Canelo vs. Golovkin: Preview, prediction for Saturday’s desert drama

The long-awaited middleweight matchup for boxing supremacy is a true 50-50 fight. We predict how the plot of this ring drama will play out.

Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin are hours away from their fight for middleweight supremacy. Who will win? Photo: Tom Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, September 15, 2017 – It is hard to overstate the importance to boxing of the middleweight championship bout between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin.

The winner will become not merely the undisputed middleweight champion, but is likely to land at the top of the pound for pound list. With a sold-out T-Mobile Arena and hope for a robust pay-per-view response by fans, it’s a fight boxing needs.

Best of all for fans, it’s a true 50-50 fight where either man has a legitimate opportunity to win in an entertaining contest. But there will only be one man standing with his hand raised at the end of the evening.

Canelo Alvarez's decision to vacate his WBC title didn't sit well with the Mexican star's fans. Photo: Golden Boy Promotions
Canelo Alvarez is a fan favorite in boxing crazy Mexico. Photo: Golden Boy Promotions

Alvarez, age 27, from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, is 49-1-1 with 34 knockouts. He is the biggest boxing star in Mexico, a boxing crazy nation. He’s been a professional boxer since he was 16 years old. He is the lineal middleweight champion by way of his victory over Miguel Cotto in 2015; and the Ring Magazine champion.

Gennady Golovkin is making his first ever appearance in Las Vegas as a professional. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions

Golovkin, age 35, a native of Kazakhstan now relocated to Los Angeles, is 37-0 with 33 knockouts. He is the WBC. WBA. IBF and IBO unified middleweight champion. Golovkin put together a superb amateur record of 345-5, culminating in the 2004 Athens Olympics middleweight silver medal, and should have been the gold medalist in most observers’ opinion.

There are honest, informed differences of opinion as to which man should be favored. It’s one of the many reasons fans are excited about this fight. Both are strong, skilled power-punchers who like to control the action. Neither one hesitates to take a shot to deliver a better one.

These are the Keys to the Fight as we see it:

Gennady Golovkin’s jab took David Lemieux apart in 2015 and negated his power. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos

Jab Rules: Gennady Golovkin is the CompuBox statistical leader in percentage of jabs landed; he throws double the middleweight average and lands 11 per round. These aren’t your typical jab. Golovkin throws his jabs like a power punch, elbow tucked in to keep from telegraphing the delivery. He threw less against Daniel Jacobs in his last fight. He needs to go back and duplicate his performance against David Lemieux, who he rendered into a human Pez dispenser. He would also be smart to deliver some of those jabs to the upper body, wearing Canelo down in preparation for the body work he’s famous for.

Liam Smith simply didn’t have the skills to compete with Caenlo Alvarez. Photo: HBO Boxing

Speed Kills: Speed can negate nearly any skills your opponent has. Canelo Alvarez has the edge in hand speed over Golovkin. Where he can exploit any holes in Golovkin’s defense, he needs to fire shots before Golovkin can block or adjust. Speed also helps him as a counterpuncher in his ability to identify opportunities to respond with his own shots against Golovkin.

Gennady Golovkin is a master at cutting off the ring and putting his opponents on the ropes. No bueno for Canelo. Photo: Ed Mulholland, HBO Boxing

Ring Generalship: Gennady Golovkin is an expert at cutting off the ring. He will do his best to keep Canelo from moving freely about the ring. With Alvarez already having a tendency to fight off the ropes, it plays into GGG’s hands.

Gennady Golovkin (left) remained undefeated after a fifth round TKO defeat of Britain's Kell Brook in London. Photo: Lawrence Lustig, Matchroom Boxing
Gennady Golovkin destroyed Britain’s Kell Brook last September, breaking an orbital bone in his face. Photo: Lawrence Lustig, Matchroom Boxing

Power: Both men have demonstrated knockout power. Golovkin has the edge in his jab and his body work; his connect percentage overall is double that of his opponents. Alvarez has delivered some spectacular knockouts, but in recent years they have been against smaller men than Golovkin. Canelo needs to combine speed and counterpunching with power to be successful here.

Even against the fast hands of Amir Khan, Canelo Alvarez had little trouble slipping his punches. Photo: Ed Mulholland, HBO Boxing

Defensive Skills: Golovkin has proved he can eat a punch. He tucks his head in like a turtle and doesn’t overly worry about opponents hurting him. Alvarez isn’t especially fast on his feet but his upper body movement makes up for it. He will present a harder target for Golovkin to hit than he’s accustomed too, especially if he chooses to evade Golovkin. If the fight gets to the later rounds, Canelo may decide he’d rather play keep away to survive to the final bell, and trust the judges to take care of him.

Abel Sanchez works with Gennady Golovkin at his training facility in Big Bear, California. Photo: Gayle Falkenthal, Communities Digital News
Abel Sanchez works with Gennady Golovkin at his training facility in Big Bear, California. Photo: Gayle Falkenthal, Communities Digital News

Stamina: This may seem to contradict my previous statement, but the more rounds the fight goes (and we expect it to go into the later rounds), the better for Golovkin. Ordinarily the younger fighter would have the edge, but Golovkin is superbly conditioned and trained. He has always fought at middleweight, and he trains at altitude at his Big Bear, California camp. It’s called “The Summit” for a reason.

Alvarez is fighting at the middleweight limit for only the second time, and he has packed on muscle in the last few years. He could run out of stream, or feel the need to take a round off here and there. He can’t afford to do this in a close bout.

Canelo Alvarez steps into the MGM Grand Hotel on Tuesday. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions

Venue and Judging: Golovkin is appearing in Las Vegas for the first time. It’s Canelo’s ninth Vegas fight, and he has a significant “home town” advantage. The Vegas boxing business model needs fighters like Canelo. I do not believe anything blantantly underhanded is going on, but many small aspects of the fight such as the early weigh-in time are in Canelo’s favor. The judges know Canelo far better and know what to look for.

Speaking with both trainers late Thursday, Communities Digital News asked if they would have concerns should the fight went to the scorecards. Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez said yes, he preferred to take the fight’s outcome into their own hands. Alvarez’s trainer Eddy Reynoso said no, it didn’t concern him at all. This speaks to the belief by both men the judges will lean toward Canelo without a definitive reason to do otherwise.

Las Vegas gives Canelo Alvarez the equivalent of a home field advantage. Photo: Gayle Falkenthal, Communities Digital News

Fans and Atmosphere: The pair fight in a sold-out T-Mobile Arena on Mexican Independence Day. Every fan present will be cheering enthusiastically for their favorite. But loyalties are split. Mexican fans favor Canelo, but Mexican-American fans have warmly embraced Golvokin for his “Mexican Style” of boxing and have adopted GGG as their own. Toss in the Kazakh fans who travel anywhere to see their national hero, and generally set merchandise sales records buying everything not nailed down.

Don’t be surprised if the T-Mobile Arena is split right down the middle between fans sporting the traditional red headbands cheering for Canelo, and the fans flashing their “Mexicans for GGG” t-shirts and GGG hats in the red, white and green of the Mexican flag.

Both men have appeared in the main event at major venues, Alvarez in Las Vegas and Golovkin at Madison Square Garden. Golovkin has many international fights under his belt. They are accustomed to the obligations and hoopla of a major pay per view fight, which can eat up a lot of time.

Gennady Golovkin retained his unified middleweight titles with a 12 round decision over Daniel Jacobs. Photo: Ed Mulholland, HBO Boxing
Gennady Golovkin should retain his unified middleweight titles Saturday. Photo: Ed Mulholland, HBO Boxing

Our Call: Golovkin will do his best to prevent the fight from going to the scorecards. Both men will want to control the fight in the earlier rounds. Golovkin’s jab is his ticket to success in achieving this goal. If this fight looks like a repeat of Golovkin vs. Lemieux, it’s ideal for GGG.

Beyond the jab, Golovkin can still impose his will by making Canelo fight against the ropes in a fraction of the ring’s space by cutting him off and forcing him to move backward. This negates Alvarez’s power, no bueno for Canelo. There, GGG will deliver the body shots after wearing Alvarez down with the jab, prepping him for a late round TKO stoppage.

This doesn’t mean Alvarez won’t hit Golovkin and make him feel it. We would not be surprised if either man feels the canvas in a knockdown, but both will survive the count.

Prediction: Golovkin by 10th round TKO.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.

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