Alvarez to fight Rhodes on June 18

Junior middleweight champion Saul ”Canelo” Alvarez will defend his title for the first time against Ryan Rhodes of England on June 18 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The redheaded, freckle-faced 20-year-old phenom became the youngest man to win the 154-pound title when he dominated Matthew Hatton on March 5 in Anaheim, Calif. Now he’ll return to his native Mexico, where Canelo – Spanish for cinnamon – is wildly popular.

”I am very excited that my first world title defense will be in Guadalajara,” Alvarez said this week. ”I promise I will work extremely hard to give all my fans a great performance.”

Alvarez (36-0-1, 26 KOs) is a protege of Oscar De La Hoya, is represented by De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and possesses a charisma similar to that of the longtime champion.

”One of the first things Canelo told me after he won his world title was that he didn’t want to sit around waiting,” De La Hoya said. ”He wants to fight, he wants to be an active champion, and we’re going to give him every opportunity to do that.”

Alvarez was certainly active on his way to becoming a champion.

He turned professional when he was only 15, and had 20 fights under his belt by the time he became a legal adult. His most notable victories include a knockout of Jose Miguel Cotto – the brother of fellow junior middleweight champ Miguel Angel Cotto – and wins over former titleholders Carlos Baldomir and Lovermore N’dou.

”I know that Ryan will be coming to seize the opportunity to win a world title, but I have every confidence that Canelo has what it takes to not only win on June 18, but also to reign as a world champion for many years to come,” De La Hoya said.

Rhodes (45-4, 31 KOs) has fought exclusively in Europe, winning several regional titles, but has failed in two previous world championship shots – against Jason Matthews for an interim belt in July 1999, and against Otis Grant for a vacant belt in December 1997.

Those were both at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds, though. Rhodes will be fighting Alvarez at his more natural weight of 154.

”I have waited a long time for this opportunity and I intend to take it with both hands,” Rhodes said. ”I respect Canelo as a fighter and I know he is an exciting prospect, but … I fully intend to bring the belt back to England.”

Also on the card, which will be televised by HBO, 21-year-old prospect Adrien Broner (20-0, 16 KOs) faces Jason Litzau (28-2, 21 KOs) in a matchup of junior lightweight contenders.