Tucked behind a tree in a nondescript corner of Guadalajara, western Mexico, is a tiny boxing gym that has earned legendary status in the world of sports.
The Julián Magdaleno has trained five world champions, including Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez, the middleweight champion whose September 16, 2017, showdown with the Kazakhstani Gennady Golovkin could cement his place as the biggest star in boxing.
Inside, the stench of sweat hangs heavy in the air, and every inch of the walls is plastered with posters, paintings, and photos. One teenager bounces in front of a heavy bag, before unleashing a string of blows. Behind him is a mural of Álvarez, the superstar he hopes to emulate.
The centerpiece of the gym is a battered boxing ring. The walls behind the ring are festooned with the framed boxing shorts of the five champions who form a key part of the gym’s history.
The first of these was the featherweight and lightweight champion Alejandro González. The most recent one was Rigoberto Álvarez, the elder brother of Canelo. Although Rigoberto, nicknamed “the Spaniard,” enjoyed a stint at the top of middleweight boxing, he is best known as the man who gave his youngest brother Canelo his first pair of boxing gloves, when the fighter was just 11 years old.
The youngest of seven brothers, who all became professional boxers, Álvarez took to the sport immediately. His elder brother would train him every day after school in the tiny town of Juanacatlán, just outside of Guadalajara.
Before long, Rigoberto took Canelo to the Magdaleno Gym, where he improved his technique and movement. He even sparred with lightweight world champion Javier Jáuregui.
Canelo’s trainer in his early years was the Magdaleno’s founder, Jose “Chepo” Reynoso. It didn’t take long for the former butcher to spot the young fighter’s talents. Canelo was always strong, fast and focused in the ring.
Reynoso is also credited with giving him his nickname Canelo (cinnamon), in reference to his bright red hair.
Yet it has been a long time since Canelo set foot in the humble venue where he learned his craft. At just 27, he has established himself as boxing’s biggest superstar. He currently lives in Southern California and has a net worth of US$28.5 million, according to Forbes magazine.
However, in the ring, Canelo still demonstrates a keen hunger to win, despite living a life of luxury. He has accepted difficult fights against awkward opponents and has never backed down from a challenge. It seems that the superstar fighter has never forgotten the motto that hangs on the wall above the Julián Magdaleno’s ring. Hand-painted in black letters on a plastic board is the memorable slogan: “The worst that can happen is you stop caring if you lose.”