Monday, September 11, 2017

The Boxing Glove Big Fight Preview: Gennady Golovkin vs Canelo Alvarez... A Date With Destiny

By Peter Silkov

Now that the pantomime is over between you know who, and what’s his name, the smoke has finally cleared a little bit to reveal the most eagerly anticipated middleweight fight since Hagler vs Hearns back in 1985. Gennady Golovkin (37-0, 33koes) and Saul Canelo Alvarez (49-1-1, 34koes) meet next week, September 16, at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada, in a clash that has been at least three years in the making.

The various controversies, whispers, and disagreements, which have blocked this fight from happening, up until now, including Canelo’s infamous ‘I am not a true middleweight yet!’ claim, are all well known enough not to have to go into again. Now that the match is finally here, what do we really have before us? Is it a real ‘superfight’ or something a little bit different, more along the lines of a good business deal?

One look at both men's records, and fighting styles, tells us that this should be a well matched encounter that could produce something special. Both men have primarily aggressive fighting styles, but are also sound technically.

The build up to this match has been respectful from both sides, which is refreshing, and has added to the almost old school feel of this showdown. This is the kind of showdown between top fighters that used to happen regularly in boxing, but now is generally put off, especially in the heavier divisions, save for the occasional ‘superfight.'

If there is a worry, a person with a jaded eye might point out that the pair have been almost too respectful in this build-up and that talk of an upcoming ‘trilogy’ between the pair has been rather odd and ill-timed.

It's hard to think of any of boxing's famous ‘trilogies’ that have been ‘pre-planned', and the very action of arranging a trilogy in advance may lead won to wonder just how much planning has gone into the actual fights themselves.

Yet, one hopes that this slightly cynical fear will not be supported by what is finally witnessed on September 16. Come fight night, we are hoping to see both men giving 100% for victory, and for one of them to be awarded with a fair victory free from controversy. This is what boxing desperately needs, from a fight that it has been crying out for over these past two years.

Trilogy or not, this is a career defining fight for both men. For Canelo, it is a chance for him to finally show that he is more than just a good fighter who has been built up into something more by the media and Golden Boy promotions. Gennady Golovin meanwhile, needs this victory in order to finally underline the claims of greatness that have been surrounding him.

Photo: Metro.Uk
At the age of 35 years old, GGG has dominated the 160-pound division against anyone willing to get into the ring with him for the past 7 years, and over the course of 17 title defences. Despite this impressive resume, Golovkin has yet to find that defining fight, that defining defence, in which he has been called to show himself at his very best under pressure. In much the same way as 80s middleweight king, Marvin Hagler, struggled to find a meaningful fight before his contests with Duran, Hearns, and Mugubi.

Against Canelo, Golovkin will, for the first time, be facing an opponent whom a large amount of people believe has a chance to beat him.

If GGG beats Canelo, then his detractors will find it difficult to seriously ask ‘who has Golovkin beaten?’ GGG has already beaten the best at 160 pounds, aside from the three men that have constantly avoided him; former WBC champion Miguel Cotto, WBO champ Billy Joe Saunders, and up until now, Saul Canelo Alvarez. Indeed, it is worth remembering that Canelo gave up the WBC championship, rather than accept a fight with Golovkin earlier this year.

Looking at both men’s careers, while it can be acknowledged that Canelo has beaten the higher profile fighters compared to Golovkin, it must also be said that Canelo has been moved along very cleverly, and faced far more ‘soft targets’ than is often admitted. Since losing widely to Floyd Mayweather Jr. 4 years ago, Canelo has faced the limited and shop worn James Kirkland, Alfredo Angulo, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the vastly out-weighed and over-matched, Amir Khan, and the largely unproven at world level Liam Smith. Canelo’s best victories in the past 4 years have come against the slippery Erislandy Lara, (a fight in which many observers felt that Canelo was lucky to escape with a victory) and against Miguel Cotto. Against Cotto, although Canelo took victory and won the WBC world middleweight title in the process, it was not a devastating performance by Canelo and again, there were those who believed that the veteran Cotto had done enough to claim victory.

Photo: RingTV
The common thead throughout Canelo’s career is that he has never impressed quite as much as has been expected of him. Even in his last fight last May, against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., in a fight so one-sided that it resembled a bad sparring session. Canelo, for all his perceived strength and power, was unable to floor Chavez Jr. even once, let alone stop him. Canelo looked devastating against Amir Khan, yet even against the over-matched Liam Smith, Canelo struggled at times to impress.

Canelo’s strength has always been his size advantage over his opponents on fight night. It is well known that he goes up to 180 pounds at least, by fight night. Technically he is a sound fighter with a good chin, but he is also one-paced, and lacks flexibility in the ring. Mayweather, Lara and even Khan, showed how Canelo can be out-boxed, and dominated by the jab. Is this a strategy, which Golovkin might try against Alvarez?

Golovkin is usually thought of as an all-action slugger with a knockout punch in either hand, yet he has shown in the past that he is also a very shrewd technical boxer when he wants. Against David Lemieux in 2015, instead of going toe-to-toe with the big-punching Canadian, GGG chose to clinically take him apart with a technical display that GGG has not shown since.

Against such a physically strong fighter as Alvarez, who looks to have a sound chin, Golovkin may well need to call upon his finer boxing skills, just as he did when he took on Lemieux.

The worry for GGG’s supporters might be that at 35, the Kazakhstan fighting machine is beginning to feel the wear and tear of 18 world title fights, and father time. Certainly GGG’s last outing, six months ago against Daniel Jacobs, which saw the champion taken the full 12 rounds for the first time in his career, was his most unimpressive performance since he first won his world titles. There were those who felt that he was lucky to leave the ring still with his titles.

Photo: Boxing News
Golovkin has since said himself that it is the Jacobs fight that helped finally make his match with Canelo. Was it just an off night for GGG or was it a clear indication of a decay in his pugilistic skills. It should also be remembered that in his previous fight against England’s Kell Brook, Golovkin looked slow and sloppy at times with an almost non-existent defence, before finally stopping Brook in the 5th round.

Are these performances indications of decline, or simply a symptom of GGG’s growing boredom at being unable to gain the big fights that he has wanted for so long.

In fact, it might also be argued that perhaps GGG has purposely ‘held back’ in recent defences, in an effort to make himself look more match friendly to Canelo Alvarez.

It is clear that GGG has not been the precise fighting machine he was against Lemieux, for at least his last two fights.

Here lies the crucial part of this upcoming contest. If Golovkin can find the form that he showed 2 or 3 years ago, then he should have a clear technical edge  over Canelo. At his best, Golovkin is a much more versatile boxer than Canelo.

Canelo’s main attributes are his physical strength, and his comparative youth compared to GGG. At 27, Canelo Alvarez is at his physical peak while Golovkin at 35, as discussed earlier, is most likely past his peak.

This all goes together to make their fight that much closer. While Golovkin might have been a clear favourite 2 years ago, now he is not.

This match up could play out in two distinct ways. On the one hand, we could see both going toe-to-toe in an all out brawl, to test each other's durability and resolve, alternatively, we could see a much more technical fight, even perhaps a bit of a chess match between the two men. GGG will look to use his jab and wear down Canelo over the distance. If Alvarez has shown a weakness, other than his one-dimensional fighting style, it is his tendency to tire in the later rounds of fights. However in order to tire Canelo, GGG will have to work at a high pace himself, higher than he did against Jacobs in his last fight.

Can Golovkin operate at a high pace himself over 12 rounds, a distance, which Canelo is used to travelling in comparison.

Barring any scoring controversies, this fight is likely to be won by the fighter who can set the higher pace. Yet, Golovkin's best chance of victory may well come inside the distance. If the fight goes the full 12 rounds, (and is a competitive affair, as it is most likely to be) then it is hard not to envisage the Las Vegas Judges favouring Golden Boy’s favourite son. We have seen Canelo gain decisions over Lara and Trout, which were questionable and who can forget the judge who made his fight with Mayweather Jr. a draw!

Despite his popularity with the fans, Golovkin will most definitely be the ‘outsider’ in this fight, and one needs only to look at the recent two Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev contests to see what can happen when you are fighting a favoured fighter in Las Vegas. Golovkin will have to go into this fight with the mindset that he will need either a stoppage or a completely dominant performance over the distance in order to claim victory.

The feeling at The Boxing Glove is that Golovkin either wins this match inside the distance after wearing Alvarez down, or else he is looking at losing perhaps controversially on points. One doesn’t like to be a cynic, but after watching recent big fights, especially in Vegas, it is hard not to be. Vegas has a habit of siding with the house fighter.

Let’s hope that I am wrong and that we see a great fight, followed by a just result free from controversy. That would really make Saturday's fight something special.

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