Saul "Canelo" Alvarez faces Britain's undefeated Billy Joe Saunders in a world super middleweight unification showdown Saturday with 70,000 spectators expected, the largest US sports crowd since the coronavirus pandemic.
Alvarez will risk his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association titles at AT&T Stadium while Saunders defends his World Boxing Organization crown at the home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas.
"I feel really thankful with the response of the people and that boxing brings everything back to normal for this fight," Alvarez said Thursday through a translator.
Saunders had been concerned about the size of the ring, threatening a pull out over the "phone booth" dimensions, but didn't mention the issue as he spoke about how much the spectacle bout meant to him.
"I've been dreaming this since I was a little boy. I've visualized this day coming since I was five or six," Saunders said.
"We can all have the tough talk about growing up. I'm not here apart from one reason -- to win. We haven't had the heart and soul and IQ I'll bring to the ring on Saturday to win."
Alvarez, fancied 8-1 by oddsmakers, is 55-1 with two drawn and 37 knockouts. He has 13 wins and a draw since suffering his lone loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather by majority decision in 2013.
The Mexican star -- whose career includes wins over Shane Mosley, Amir Khan, Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin -- makes his second defense of the WBA and WBC titles he won by unanimous decision over Britain's Callum Smith by unanimous decision last December in San Antonio.
Alvarez stopped Turkey's Avni Yildirim in February at Miami in defending his crowns for the first time.
"He has done brilliant things for boxing. He's a good champion," said Saunders. "There's a time in life when you get tested. Sometimes that can make it difficult on you.
"I think he's going to be bumping into the wrong man on Saturday night. I'm looking forward to a good fight and I'm looking forward to winning."
Alvarez says he's ready for whatever Saunders brings.
"I've been in a lot of big fights," Alvarez said. "This is another day at the office. I come to win."
Saunders, a 31-year-old English southpaw and former world middleweight champion, captured the WBO crown with a unanimous decision over Germany's Shefat Isufi.
He improved to 30-0 with 14 knockouts last December with a unanimous decision win at London over Britain's Martin Murray in his second defense of the title.
"He's a great fighter. He has a lot of abilities," Alvarez said of Saunders. "But I'm not the same fighter as six or seven years ago and come Saturday I will show that."
Saunders isn't overawed at the crowd or the chance to make his dreams real.
"There's added pressure coming for both of us in this fight," Saunders said. "We don't want to go home a loser."
The other major champion in the 168-pound (76.2kg) division is unbeaten American Caleb Plant, the International Boxing Federation king who is 21-0 with 12 knockouts.
A bout with Plant to determine an undisputed champion is a likely next fight for Saturday's winner.
- Soto to fight Takayama -
On the undercard, Mexico's Elwin Soto will defend his WBO junior flyweight crown against Japan's Katsunari Takayama, a 37-year-old former world minimumweight champion making his US debut.
Takayama is 32-8 with 12 knockouts while Soto, 24, is 18-1 with 12 knockouts and making his third defense of the title he took from Puerto Rico's Angel Acosta by knockout in 2019.
"I'm very happy for the opportunity," Soto said through a translator. "I want to come out and be victorious and then I'll think about unifying all the belts in the 105-pound division."
That would set him on a path against unbeaten WBA champion Hiroto Kyoguchi of Japan or undefeated WBC champion Kenshiro Teraji of Japan. But first, he must get past Takayama, who hopes to win a world crown in his second weight class and returning from a five-year layoff last December.
"I'm looking forward to getting back a title," Takayama said through a translator. "I've had a career through these past 20 years so I'm ready to fight."