If you thought last month’s clash between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor was the biggest fight of the year, think again.
On Saturday night in Las Vegas, Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez face off in the most hotly contested fight for a very long time, and arguably the most exciting middleweight matchup in decades.
The older Golovkin has successfully defended his middleweight title in 18 successive fights, and can move just one behind the division record of 20 held by Bernard Hopkins if he wins.
But the popular Alvarez is by far the most dangerous opponent he could face, and has not lost a fight since dropping a majority decision against Floyd Mayweather in 2013.
It promises to be a mouth-watering contest and is almost impossible to call, with so much on the line. Oscar De La Hoya says the unification fight will be ‘the saviour of boxing’, a throwback to a time when the best fought the best on a more regular basis; a genuine superfight.
Golovkin’s last five fights
WIN vs Kell Brook – TKO (R5)
WIN vs Dominic Wade – KO (R2)
WIN vs David Lemieux – TKO (R8)
WIN vs Willie Monroe Jr – TKO (R11)
Alvarez’s last five fights
WIN vs Liam Smith – KO (R9)
WIN vs Amir Khan – KO (R6)
WIN vs Miguel Cotto – UD
WIN vs James Kirkland – KO (R3)
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES…
Golovkin is a monster of a fighter with dynamite in both hands – he has the highest KO percentage of any middleweight champion in history – and, since making his stateside debut five years ago, has always looked to put on a display and showcase that explosiveness.
But now at 35 years old, there’s a fear that such an ultra-aggressive style could be his Achilles Heel. Such ferocity rarely goes hand-in-hand with longevity, and he made hard work of Daniel Jacobs.
Few would argue the fact that GGG looked less destructive in his last fight, not annihilating his opponent like he usually does, though his camp say the Jacobs fight was the perfect result.
Had he dismantled the American, Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions probably wouldn’t have agreed to the fight. Instead, Golovkin got a taste of going 12 rounds for the first time and the bout he really wanted.
The fight is truly too close to call, though Alvarez’s age advantage – he is eight years younger than veteran GGG – represents the biggest edge either man has, while he is supremely confident in his own ability.
Their respective styles really play into one another. GGG keeps moving forward so he can unload bombs, using a Mexican style, while Canelo likes it when fighters come at him. It’s a perfect match up.
The Ring pound-for-pound rankings
2. Gennady Golovkin
3. Terence Crawford
4. Roman Gonzalez
5. Vasyl Lomachenko
6. Guillermo Rigondeaux
7. Sergey Kovalev
8. Saul Alvarez
9. Mikey Garcia
10. Naoya Inoue
The Mexican, like his opponent, has hands of stone but a better defence, though his footwork is questionable, especially compared to the guile and ring generalship of GGG. More mobile and technical fighters have exposed him, notably Mayweather.
He is, however, a vastly improved fighter since that Mayweather bout and exceptional at trading blows in the pocket and counter punching; his hands are quicker and his combinations utterly electric. If – when – GGG steps to Alvarez, he’ll have to be prepared to take a few hits.
The granite-chinned Kazakhstani has proven he can, of course, having never been knocked down in 387 fights, including his amateur career, while there are still some question marks over the true extent of Canelo’s power at 160lbs.
Golovkin has seen off bigger hitters in the past, while the Mexican’s body transformation – he appears to have bulked up massively, perhaps too much – could negate his speed and reduce his stamina, which would be fatal against the excellent endurance of GGG.
Golovkin vs Daniel Jacobs – 18 May
Golovkin took on ‘Regular’ champion Jacobs (then 32-1) in a WBA unification fight. It was the first time that Golovkin went 12 rounds as he edged a unanimous decision victory, though some felt the result should have gone the other way.
The fight marked quite a different approach from GGG’s previous fights and style, forced – by accident or design – to use a much more measured and methodical gameplan, with his ring control, forward pressure and effective jab earning the decision.
In his previous bout he ‘broke’ Kell Brook’s face with a withering display of ferociousness, but against Jacobs he looked a little older and there was less explosiveness in his fists. The fear factor wasn’t there and he never really looked like stopping Jacobs.
His detractors argued it was the first marks of a man in decline, though Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, thought differently.
‘Jacobs was easily one weight division heavier than Gennady. Not getting the knockout may have been a double blessing for us: It showed that Gennady was capable of going 12 rounds with an elite fighter, and it gave us the fight with Canelo.
‘If Gennady had knocked Jacobs out, there is no way Golden Boy would have the confidence to put Canelo in with us this year.’
Alvarez vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr – May 16
Two days before GGG fought Jacobs, Alvarez eased past Chavez Jnr in an incredibly one-sided fight in Las Vegas. Canelo won by unanimous decision, 120-108. It was a complete shutout, with the redheaded Mexican never troubled.
In the latter rounds, Chavez could barely even throw any punches, leading to jeers from the sell-out crowd. In total, Alvarez landed 228 of his 604 punches thrown, over three times as many as his hapless opponent (71). Total dominance.
‘Tonight I showed I could move, I could box, I showed as a fighter I can do all things,’ Canelo said in the ring afterwards.
‘I thought I was going to showcase myself as a fighter that could throw punches, but he just wouldn’t do it. I’ve shown I can do lots of things in the ring, anything a fighter brings – I’ve shown I can showcase myself.’
Before taking the Canelo fight, Chavez had been lined up as a potential opponent of GGG, though at a bigger weight, and Golovkin’s camp felt they took the tougher fight in Jacobs.
‘Chavez hadn’t fought under 167 pounds in five years,’ said Sanchez. ‘He was drained and barely threw a punch. If that same Chavez fights Gennady, there is no question Gennady knocks him out. Chavez was a sitting duck.’
Golden Boy would not have taken the fight if they did not think Alvarez was the favourite. He’s got age on his side and is in the very prime of his career, while Golovkin feels a tad less dangerous and explosive than a year or so ago.
But the competitiveness of the fight hinges greatly on how much weight you give to the Jacobs fight. If GGG was holding something back, if the monster is still lurking within, then Alvarez could be in massive trouble, especially if the veteran out-jabs him and controls the ring.
Then again, Alvarez has taken on fighters that people did not think he could beat before, and only Mayweather has proved the doubters right. GGG’s style meshes with the Mexican’s nicely, and will provide opportunities to fight the way he likes. He’ll win plenty of rounds, especially if his clean counters land.
It should be an incredible contest that could go either way, but we’re backing Golovkin to edge it. The Kazakh has so few weaknesses, and his power should prove too much in the end even for Canelo. GGG says he wants to ‘destroy’ Alvarez, and we believe him.