With the announcement of the much anticipated middleweight title bout between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 49-1-1 (34) and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin 37-0 (33), I think it’s fair to say the boxing community hasn’t been this electrified since it became official that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao would meet in May of 2015. The confrontation between Canelo and Golovkin represents a great style contrast between a terrific counter-puncher in Alvarez and a terrific attacker in GGG. I haven’t a morsel of doubt that Canelo-Golovkin will be a much more action-packed fight than Mayweather-Pacquiao turned out to be. The style contrast all but guarantees it and it’s also a low bar to clear.
Inside the ring Canelo and Triple-G are near equals physically with the big difference being their contrasting styles. Alvarez waits for his opponents to make a move and then reacts to it. On the other hand, Golovkin forces his opponents to open up against him. It’s outside the ring in which there is a monumental difference. One is a true star, Canelo, who is entering his prime at age 27 and commands rock star billing regardless of his opponent. Golovkin, 35, whose fights are usually fun to watch, isn’t a big ticket seller nor is he well-known outside of ardent followers of the sweet science.
It’s really something how some fighters are anointed “must see” by the boxing media, promoters and television networks. When I read reviews of some of Canelo’s bouts and hear his skill set described, and then watch him fight, the adjectives painting the picture of him never match what my eyes see – and I trust my eyes. This is in no way a shot at Canelo because I think he’s an outstanding fighter. Yet every name fighter Floyd Mayweather fought at welterweight and junior middleweight who went the distance with him, won more rounds against Floyd than Canelo did, with the exception of Juan Manuel Marquez, who like Canelo, lost every round….with the difference being that one judge mystifyingly scored Canelo’s fight with Mayweather a draw.
Canelo, after plateauing for a while, has improved slightly. But I couldn’t imagine him bettering junior-middleweights of yesteryear the likes of Wilfred Benitez, Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike McCallum or Winky Wright. I’m not even sure he beats his promoter Oscar De La Hoya during his time fighting between 147 and 154. But those guys aren’t around today and aside from Leonard and De La Hoya he’s a bigger draw than they were.
Canelo is boxing’s biggest star (until Anthony Joshua gets a little more exposure). But give De La Hoya credit because he has been instrumental in cultivating Canelo’s fan base. If you doubt that, is it a coincidence that only two fighters drew a bigger gate fighting Mayweather than the 2.2 million Canelo did? And they just happened to be the two biggest stars outside of Mayweather since the days of Mike Tyson, namely Oscar De La Hoya (2.4 million) and Manny Pacquiao (4.6 million). Need more proof to attest to Canelo’s star power? How about this, in Mayweather’s first seven PPV bouts, 5.9 million buys were tabulated…….Canelo’s first seven tabulated 5.6 million buys, and Floyd had to fight nine years before he was a PPV fighter whereas Canelo fought his first PPV bout in his eighth year as a pro.
Conversely, Golovkin has fought three PPV bouts and two had terribly disappointing PPV buys. In his first PPV fight, GGG fought a legitimate contender and big puncher in David Lemieux. That bout drew 150,000 buys. Then he fought welterweight titlist Kell Brook, a popular fighter from the UK. That bout drew 500,000. And in his last fight he fought another top contender and legitimate challenger in Daniel Jacobs and the fight drew only 170,000 buys. Surprising that a swarmer who always brings it with two-handed knockout power isn’t a draw, but that’s the way it is.
Being a star attraction isn’t necessarily tied to styles or exciting fights. Muhammad Ali was the biggest must-see fighter in boxing history based on the box office, but his fights were only exciting when he felt threatened by his opponent, say Joe Frazier and George Foreman. His bouts with Joe Bugner, Mac Foster and many others were beamed around the world on closed circuit, and they were basically workouts for Ali. Joe Frazier, due to his style of forcing his opponents to fight, actually had more exciting bouts than Ali, excluding the three times they faced each other. And the same applied to Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. If you examine their careers closely, how many of Tyson’s fights were entertaining? He massacred journeymen and bottom 10 contenders but struggled and strained against the elite of his era, whether winning or losing. Holyfield brought it every time out and, like Frazier, forced his opponents to engage which led to some great give-and-take fights, but fans were more interested in seeing Ali and Tyson either play with an opponent for rounds or get him out in one or two……the opponents were inconsequential.
Canelo’s branding was carefully nurtured from the time he was seen as a child phenom and that gave him a nice running start, but some fighters just have that magnetism. On the other hand, the opponent who will have much to say whether or not Canelo becomes the next Mayweather as a draw, Gennady Golovkin, is just a fighter with a nice personality. GGG has a great record and impressive knockout ratio, but in fairness he’s fought only decent opposition, though not his fault because the current middleweight division isn’t exactly murderer’s row.
On the night he faces Alvarez, Golovkin will have more eyes watching him than he’s probably had in the four most viewed fights of his career combined. That’s why it’s so imperative that he wins. The onus on him is to stop Canelo, because if he wins by decision, the killer mystique will be removed even more so than it was dinged in his last fight when he was forced to go the distance with Daniel Jacobs. And if he beats Canelo convincingly it will be bandied about that he should have won in the first place and he won’t get all due credit….followed by the thought that if he really wants to prove how great he is, he’ll challenge the Ward-Kovalev winner.
Canelo is already a star, but a large portion of his appeal comes from fans who aren’t hardcore boxing followers (this is true of all crossover stars). If he were to have his hand raised at the conclusion of his bout with Golovkin, he’d win over those hardcore fans — the Doubting Thomas’s — and his stature would go off the chart!
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com