," he said.

"I was different, there was name calling and I had to defend myself. For me, the boxing and fighting was something I was born with. It's in my blood."

Canelo's six bigger brothers fought professionally - once appearing on the same show - and he got into boxing when the oldest, Rigoberto, gave him his first gloves, aged 10.

"I saw him make his pro debut and I fell in love with the sport," Canelo added. "He moved away to work and when he came back, he gave me my first pair of gloves."

Canelo smashed up everyone put in front of him and Rigoberto recalls: "I didn't have the slightest idea that hidden under that red hair was an enormous talent."

It was around this time that his trainer Chepo Reynoso, who coaches him with his son Eddy, nicknamed him Canelo - Spanish for cinnamon.

"I wanted it to be something softer, nicer, because he was being called such harsh things," said Reynoso. "If you have a field of cows and they are all black except one, which is red, you look at the red one. And if the red one is the one who gives the best milk, then you know that you have something special."

Canelo, 25, was certainly special and he turned pro at 15 because he ran out of amateur opponents.

He won his first world title aged just 20 when he beat Matthew Hatton to claim the WBC light-middleweight crown in 2011, before suffering the only loss in his 48-fight career to Floyd Mayweather Junior in y y 2013. Now Mayweather has gone, Canelo has taken over his prized Cinco de Mayo slot - a Mexican holiday - in Las Vegas.

He is seen as the heir to the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez.

Laidback Canelo, who became a dad at 17 when daughter Emily Cinnamon was born, takes it all in his stride.

"The country's great fighters of the past have written their stories," he said. "Now I'm writing mine."

The WBC middleweight king does not do trash talking and has been respectful to Amir Khan, 29, (facing-off, left) in the build-up to their showdown in the early hours of Sunday.

"Khan has courage," said the classy two-weight world champ. "Even when he has been down he has got up."

Canelo truly is 24-carat topped.

CANELO Real name Santos Saul Alvarez Barragan Nickname Canelo Rated at Welterweight Light-middleweight Middleweight Height 5ft 9in Reach 701/2 in Nationality Mexican Born July 18, 1990 (age 25) Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico Stance Orthodox Boxing record Total fights............48 Wins .......................46 Wins by KO............32 Losses.......................1 Draws........................ 1 World Titles: WBC light-middleweight champion (154 lbs) WBA light-middleweight champion (154 lbs) WBC middleweight champion (160 lbs)

CAPTION(S):

KING OF THE RING Alvarez celebrates beating Miguel Cotto last November

POWER & GORY Alvarez hurts Cotto but is punished by Mayweather (left)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 5, 2016
Words:570
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