If you thought that Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor was representative of the sport of boxing as a whole, you’d be right to an extent. Concocted bad blood, over the top behaviour and an entirely predictable one-sided outcome all made up an event that broke records, yet left the purists with a bad taste in the mouth.
Fortunately, this weekend gives us an opportunity to see the better half of the fight game – a mouth-watering 50-50 fight between two of the modern day greats who sport a combined record of 86-1 between them. Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez are two fighters for whom trash talk and hype are unnecessary. They are the 24 carat gems in a sport that is littered with cheap imitations of the real thing.
For Golovkin, who accumulated a 345-5 amateur record to go with his unbeaten paid career, being the nice guy of professional boxing has been easy. He has let his fists do the talking, and they have spoken in uncompromising style, with 33 of his 37 pro wins coming via stoppage. The choirboy looks of the 35 year old from Kazakhstan mask his ferocious power that, until his points win of Danny Jacobs in March, saw him rack up 23 KO wins in a row. Many of these were over very decent opposition that he simply brushed aside – Macklin, Geale and Lemieux in particular, all quality operators at 160lbs, were brutalised to body and head by the unnatural power of GGG.
Golovkin, seen here demolishing Matthew Macklin in 3 rounds in 2013, is a vicious body puncher
It is this power that makes him so compelling to watch as a fighter yet the commentariat are beginning to wonder if he is now past his peak. A close decision win over Jacobs was less than satisfying (even though Jacobs was the no.2 in the division and was knocked down in the process), while British observers made great play of the fact that Kell Brook was able to land cleanly and often against him, while ignoring the fact that Brook was a thoroughly beaten man after 5 rounds.
It is this supposed decline in GGG that has enticed the handlers of Alvarez to step up to the fight, having previously dodged the opportunity 18 months ago when in a position to unify the titles. Such is the way of boxing – poor timing has robbed us of more fights than it has given us. However, we can be grateful that this one is upon us; a fight that has as much resonance as Leonard-Hearns I, when the two welterweights that defined an era faced off in 1981. Incidentally, Leonard already had a loss on his record but that took none of the lustre off the fight, which became a modern day classic.
The 27 year old Alvarez, now 49-1 (34) can be forgiven his one loss, a decision defeat to Mayweather who somewhat schooled the Mexican as he did to many throughout his career. The Alvarez of 2017 is different though – pictures of him from training camp reveal that he has grown into the 160lb division very well. Additionally, his skills seem to be improving from fight to fight. The masterclass with Cotto was an example of that.
Alvarez, seen here beating James Kirkland in 2015, has moved seamlessly up to the middleweight division
When Alvarez has struggled, it has usually been against awkward and fast types like Erislandy Lara or Austin Trout. The consensus is that GGG is more straightforward, but fans shouldn’t forget that World Championship and Olympic medals in the amateurs aren’t handed out to fighters without skills; the Golovkin jab is particularly effective when it needs to be, for example.
Forget the theatrics in Las Vegas last month; the stage is now set for a real fight between two greats who rarely take a step backwards and for whom the glory of winning a fight of this magnitude is worth as much as the financial rewards that come with it. Boxnation PPV televise this 12 rounder for all the marbles, and for once, this writer urges you to part with your money. It should be worth every penny.