Following a two-year build, the biggest title fight boxing can make in the 2017 calendar year is upon us as Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez and unbeaten knockout artist Gennady Golovkin are set to do battle.
Their middleweight championship bout will take place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (HBO PPV, 8 p.m. ET) with plenty at stake for both participants and the sport in general as a whole.
Let’s take a closer look at how Alvarez and Golovkin match up entering the biggest fight of their respective careers.
What’s at stake?
The world will find out once and for all on Saturday who the best middleweight boxer in the world is as Golovkin puts his trio of 160-pound titles on the line against the division’s lineal king in Alvarez. But what may be more important is that the fight could also offer the winner a shot at pound-for-pound supremacy within the sport should the victory come in an impressive manner.
With former heirs to the PPV throne Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao either out or on their way toward the exit sign, Alvarez has filled in the gap to become the face of the sport over the past two years. It’s possible that GGG could assume such a position should he get the best of Alvarez.
From a more macro point of view, the fight could also be the stamp that either fighter needs toward securing a place in Canastota, New York, one day at the International Boxing Hall of Fame. This marks the most important fight in the careers of both boxers.
Who has the edge?
1. Power: For as much as Alvarez has improved as a fighter and shown an ability to get smaller opponents out with vicious body shots or counter right hands, he will be the fighter who is moving up in weight for this one. And when it comes to comparing punching power, it’s a battle Golovkin simply can’t lose at 160 pounds. Despite seeing his incredible 23-fight knockout streak snapped in March when Daniel Jacobs became the first fighter to take him the full 12-round distance, Golovkin remains arguably the most dangerous puncher in the sport. An expert at cutting off the ring and walking opponents down, GGG has shown he can force a stoppage in any manner possible. Advantage: Golovkin.
2. Speed: Neither fighter has proven particularly adept at dazzling opponents with their hand and foot speed. In fact, Alvarez has often used timing to his advantage as a counter puncher to offset such disadvantages in the past. But give the edge here, if there’s any, to Golovkin. He’s a pressure fighter who needs to get off first in order to be effective, often riding the success of his powerful jab. And he’s done so to great success so far, while showcasing good footwork to work opponents into a corner with smart pressure and begin to dissect. Advantage: Golovkin.
3. Technique: Consider this category about as close as it gets when comparing the two fighters. While GGG has long made power punching his calling card, the secret to his success has been the bedrock of his boxing ability following a long amateur career. Golovkin always seems to remain balanced despite being so aggressive and rarely puts himself into a disadvantageous situation because of his commitment to technique and precision. Alvarez, meanwhile, has grown tremendously in recent years in terms of his boxing ability. Never a true come-forward warrior, Canelo has evolved nicely into an accurate and polished boxer/puncher. Advantage: Even.
4. Defense: To be as voluminous an attacker as Golovkin, he naturally leaves open holes in his defense as he comes forward looking to unload. Although GGG is certainly responsible in terms of the chances he takes, he’s shown against smaller and quicker foes a vulnerability to being hit. The challenging dilemma most opponents have faced, however, is whether they are willing (or physically able) to accept the damage that comes in return for having success against such a huge puncher in GGG. Alvarez, meanwhile, might just be underrated in this category altogether. He has become adept at shifting away from punches by moving his waist and head without needing to give up position or back pedal in any way. Advantage: Alvarez.
5. Intangibles: As much as you don’t want to be the guy who brings up the following asterisk when speaking about Alvarez fights, you just as equally don’t want to be the one who blindly overlooks it. So let’s get it right out into the open: Throughout his career, if any fighter has enjoyed a “benefit of the doubt” on the scorecards than any others in boxing, it has been Alvarez. Not only did he edge out top junior middleweights Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout in close fights (including one judge against Trout who audaciously had Alvarez up 8-0 in a nip-and-tuck fight), Alvarez somehow received an infamous 114-114 card from judge C.J. Ross despite being dominated by Mayweather in 2013. Las Vegas has always been a town which more often than not supports the “money fighter,” which Alvarez undoubtedly is in this fight. If this one goes to the scorecards and feels close, don’t say you weren’t warned. Advantage: Alvarez.
If you’re telling me one of these two fighters is arguably the better boxer of the two AND the unquestionably bigger puncher, it’s going to be hard to pick against him. At the end of the day, that’s who Golovkin is in this fight. The biggest question for GGG entering this one is, at 35, was his edging of Jacobs simply one tough night at the office against a larger and determined opponent or a tease that he might be slipping a bit with age?
That’s a question that can only be answered in the ring on Saturday, of course. What Golovkin did show against Jacobs that was disconcerting was a lack of a Plan B once his opponent switched stances and made an adjustment. GGG also showed an inability to punch with his opponent, instead choosing to wait his turn to fire back in volume. The main difference in this case is that Alvarez isn’t the same athlete or as naturally big as Jacobs. He’s also not the same level of puncher.
Alvarez will need to land something of note early, particularly to the body, in order to give Golovkin pause in walking him down. But as GGG showed against hard-hitting David Lemieux, he’s more than willing to rely on his jab and box cautiously when he respects his opponent’s firepower. In the end, Golovkin’s jab, and how often he is able to get off first with it, will decide whether he is able to win rounds. Unless Alvarez proves able to time GGG’s jab and land a right hand that gets there quicker, Golovkin has no reason not to use his jab as a forceful weapon to frustrate Alvarez.
Let’s face it, very few fighters have been able to taste Golovkin’s power and continue to come forward by doing anything but surviving. The larger and iron-willed Jacobs, who beat cancer midway through his career, became an anomaly in that sense. If Alvarez is unable to discipline Golovkin consistently by going downstairs, his chin and willpower will decide whether he sees the final bell.
In the end, considering the size of the stage, expect Alvarez to make it the distance. Whether or not he chose to be daring enough to actually win the fight is another story altogether. Barring any tomfoolery from the judges, Alvarez doesn’t throw enough punches to match GGG’s high volume. That should hurt him on the scorecards, just as it ultimately did Jacobs against Golovkin.
Source: Brian Campbell| CBS