The fight that fans couldn’t wait to see is about to come to fruition – Canelo vs. Golovkin for middleweight bragging rights with all the titles and hardware going to the winner. The biggest star in boxing, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 49-1-1 (34), fighting the perceived biggest puncher in boxing Gennady “GGG” Golovkin 37-0 (33). Two years ago most observers saw this matchup overwhelmingly in favor of Golovkin, but things have changed since then and that’s no longer the case.
Canelo is now seen as a vastly improved fighter compared to the one that lost to Floyd Mayweather four years ago in what stands as his only career defeat and Golovkin, because he had to go the distance in his last bout against Daniel Jacobs earlier this year, is viewed by some as an older fighter who is showing signs of being on the decline.
Yes, Canelo has improved since the Mayweather fight. He doesn’t get flustered as easily and doesn’t have the inactivity lulls like he used to when things weren’t going his way. But stylistically he hasn’t changed other than he lets his hands go a little more freely when his opponent is static. And as for Jacobs extending GGG the distance, that had more to do with Jacobs’ style, size and movement than it did with Gennady eroding overnight. Kell Brook was also out-boxing Golovkin for a couple rounds in Golovkin’s previous bout before Jacobs, the difference being that Brook, unlike Jacobs, lacked the physicality and strength to maintain it. Golovkin not looking so monster-like vs. Jacobs had everything to do with Canelo’s management, led by Oscar De La Hoya, agreeing to meet GGG in his next fight and that’s why we’re seeing it this weekend.
Since the bout was first announced I’ve read thoughts in regards to what each fighter must do to win and am amazed by the varying points of view, mainly because Canelo vs. Golovkin is one of the easiest big fights to assess in a long time due to the fighting style of each combatant. This one isn’t going to come down to punching angles, movement, versatility or who has the better defense or more imaginative offense. In Canelo vs. Golovkin, you have two fighters’ that no matter how some try to paint them as being uniquely skilled boxers, are mostly driven by their power and physicality. Of course there have been instances when they both used a little sophistication to set up their power, but it doesn’t go beyond that. Saul and Gennady are driven by their power and punch, and if it isn’t enough to hurt their opponent – or if they can’t land clean shots like Canelo couldn’t against Mayweather – then neither fighter has tool one to overwhelm another elite opponent.
Amir Kahn was out-boxing Canelo until he got caught. Kell Brook was getting the better of Golovkin until Golovkin’s power dramatically changed the course of the bout. With Canelo and GGG now confronting each other, the same will hold true because one of them is going to overwhelm the other due to his overload of strength and power, thus forcing the other to go away from what he does best. And whoever is the one forced into that predicament will lose.
Everyone refers to Canelo as being a counter-puncher, and he has a lot of that in his style. He could also be considered a boxer-puncher, but either way he is only effective moving forward and pushing the fight. With the exception of his fight against James Kirkland who he fought in patches with his back to the ropes, Canelo usually is pitching with his opponent with their back to the ropes. Golovkin, because he uses his jab effectively at the opportune time, is seen by some as being more of a technician than he really is. Golovkin is an attacker or swarmer and to be effective he has to keep fighting as the attacker, period. He uses his jab sometimes to set up his power but his jab isn’t what’s keeping Canelo up at night.
What makes this fight so compelling is that both Alvarez and Golovkin are vulnerable to the exact same thing – opponents with sound movement who can be effective going back or laterally. Those who believe Canelo can box Golovkin and be successful without giving ground are wrong. If Canelo tries to box and give Golovkin different angles, he’ll be forgoing some of his power and GGG will walk right through him and be in complete control. Conversely, if Golovkin finds that as he’s pushing the action while trying to force Canelo back he’s getting hurt more than he anticipated, thereby forcing him to break off the exchange, then he’s in trouble.
Canelo is at his best fighting at a measured pace, and to this point he hasn’t faced an opponent who really pressured him into rushing his shots. He also hasn’t always shown the greatest stamina, so going the distance against a guy who will be pushing him hard throughout the fight might be more than he can manage. And bringing the pressure is natural for Golovkin and that’s the beauty of this match up – neither guy can win fighting as the “boxer.” Oh they may try, but once they find it’s not working they’ll revert back to what they perceive is their strength. And let’s face it, whichever one of them is forced to use his legs to get away to buy time to set and reload, will be doing what the other wanted him to do and will be going away from what has brought him to this point.
When the bell rings, Golovkin, though not often a fast starter, needs to go at Canelo and do everything in his power to force Canelo to trade with him to fight him off. Since he can’t willingly give ground, Canelo is going to have to answer GGG’s charge and hope in the process he nails him with something that shakes him enough to the point in which Golovkin realizes he can’t just go at Canelo as if Canelo were handcuffed. Golovkin is the presumed stronger fighter and bigger puncher – but that’ll only transfer into him winning if he imposes those advantages on Canelo. Both have shown a terrific chin and that’ll be a factor because they’re going to be in front of each other for a few rounds.
If he’s not worn down by the strain of fending Golovkin off early, Canelo has a shot to outpoint him. His problem will be that fighting off the ropes, his only tool for GGG to be concerned with is his right uppercut. With Golovkin bearing down on him and presumably on his back foot, Canelo will be fighting uphill trying to hook with GGG from that position and stance. Against the ropes, Canelo’s right will be a little smothered to where he won’t be able to get everything on it and GGG has the better left hook, especially on the inside, and he cuts loose with it more naturally as he doesn’t have to load up on it as much as Canelo does. Canelo didn’t punch hard enough to really hurt a stationary empty package in front of him that wasn’t firing anything back by the name of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and he’ll be under more duress with less time against Golovkin.
I assume Golovkin will enter the bout as the alpha fighter and wants a Hagler-Hearns type fight with the intent of forcing Canelo to have to fight him off instead of allowing him the time and space to box. If that’s how it unfolds, Canelo has two options – try to box him and move a little without signaling to Golovkin “I don’t really want to go to war with you.” Or, he’ll realize he can’t hurt GGG by not fully committing to his punches while looking to get out, leaving him with no choice other than planting and trying to hurt GGG on the way in. But if he’s forced to rush his shots like Hearns was against Hagler, he won’t get everything on them. However, if he can hurt GGG just enough to where the heat isn’t so hot, he’ll be in good shape and in position to seize the fight as it progresses….but that’s the question he’ll need to find out the answer to.
In all honestly I don’t know how special Canelo or Golovkin truly are. GGG has beaten mostly B-level middleweights and Canelo was managed perfectly at 154, but against Chavez Jr. his power didn’t look so imposing….which is why he’s tried to bulk up for this fight. Canelo is much closer to his prime at age 27 than Golovkin is at 35, but GGG is the bigger and more natural puncher. If he’s good enough to deliver his power and isn’t blunted with Canelo’s return, he should be able to force Canelo no choice other than to fight it out and trade with him….and he will win if he’s successful in doing that.
Two years ago when this fight was first being bantered about, I had no hesitation at all in picking the winner and that was Golovkin. I’ll admit I’m not quite as sure as I was back then, but I’m sticking with my initial instinct and believe he’ll stop Canelo because he and his management are well aware that the fighter who made the Tecate commercial with Sylvester Stallone is the star. If it goes the distance, it’s much better for business if Canelo wins the decision, and when it comes to how big fights are scored that must be taken into consideration.
For the past year I’ve been hearing Gennady Golovkin is one of the great middleweights in history, the equal of recent champs Carlos Monzon, Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins. At this time I don’t believe Golovkin is as good, let alone a better fighter, than any of the three named. If any of them were fighting Canelo, who is more outstanding than great, I’d have no reservation picking them to beat Canelo convincingly.
This is Golovkin’s signature fight and he says he’s aware of all that’s riding on the outcome. A loss to Canelo would kill any chance for him to be thought of down the road as a legendary middleweight. If he can’t beat Canelo Saturday night he’d never beat him. So until proven otherwise, I’m giving Golovkin the benefit of the doubt and riding with him to stop Canelo inside 10 rounds.
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com