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
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.
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.