Saturday night's fight at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., (HBO at 10:30pm ET/PT), will not only feature two rising stars looking to grab one of the titles left vacant by Manny Pacquiao but also will highlight a defining moment in the career of one of boxing's most promising prospects. The protagonists are Saul Alvarez, the freckle-faced, cinnamon-skinned Mexican bomber with the matinee idol looks, and Matthew Hatton, a tough contender with a blue-collar work ethic in the ring looking to inherit a piece of the spotlight once held by his older brother and former champion Ricky Hatton. Here's what Alvarez had to say about this crucial fight.
What has training been like for this fight?
We've been training very hard here in Guadalajara, especially in the morning, and in the afternoon we're doing some sparring. It's been a tough training camp, as usual.
Have you done any special training to improve your speed, as it was?
Yes, I am always trying to increase my speed. Obviously, we work on physical strength first, but then in the last week of training we do a lot of work on speed, and right now we're working on that, to enter the fight with greater speed.
How do you deal with the pressure of being the favorite and one of the most watched prospects in boxing right now?
I take it calmly. I am very grateful. All I worry about is doing my job and doing it right.
You had a great 2010 [5-0, 4 KOs, two victories against former world champs]. What would it take to repeat that performance in 2011?
We're working on that. I believe we're almost there, a few steps away from that. I had said that this year I would be ready to fight for a world title, and now we're close. I am very happy because I am nearer and nearer to my peak as a fighter, every day.
What sort of challenge does Hatton bring to the table at this moment in your career?
I've fought many types of fighters, but he is a strong fighter who has tons of experience in the ring. He knows how to duck, hit, move, and takes a good punch. He is a complete fighter who will put on a great performance, and I am happy I am going to be facing him. I believe I have the right style to win this fight. I believe I am the stronger of the two of us.
Who do you see as the potential rival who will validate your claim as a top welterweight?
I would like it to be either Shane Mosley or Miguel Angel Cotto. Any one of those two, I would be ready to fight them. I know that this year one of them will come, but I would rather have Mosley. I would really like to face Mosley.
In which division do you see yourself peaking as a fighter? What division should get your message after a convincing victory this Saturday?
I am not about sending messages. First of all, I believe in doing my job during the fight, and then things start falling into place, and the promoters take care of that. I am not the kind of guy who likes to send messages to anybody. I believe in sending messages only to the people, to my fans, and all I say to them is thank you for your support.
Your raw talent is clear, but your boxing skills could always use some improvement. Is there anything new that we're going to see from you in this fight?
In this fight you will see my progress. You will see a more mature boxer, throwing more combinations. In every fight I show my improvements, and here I will demonstrate that I am growing as a fighter. I feel well in the [middleweight] division, I feel strong and I feel very good here.
How do you envision the fight on Saturday night?
It will definitely be a great fight, without a doubt, and people will be happy with my performance, as always. The most intelligent fighter will win in the ring, no doubt about that.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.