Sunday, September 18, 2022

Opinions and Observations: Canelo-Golovkin 3

Canelo-Golovkin 3 completed a trilogy that was a vivid demonstration of the life cycles of a boxer. On one side of Saturday's matchup stood the warrior in winter, Gennadiy Golovkin, 40, unable to pull the trigger for the most of the fight, lacking confidence to throw punches with conviction. His opponent, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, was unquestionably better and a deserving victor on the night (he won by unanimous decision), but even he, at 32 and with 62 professional fights, looks to be in transition from the summer phase of his career to his autumn. 

When Canelo and Golovkin first fought in 2017, many in boxing were legitimately concerned for Canelo's well-being. At the time, Golovkin was perhaps the sport's supreme bogeyman. Although most believe that Canelo didn't deserve a draw in that fight, he did far more than survive, he competed. He was much improved in their rematch, an enthralling nip-and-tuck affair in the center of the ring. And four years later, he was the one left standing; his old foil just didn't have much left. 

Saturday's fight wasn't an advertisement for the beauty of the sport; it was a reminder of what it can take out of its participants. But I won't think of it as a sob story. Both made eight figures for the fight, and they had gotten to this juncture in their respective careers because of nights of excellence in the ring, with their 2018 rematch serving as a shining example. And although Saturday's fight failed to deliver the goods, Canelo and Golovkin have more than earned their place on boxing's grand stage.

Canelo's left hand was dominant against Golovkin
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

Canelo had a clear case for winning eight to ten rounds on Saturday. Although not dazzling with activity, he was consistently more accurate and his best punches had more of an effect. In particular, his left hand caused Golovkin problems all fight. Canelo was able to better Golovkin's jab with his own. Golovkin was so concerned with defending Canelo's jab that Canelo found ample opportunities to land his left hook. As the fight progressed, Golovkin just didn't know which type of left hand was coming.  

Canelo learned two valuable lessons from his loss earlier this year to Dmitry Bivol. Not every shot needed to be thrown with KO intentions. Notably, when Alvarez did go for the home run, very few of those punches landed cleanly. When he kept things shorter and within the flow of the fight, he had far more success. Canelo also relied on his countering abilities, which wasn't the case against Bivol. His counters tamed Golovkin and just the threat of them made Golovkin reluctant to take risks in the first half of the bout. 

But there were also concerning signs regarding Canelo's performance. He was noticeably less energetic in the fight's final third. Golovkin had his best round of the fight in the ninth and belatedly he started to gain confidence. Yes, Canelo had a big lead at that point; however, he didn't seem too interested in matching Golovkin's intensity. Canelo closed the 12th well, but overall, he lacked vigor in the second half of the match.  

Golovkin's performance could best be summed up with unenviable words and phrases: hesitancy, lack of confidence, erosion of athleticism. Even when he landed his best punches of the fight in the ninth and the eleventh, they barely put a dent in Canelo. In their first bout in 2017, Golovkin's aggression and hard punching drove Canelo to the ropes in retreat. But when Golovkin had his moments of success on Saturday, I felt that they were more a function of Canelo taking breaks; he was never seriously threatened. Golovkin's best punches of the fight were his left hook and right uppercut, which aren't necessarily his best two shots. His jab wasn't particularly accurate or piercing. His straight right hand wasn't a factor. He didn't go to the body at all. 

After the fight Golovkin stated his intentions of continuing his career. He still holds two major belts at middleweight (Saturday's fight was at 168), but at 40, it's unlikely that there will be too many memorable triumphs left in his in-ring career. Fortunately for him, middleweight is one of the worst weight classes in boxing and of course there could always be a voluntary defense or two against the jetsam of the division. But when next he's in against a legitimate top opponent, I wouldn't like his chances. 

Golovkin's career is one filled with enormous pleasures and profound regrets. There was no precedent for a Kazakh prizefighter becoming a bona fide draw in the United States; yet Golovkin's fists and indomitable spirit crashed through that barrier. He was a ferocious puncher, a happy warrior and someone who was easy to root for. He built a sizable following destroying those brave enough to get in the ring with him. Unfortunately, major portions of his career were marked by the fights that didn't happen. In his salad days, Sturm, Quillin, Martinez, Cotto and Saunders avoided him. But after his prime Golovkin wound up not fighting emerging threats such as Demetrius Andrade and Jermall Charlo (there's an out-of-the-ring example of a boxer's life cycle). 

His first fight against Canelo WAS a robbery, but he could have had losses against Derevyanchenko and Jacobs. He made a lot of money, was on TV all the time, and made a huge mark in the sport. Perhaps it wasn't to the degree that many boxing fans were hoping for, but don't cry too much for him. It's not as if he was some anonymous boxer who toiled away in the sport's hinterlands. Golovkin is a boxing success story, a great example of how talent can only be suppressed so much. Even without notable dance partners throughout much of his prime, Golovkin still developed a significant following. Boxing will never be a meritocracy, as Golovkin's career has demonstrated, but the fact that he achieved as much as he did points to the sport's ability to reward talent, from wherever it emerges. 

Canelo and Golovkin embrace after the fight
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

With Saturday's win Canelo continues to hold all four major belts at super middleweight, but after the fight he sounded exhausted, both physically and mentally. He indicated that he may need surgery on his left hand. Perhaps the break will do him well.

I think that his performance on Saturday will be a sign of what to expect in this next phase of his career. No longer a high-volume guy or someone who wants to be active all three minutes a round, Canelo needs to make every punch count while still winning rounds. Bivol and Golovkin were reminders that although Canelo's punching power is formidable it doesn't solve all of his problems. It's possible that Canelo will still have excellent nights left in the ring, even likely, but he'll need to select matchups carefully to remain at the top level of the sport. Opponents who rely on volume and athleticism will continue to be difficult for him and won't be any easier as he ages.

The Canelo-Golovkin series did not end on a high note, but there is much to take from the trilogy. If you want to see a fighter who was able to make the Great Canelo retreat out of necessity, then I present to you Gennadiy Golovkin in their first fight. And if you want to see an all-time great middleweight battle, the rematch is yours to enjoy. Or, if you are one to luxuriate in the shithousery of professional boxing, you will find enough bad judging for your tastes, and examples of a Golden Goose bending the sport to his will. 

But I know what I'll remember: Golovkin's sublime performance in their first fight and the war that was their rematch. There was greatness in this series – two nights where I saw something special. And for me, that's why I'm here.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

The Boxing Betting Show

For those interested in the betting angles for Saturday's Canelo-Golovkin III fight, I talked with Tom Craze on the Boxing Betting Show about where the best values are for the matchup. We also discussed betting strategies for the upcoming Joe Joyce-Joseph Parker fight. To listen to the show, click on the link: 

https://linktr.ee/boxingbetshow

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Canelo-Golovkin 3: Preview and Prediction

Almost five years to the day of their first fight, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) and Gennadiy Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 KOs) square off for the third time on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. This fight will be contested for Canelo's four belts and undisputed status at super middleweight. For Golovkin, who has spent his career at 160 lbs., Saturday's bout will be his first major fight in the super middleweight division.

Their first fight in 2017 ended in a ridiculous controversial draw, with almost everyone believing that Golovkin had done more than enough to deserve the victory. Although there were portions of the fight where Canelo performed well, Golovkin's consistent and successful offensive attacks carried the majority of the rounds. 

Canelo-Golovkin II was initially delayed because of Alvarez's failed PED test. When they did fight again in September 2018, the match was contested far more on even terms. Whereas much of the first fight was spent with Golovkin on the front foot and Canelo countering off the ropes, the rematch was mostly conducted in the middle of the ring with both fighters giving and taking in violent and thrilling exchanges. Canelo won the rematch via a majority decision in a fight where both boxers had a legitimate case for the victory (I scored it for Golovkin, 115-113).

Canelo with promoter Eddie Hearn
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

After that fight, Canelo decided to seek out other opponents and Golovkin was left trying to regain momentum. Canelo has fought eight times since their second fight to four for Golovkin. 

Entering Saturday's fight, both find themselves at markedly different points in their career. At 32, Canelo is still close enough to his physical prime. Although he recently dominated the super middleweight champions to become undisputed at 168, Canelo struggled earlier this year in a loss to light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol, where he couldn't land enough power shots to counteract Bivol's volume, precision and movement. 

In two of his last three fights, Golovkin, the previously indestructible force, looked vulnerable. He could have lost the Sergiy Derevyanchenko fight with different judges. Earlier this year, Ryota Murata teed off on Golovkin in the opening rounds of their fight before GGG rallied to win by a ninth-round stoppage.  At 40, Golovkin no longer can pull the trigger like he once could. Although his granite chin remains, both Derevyanchenko and Murata were able to hurt him to the body. Yet, despite these struggles, Golovkin became a unified middleweight champion for a second time with the win over Murata. 

The essential questions going into Saturday's fight are: 

1. What style will Canelo employ during the fight? 

2. What does Golovkin have left? 

As Canelo has gained weight (and aged), he has changed his style considerably. Whereas Alvarez once dazzled with combination punching and countering, he has most recently fought as a walk-down stalker who throws single power shots. Although this approach led to thrilling stoppages against Sergey Kovalev and Caleb Plant, it was mostly ineffective against Bivol. With this style, Canelo runs the risk of losing rounds by not being active enough. And if the home run punch doesn't come...

But I have a hunch that Canelo will incorporate elements from his past styles to fight Golovkin. Tactically, GGG presents too many opportunities to counter. It's a major advantage that Canelo will have in the fight; it would be a mistake if he ignores this dynamic.

Golovkin is not a fighter who often cedes ground in the ring (although it has happened on occasion). GGG will want to control the center and establish his jab. If Canelo wants to walk forward without throwing punches, Golovkin, even at this age, will be happy to stick a sharp jab in his face. So instead of Canelo relying on a single haymaker left hook or a home run right hand, he may look to hit doubles (to keep the baseball analogy). He needs to take advantage of his opportunities and let his hands go with combinations when countering.

Golovkin at Wednesday's grand arrival
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland

Saturday's fight may come down to the following dynamic: Will Canelo be savvy enough to take what's given to him, or will he insist on loading up for the KO? Even at 40, I'm not convinced that Golovkin's chin can be dented in a serious way, but there certainly are holes in his defense. And to Golovkin's detriment, he still fights as if his hand speed is what it was five or six years ago, even though that is clearly not the case. But will Canelo take advantage of this?

If Canelo is patient and not greedy, he can counter with regularity, land flashy shots and cause damage. He may not be able to stop Golovkin or drop him, but if he can make peace with that, it's his best path to victory.  

However, if Canelo is insistent on going for the KO with his recent low volume, single-shot approach, the fight could get a lot more interesting on the scorecards. If Canelo waits for perfect openings, Golovkin will hit him consistently with jabs and power shots. Prolonged periods of inactivity from Canelo will play into Golovkin's hands.  

Prediction: 

I think that Canelo's countering ability will be the X-factor in the fight. If he's content to let Golovkin do his work for him, then Canelo will have more than enough skill, accuracy and power to land the more eye-catching shots. But I have no doubt that ego will play a role during the fight. I'm sure that Canelo will have moments where he believes a single overhand right or a massive left hook will be able to drop Golovkin. And as he waits for those openings, Golovkin will be able to land his jab and straight power shots. If Canelo respects Golovkin's abilities, then I think he boxes his way to a convincing victory that puts this rivalry to bed. But I don't know if we will see that over 12 rounds.

Golovkin's jab will still be able to hit the target and create openings during portions of the fight. He will land with regularity, especially if Canelo doesn't punish him with counters. However, I do question Golovkin's ability to stay out of trouble while standing right in front of Canelo. At a certain point, with his arms constantly in motion and without blazing speed, he becomes a big target for Canelo's return fire.  

I'm going to split the difference here. I think that Canelo wins, and without controversy, but Golovkin will have enough moments during the fight to remind boxing fans why he was such a special talent at his best. It will be an exciting fight. Canelo won't get the stoppage that he desires, but in rediscovering his counters and combinations, he will cement an impressive victory. 

Saul Alvarez defeats Gennadiy Golovkin 116-112. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.