With the official weigh-ins past us, the only thing holding back the highly-anticipated rematch between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin is time. The Jalisco native weighed in at 159.4 pounds yesterday, while “The Kazakh Thunder” weighed in at 159. 6 pounds.
After their classic bout one year ago on Mexico’s Independence Day, the rematch is set to captivate us and be one for the ages, but not just because two of the greatest boxers of their generation are squaring off for supremacy. This time, the anticipation and hype have been built upon the growing bad blood between the two. Hints of this animosity were shown after the weigh-ins when the two warriors needed to be separated after a heated face-off. Saturday night will no doubt be a war, where both competitors will look to give fight fans a knockout to remember.
The growing tension wasn’t always there, however. Looking back a few years ago, Alvarez and Golovkin were once sparring partners, with each of them taking separate roads to success. Both fighters made names for themselves for their different styles of fighting and numerous accolades. Eventually, their paths crossed once again on September 16, 2017.
As the fight got underway, each fighter was trying to figure one another out, which translated to not as much action as was usually seen in their fights. Canelo was on the move, allowing Golovkin to stalk him and awaiting his offensive onslaught. While Golovkin had won the first round with his jabs, Canelo would take advantage of the following rounds and attacked. He delivered several body shots and jabs while dodging punches thrown by GGG. By the end of three rounds, Canelo had the advantage of landing 14 body shots, compared to Golovkin’s zero. Although Golovkin delivered more punches, Canelo’s punches had more of a lasting effect.
Although GGG was cautious initially, he gained his confidence little by little and soon became the aggressor. He eventually let his hands do the talking and started imposing himself as the fourth round neared the end, having Canelo on the ropes and unleashing his offense. By the start of the fifth, Golovkin didn’t look back. The highlight of this round had been an impressive left hook by GGG, who had 74 punches by the end of the round, compared to Canelo’s 43 punches.
It was clear that Golovkin controlled the tempo, as was seen with his ruthless aggression, which was also winning him the rounds that followed. Prior to the 9th round, there had been much movement by Canelo, with not enough counter-attacking, which he is known for. However, during this round, the fans were clamoring for more. Golovkin delivered a jab followed by a hard-right hand, and Canelo responded with a vicious left hook and an overhand right. The final three rounds finally saw Canelo come out aggressive, with both fighters delivering blows back and forth. As the final bell rang, both fighters were standing with their arms raised up. The knockout blow that many were expecting didn’t occur, but neither man backed down from the challenge that stood in front of them.
The fans witnessed an instant classic. But it was a battle that was tainted with a controversial draw. Adalaide Byrd scored the bout 118-110 for Canelo, while Dave Moretti scored it 115-113 for GGG, and lastly, Don Trella declared the match a draw, with a score of 114-114. With a decision like this, it only made sense that both fighters run it back again, in order to have a clear winner.
Controversy Outside the Ring
The rematch was set for May 5, 2017. As the announcement was made, both camps then retreated to continue their rigorous training. It all came to a halt on March 5, 2017, when news broke out that Canelo tested positive twice for clenbuterol, a performance enhancement drug.
Canelo’s camp attributed this positive testing due to contaminated meat consumed in Mexico, and it was unintentional. He has gone on record to say, “I’m a clean fighter, 100% clean, and I always have been. And it bothers me that this happened to me because of a public problem in Mexico.” Canelo would then move his camp to San Diego, in order to avoid the same problem from arising.
All of this left a bad taste in GGG’s mouth, who was not convinced by Canelo’s statements. He stated, “I was probably more upset than surprised. Upset with the fact that if an athlete of this level is using forbidden substances… it’s just low.” Talk from both fighters as well as between Abel Sanchez (GGG’s coach) and Eddie and Chepo Reynoso (Canelo’s coach) diminished the respect that had once existed between both fighters. There was legitimate bad blood.
After the positive testing, the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Canelo. On April 3, a press conference was held, in which, Canelo withdrew from the fight. Negotiations for the second fight posed an obstacle between both camps, due to a lack of trust from GGG, who believes Canelo compromised the integrity of the sport, which infuriated Canelo.
Eventually, the Commission decided on April 18th that Canelo would be eligible to fight six months after the first positive test date. GGG would go on to fight and knockout Vanes Martirosyan on May 5th. However, he felt robbed of a potential payday due to Canelo. To him, not only was he disrespectful on the business end but to the fight game and to the fans. To many, it seemed as if the second fight was never going to happen. That was all settled when the rematch was announced for September 15.
The intense training by both fighters is coupled with intense emotions. GGG stated, “I don’t really hate him. I wouldn’t say I hate him. It’s just that my opinion of him has changed completely. What he says doesn’t inspire any respect.” For Canelo, he had no fear of holding back as well, saying, “I want to rip his head off. There’s no doubt about that.”
While I believe GGG had won the first fight with eight rounds to four, this match will differ entirely. Despite anger being displayed by both sides, they need to fight smart. Having had the opportunity to figure each other out in the first fight, they won’t hold back from the time the bell rings. It appears to be a match made in heaven, with GGG being a notorious attacker, and Canelo being a skilled counter-puncher.
Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs) is coming into this fight as the favorite (-160) over Canelo (49-1-2, 34 KOs) with +140. However, several things need to be taken into consideration. GGG is not the same fighter that he was, especially at 36 years old. Canelo, at 28, has the age and athletic advantage. Not to mention the speed to deflect GGG’s offense, considering that he moved up to Middleweight. The threat that GGG poses is the fact that he has a strong chin, as was seen in the first fight since he was unfazed by the punches thrown by Canelo. He still possesses the power to knock out any opponent, and what must be respected about GGG is how he emulates the Mexican style of boxing, displaying toughness and fighting toe-to-toe, despite getting hit. In a way, it is reminiscent of Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.
Canelo must win this match with a knockout. It is difficult for a counter-puncher to win via decision. The decision is usually given to the aggressor, which in this case will be GGG. The first fight was an indication of this. As a counter-puncher, Canelo has a strong defensive game, which he must employ in order to avoid the power of GGG’s punches. One of the doubts GGG will have to put to rest is in regards to his attack and making adjustments. This was seen in his fight against Danny Jacobs in 2017, where he wasn’t able to knock him out. Jacobs used his height and reach to his advantage. The only decisive moment was the knockdown GGG delivered, which won him the decision. Nevertheless, Jacobs was not afraid to take GGG on, and one could see it wasn’t the same dominant performance that GGG was known to have.
If Canelo is able to control his anger and fight the smarter fight, I believe Canelo will be the victor. He must continue to dictate the fight as he did in the early rounds and final rounds of the first fight, and not be inactive like the middle rounds. It also helps if GGG continues to take the blows Canelo will deliver cleanly, whether up top or to the body. No one’s chin is perfect, and sooner or later one blow will catch up to him. My prediction is Canelo gets a knockout in the 10th round.