“It was bad from what I remember,” states Fielding, a wry smile emerging on his face as he’s forced to return to an age of seeming innocence that was likely surrounded by chaos. “My mum and dad were both from the area, but they didn’t really speak about how bad they had it growing up because I think they were always trying to be as positive as they could for the kids. There was a pub called the Black Angus where we used to cause a bit of trouble outside and it was owned by [former footballer] Mickey Quinn’s dad. He’d chase us away all the time, but it was like that in a lot of areas because there wasn’t much for kids like us to do.”Join DAZN and watch Canelo Alvarez vs. Rocky Fielding on Dec. 15One refuge for the directionless waifs of “Canny Farm” was the Stockbridge Boxing Club. Uneasy on the eyes like the high-rise, pollution-stained flats that overshadowed it, the low-roofed establishment was not dissimilar to a public restroom, rather than a fighting palace of hope. The same gym where Tony Bellew had laid inaugural foundations for a promising career later dominated Fielding’s youth as the urge to steal cars or sell drugs — temptations sampled by his region’s peers — was replaced by something more worthwhile to focus on.“It was a lot to do with the bigger picture why I didn’t go down a route that could’ve got me in a lot of trouble,” Fielding says. “With boxing, I always knew from an early age that it was something that could provide me with some sort of purpose because there wasn’t a lot to take inspiration from growing up around here. Lads who were in the gym with me chose a different way and that’s their choice, but when you see what we had growing up then you understand why that life might appeal to people at that age. Although there wasn’t a lot to do, it taught me an awful lot about life, and myself, but when I think back, I was too young to see anything that was wrong with the place.”Another potentially debilitating obstacle on Fielding’s horizon, and again one that the WBA super middleweight titleholder fails to find many faults with, is Canelo Alvarez, and on Dec. 15, the man from a Liverpool council estate will defend his recently-acquired strap against one of the finest boxers in the sport. Youngsters from Rocky’s parish rarely cross the River Mersey to New Brighton, but 10 days before Christmas, Fielding will perform his ring walk, traditionally accompanied by “Sweet Caroline,” in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden as he looks to cause a monumental upset against the Mexican icon. The odyssey to this coveted destination, in both boxing and life, has been testing throughout.The genesis of Rocky’s boxing career It was Prizefighter that first catapulted Fielding into the consciousness of the wider boxing community, as the eight-man tournament, devised by Matchroom Boxing head Barry Hearn in 2008, allowed Fielding’s profile to soar to a grander platform following one night’s work. Beforehand, Fielding would prepare for battle in cramped dressing rooms before trudging past squash and badminton courts to perform in front of audiences scraping into three figures.“Prizefighter changed my life in so many ways, and I was dying to go into it despite me being the least experienced,” he says. In a field that featured former world champion Robin Reid, Fielding blazed his way to the star role, and with the trophy came a check for £32,000 (roughly $40,000).“I sometimes think to myself how long I would’ve stayed in the sports centers for if I didn’t enter that tournament, because nothing was happening for me and I had to put my faith in just hoping that something would one day turn up for me and I could show people what I was capable of,” Fielding says.MORE: What if Canelo had fought Mayweather at 160 pounds?Domestic and minor titles slithered around Fielding’s slim waist soon after his Prizefighter triumph in 2011, and barring a brutal shellacking at the fists of city rival, and now division ruler, Callum Smith, Fielding knows only great times. The product of a stony heap that would make Pruitt Igoe and Cabrini Green scream “Oh s—,” Fielding is on his way to an altogether different type of concrete jungle as the city that never sleeps awaits a man who has always dreamed.Back in the days when Fielding chased amateur success, clinging to his beliefs each night like a toddler cozying up to his or her most cherished teddy bear, Fielding saw his hopes realized and dashed in equal measure. Decently decorated, but missing the gongs that make promoters sit up and nod in approval, Fielding’s maiden pro deal essentially represented an audition that came with no guarantees. His Prizefighter celebration alerted the men who matter and it was a Liverpool icon, a distant relative of Fielding, who provided guidance concerning his next move.“Steven Gerrard wanted to speak to me, so I went to see him and we had a sit down over my future,” Fielding remembers. “He’s someone who had pretty much been in the public eye his whole life, and now that I was going to be in bigger fights earning better money, he took it upon himself to give me a talking to about what I should do next. He told me to move out of my area so I wouldn’t have any distractions or get dragged into bad stuff, and he reminded me to always try and stay grounded and just be myself. The Prizefighter win did change my life in one night, and the advice I was given was something I took on straight away.”If a low five-figure sum was seen to launch Fielding’s life into another orbit, then who knows what his wages for his showdown with Alvarez will do for Rocky and his family. Even after Fielding won the WBA title against Germany’s Tyron Zeuge back in July, most within boxing’s tight-knit community were in consensus that such a win was the fighter’s pinnacle, considering his rudimentary beginnings in the sport. Perhaps the chance to even the score with Smith was desirable, or an all-British showdown with a lucrative, household name such as George Groves, James DeGale or Chris Eubank Jr. The aforementioned targets appeared within reach for Fielding, but a battle with Golden Boy’s flame-haired superstar was entering the realms of fantasy and delusion.“It’s sunk in now, but it took me getting in the gym and working on a plan to finally make that happen,” Fielding admits. “Jamie [Moore, Fielding’s trainer] phoned me and told me about it, and after finally being convinced that it wasn’t a wind-up or one of Jamie’s silly jokes, I just accepted it without hesitation. It’s only when I put the phone down that I realized I hadn’t asked questions about when it was, where it was or how much money I was being paid. When you’re offered a fight of that size against someone that good then you don’t even have to think about it.”The next test: Can Rocky beat Canelo?In Alvarez, Fielding will be opposing one of the finest fighters in the sport; a champion riding a marauding wave of momentum following his September win over long-time nemesis Gennady Golovkin. With the Mexican star positioned to be the face of sports streaming service DAZN, one perhaps expected Alvarez to pursue one of Matchroom’s world-class middleweights in either Daniel Jacobs or Demetrius Andrade. Instead, he tilted his head back and gazed north as the opportunity to claim world champion status in a third weight division held the most appeal. Fielding, a major underdog ahead of the contest despite holding physical advantages, has relentlessly viewed his imminent opponent as he seeks weaknesses that some of boxing’s best technicians haven’t been able to exploit. Rocky Fielding’s lanky frame folds uncomfortably as he sits in his parked car examining the gritty neighborhood that nurtured him. Stockbridge Village, known colloquially as “Canny Farm,” lingers on the outskirts of Liverpool and was once frighteningly emblematic of the housing crisis that gripped Britain in the aftermath of World War II.Assembled using the most basic of materials and completed in the early 1960s, the feeble surroundings caused misery and strife, but simultaneously instilled a community toughness that would be required over the coming decades. The Farm had character and resilience in abundance, but missing from its makeup were finance, employment and opportunity. Northern Britain was experiencing poverty of Dickensian proportions, and Liverpool was at the very heart of the monetary curse in the late 1980s, right about the time Michael Fielding — “Rocky” would come later — entered the world. “I watched the ‘Beefy’ [Liam Smith] fight again recently and thought he had a lot of success. He got close to him and was able to get his shots off. That showed me that he can be hit,” Fielding said of Alvarez’s September 2016 KO win over Smith. “It’s hard preparing for him because there are a few ways that he comes out and we’ve seen that in the past. The two Golovkin fights are where you can see the differences in him. In the first one, he tried to win it on the back foot by countering, but he was more aggressive in the rematch. So, there are a few different ways he will try and win the fight. I’ve just got to make sure that I’m prepared for whatever he wants to bring and with Jamie in my corner, I believe we can get the right plan together.”MORE: Join DAZN and watch Canelo plus more than 100 fight nights a yearFielding has faced bigger tests than Alvarez. Maybe not in a boxing sense, but emerging from a hell that deterred plenty before him, and many since, his assignment against one of the sport’s most ruthless performers should be approached like every task that has gone before Dec. 15. In a scrap where no one is giving him a chance, Fielding may have to revert to the only way he knows, and that is just taking his chance and praying for the best, because remember, this is a fighter who hasn’t been handed anything. Why should it change now?