Why Canelo Had A Better Night Than Golovkin

Now that the storm has quelled regarding the decision rendered declaring Canelo-Golovkin a draw, maybe some other aspects of the fight can be examined. If there ever was a big fight in which I had no rooting interest it was this one. As most know who’ve read this column, as elite world class fighters I’m not a big fan of either Canelo or GGG. The thought how any observer could consider either among the top-5 pound-for-pound fighters in boxing mystifies me, especially on the heels of their showing against each other.

For the record I picked Golovkin to beat Canelo, but I was a lot less sure of him winning than I had been when the bout was first discussed. Watching it live I scored it 8-4 or 116-112 for Golovkin. There were perhaps two rounds in question, one favoring Golovkin and the other Canelo, which obviously wouldn’t alter the winner as I saw it. Yes, I’m adamant Golovkin won, but it was close. If you score it through the prism of a Canelo fan, a draw is plausible. That’s how many of those rooting for Canelo scored it — and to me that’s a dog whistle indicating they felt GGG actually pulled it out but they had to save face, which I totally get.

Watching the fight it was impossible to miss that although Golovkin was doing a little more and forcing the action, Canelo was the more well-rounded and adaptable fighter. A cynic might say it was easy for Canelo to counter GGG because he knew Golovkin was going to force the fight and had ample time to prepare for it. But pulling it off when an opponent is bearing down on you when moving back isn’t your strength stylistically…well, that isn’t that easy.

I actually came away more impressed with Canelo’s performance than Golovkin’s.

Canelo did everything better than GGG other than punch quite as hard. Fighting in retreat for the first time in his career, Canelo kept Golovkin from catching him with any telling blows. Had you never seen GGG fight before, you’d question why he had such a vaunted reputation. Prior to the fight, everyone agreed that the last place Canelo wanted to be is against the ropes, spent and looking for a breather. Yet there were countless times over the course of 12 rounds in which Alvarez was too tired to move and went to the ropes with the mindset that it was easier living here trying to make GGG miss than trying to escape to put distance between them. And to his credit, Canelo landed some beautiful counters when GGG missed shots he shouldn’t have. Luckily for Golovkin he has a cast iron chin that’s sadly becoming his last line of defense as he’s beginning to show signs of slippage.

In the process of going to the ropes Canelo only had one-punch that he had to address from Golovkin, his left jab. And that was probably the punch Canelo feared the least going into the fight, because it wouldn’t hurt. At the worst it would only disrupt his offense unless GGG was good enough to follow it up with his finishing punches — something it didn’t take Canelo long to figure out he wasn’t having success doing. While Canelo was against the ropes I couldn’t believe how many punches GGG missed, and without much if any deception from Canelo. And GGG’s lack of body punching was really confounding. The lack of it gave Canelo even less to be concerned with.

I didn’t go back and count the punches but read where HBO’s Jim Lampley said GGG only threw eight body punches in 12 rounds. If that’s close to being true, it’s another signal that Golovkin is aging. Two years ago Golovkin had no reservation going to the body and risking his chin if that’s what it took to get inside where he believes he has the advantage.

GGG hasn’t scored an impressive stoppage in two consecutive high profile bouts, leading many to ask, “Is Golovkin on the decline or is he facing better fighters?”

The answer is both. Prior to facing Canelo, the closest Golovkin ever came to fighting an A-level opponent was this past March when he won a close but controversial decision over Danny Jacobs who brought a 32-1 (29) record into the bout. Jacobs used the ring and moved, forcing Golovkin to pick his feet up to stay in range. While doing that Jacobs was able to score and then get out, forcing GGG to reset….with the bottom line being that Golovkin wasn’t nearly as effective fighting an opponent who didn’t freeze the first time he was nailed real good.

I believe in the Jacobs fight GGG was bothered mostly by Jacobs’ style more than anything else. However, I think age and erosion played a little bit more of a part against Canelo. There were just too many times when Golovkin had Canelo against the ropes with Canelo offering no resistance with his fists, or movement with his feet. GGG just pecked away with a faint jab looking to line up the perfect shot that he never found. Canelo had nothing to do with GGG not getting off, whereas Jacobs sent punches his way when he was forced against the ropes. Even with little to no resistance, Golovkin never seemed comfortable having Canelo exactly where he thought he wanted him. That’s the sign of an aging fighter, a fighter who can’t pull the trigger. Evander Holyfield exhibited the same thing during his fight with Chris Byrd. When he had Chris against the ropes he couldn’t get off and Byrd had little to do with it.

“I want it to be my first fight of 2018. I do not want another fight that is not the tiebreaker with Golovkin, and that’s what we’re going to try to do,” said Canelo, speaking at a press conference in Colombia where he was attending the annual convention of the World Boxing Association (WBA).

Based on Canelo’s statement, he sounds very confident and most likely realizes some of the same things I picked up on.

During his bout with GGG something else was apparent: Canelo’s hands flowed like Mayweather’s when he didn’t fear cutting loose with them. He fought in flurries during a majority of the fight because he needed a breather due to the strain of trying to hold Golovkin off. Luckily for GGG, Alvarez could only do that in spurts because when he let his hands go, Golovkin’s diminished reflexes and speed were glaring. Couple that with GGG’s poor accuracy with every punch he threw other than his jab and it’s an obvious tell-tale sign that GGG’s timing and anticipation are on the decline. And there isn’t anything that he can do to change it, although some have wrongly suggested it could be addressed in training.

Golovkin had one thing going for him when he fought Canelo, and that was an overload of physicality and strength which tilted the fight in his favor as most saw it. But Canelo showed the more complete game, even out-jabbing GGG at certain times. When they fight again, whether it’s in May or September of 2018, Canelo will win a decision on the cards and in the eyes of objective observers. For the rematch, Canelo will be in better shape, with him hopefully shedding the body builder physique and morphing back into more of a boxer’s body enabling him to get off better. He’ll be more confident, having gained a ton of experience from the first clash. He now knows he can take GGG’s best and Golovkin’s delivery system will be even less than what it was the first time.

Do I even need to bother repeating that Canelo will get the benefit of the doubt from the judges if, as I expect, it goes the distance?

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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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