Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, as well as their respective support crews, apparently have found something they can agree on.
“Of course, we were all disappointed (the scheduled May 5 rematch didn’t come off),” Golovkin, speaking in Russian from Big Bear, Calif., with his words relayed to the media through a translator, said during a restrainedly civil teleconference in which all the well-separated and clearly contentious principals were on the same call. “I was disappointed, the fans were disappointed that the May 5 fight didn’t happen. But right now everybody is happy that we are all agreed to have the fight on Sept. 15.”
“A lot of fighters can’t even fight the first time, and here’s two of the biggest stars in boxing fighting the rematch,” added Tom Loeffler, GGG’s promoter, grudgingly going along with the notion that the HBO Pay Per View do-over at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena has left both sides mostly satisfied with the path taken to get to this point.
What say you, Oscar De La Hoya?
“We’re here now,” said De La Hoya, Alvarez’s promoter and a central figure in negotiations that started off in an atmosphere of shared animosity and became increasingly hostile as the process toward signed contracts continued. “I did it for the fans. This is the fight they wanted to see, and come Sept. 15 I can assure you it will be a much better fight than what you would have seen in May.
“This fight had to be made because we didn’t want to experience another Hagler-Leonard situation where we didn’t see a second fight that never took place, or Trinidad and myself.”
For once, common sense has prevailed in a sport where the most anticipated and logical matchups sometimes don’t get made, or are limited to one-and-dones. Yes, it is true that fight fans were cheated that Mike Tyson never threw down with his Brooklyn homeboy Riddick Bowe, or that Bowe wasn’t paired against Lennox Lewis as pros in a repeat of their gold-medal bout at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. There are many other instances of potentially classic bouts that never advanced beyond the theoretical. Almost as frustrating are the much-anticipated fights that took place and created a public demand for second and maybe even third installments, to no avail.
So GGG-Canelo II (or Canelo-GGG II, if you go by the contractually guaranteed billing) is a meaty bone thrown to fans who are still waiting, and might have to wait a good while longer, for bickering heavyweight champions Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder to also find enough common ground to settle the question as to who is the better man inside the ropes. A rematch between Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs) and Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs), the two men who are widely considered to be the best middleweights in the world, has seemed inevitable since the scoring for their first matchup, back on Sept. 16, 2017, a split draw that was dissatisfying to both sides and controversial as well. Although the prevailing opinion among boxing cognoscenti was that GGG (who, according to CompuBox punch statistics, landed 218 blows to Canelo’s 169) probably had done enough to merit the nod, judge Adalaide Triplett’s 118-110 tally for the crowd-favorite and underdog Mexican raised more than a few eyebrows.
Although the fighters for the most part treated one another with respect for that one, events of the past several months have turned their semi-cordial relationship, and that of their support crews, beyond frosty. It would be accurate to say that the lead-up to the rematch, marked by accusations and counter-accusations, has been tinged with undisguised contempt.
“Yes, absolutely,” Alvarez, who turns 28 on July 18, said from Guadalajara, Mexico, when asked if his attitude toward the 36-year-old Golovkin and his team has taken on ugly connotations. “It’s changed, totally. They disrespected me. Everything they’ve been saying, everything they’ve been doing, their actions … now it’s different. It’s personal.”
It has been personal from the moment that Canelo twice tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol, which led to his being suspended for six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, prompting GGG to label him a drug cheat, and possibly a habitual one. The Kazakhstan knockout artist has openly mocked Canelo’s contention that the failed drug tests were the result of his inadvertently ingesting tainted Mexican beef.
The revenge motive can be feigned, of course, so any pronouncements of radical shifts from what we saw from both fighters in their first meeting must be taken with a grain of salt. Floyd Mayweather, for instance, sometimes vowed he was going to take more chances and go for knockouts, but on fight night he stuck to his tried-and-true, defense-first fight plan because it worked for him. So although Golovkin is apt to do what he always has done, which is to come forward and deliver as much punishment as he is capable of ladling out, it remains to be seen if Alvarez, depicted by De La Hoya as the “more skillful” boxer, elects to engage GGG more often at close quarters.
For now, however, both fighters are holding firm to the premise that the outcome of Part 2 won’t be left in the hands of three individuals who might as well leave their pencils at home.
“Neither side wants to let it go to the judges,” Loeffler noted. “Canelo’s predicting a kayo, and GGG doesn’t want to go through the same thing he went through last year when his fate was in the hands of three people. He wants to make sure he controls his destiny and there’s no question as to who walks out of the ring as champion.”
Any expression of hatred or something akin to it, of course, is not something most people would care to admit to. But in measured doses, it is can be a useful tool in elevating a good fight into something much more meaningful. Consider the agitated, long-distance dialogue not only between GGG and Canelo, who by agreement will not be in the same place at the same time until fight week, but their similarly sniping advocates, De La Hoya and Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez.
It was irksome to Team GGG that they had to accept 30 percent of the available revenues for the first fight while Canelo took the rest. That yawning gap has been bridged somewhat, but Golovkin, who had insisted on a 50-50 split, again is taking the short end, with 45 percent to Canelo’s 55 percent.
“Obviously, we know who the `A’ side is, and that’s Canelo Alvarez,” De La Hoya said. “And we obviously know that all of Mexico is behind Canelo. Everywhere I go, Mexicans are behind Canelo.”
Loeffler holds that Golovkin, who is proud of fighting in the “Mexican style,” has ample support from Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, who see the Kazakh as one of their own as well as someone free of the ignominy of failed drug tests. He said that vocal minority will make their presence known on Sept. 15, which is a day before Mexican Independence Day. “I get a lot of comments, a lot of messages, on social media, from fans in Mexico, saying, `Please knock out Canelo.’”
Sanchez has gone so far as to question Alvarez’s cojones, the ultimate slap to any Mexican fighter’s manhood. “The first fight ended up being a track meet,” he sneered of the instances in which Canelo chose to play keep-away. “On Sept. 15 when Oscar and Canelo are having breakfast, Oscar needs to remind him to make sure he brings his courage to the venue that night because he’s going to need it. If he doesn’t defraud the fans again, he’s going to get knocked out.”
De La Hoya also wrung from Team GGG another concession, that of being introduced second, an honor that almost always goes to the defending champion. (Golovkin, will be defending his WBC and WBA belts; he had to relinquish his IBF belt for proceeding with a May 5 bout against Vanes Martirosyan instead of fulfilling his IBF mandatory against Sergiy Derevyanchenko). Such a slight, which notably took place for Larry Holmes’ WBC heavyweight defense against Gerry Cooney on June 11, 1982, hardened Holmes’ resolve to put a licking on “Gentleman Gerry,” which he did in winning on a 13th-round stoppage.
“It doesn’t matter who’s announced first,” Loeffler said. “It doesn’t matter whose name appears first on the posters. GGG is the champion. He’s going to walk in with his belts, and the important thing is he’s going to walk out with his belts.”
Another spicy ingredient tossed into an already boiling pot is the fact that Golovkin will be going for his 21st middleweight title defense, which would break the division record he now shares with Bernard Hopkins, who, ironically, is an executive with Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Canelo. For that and other reasons, Alvarez is determined to spoil whatever celebration GGG might have planned for that night.
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel