LAS VEGAS, Nevada, September 15, 2018 – It took a long time for the rematch between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin to come to a boil. Due to Alvarez’s suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, problems with rescheduling a rematch, and his subsequent refusal to participate in any promotion involving Golovkin’s presence, the fight suffered from a bit of boxing buzzkill.
But come Fight Week in Las Vegas, there is finally genuine excitement and enthusiasm for the meeting in the ring about to take place. With a sold-out T-Mobile Arena for the second time, and hope for a robust pay-per-view response by fans, it’s a fight boxing needed In 2018.
After 12 exciting rounds resulting in a draw, the rematch remains a true 50-50 fight. Either man has a legitimate opportunity to win, and both must win for their own reasons. Either man’s hand might be raised at the end of the fight with so many variables in play,
Alvarez, age 28, from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, is 49-1-2 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.
Golovkin, age 36, a native of Kazakhstan relocated to Los Angeles, is 37-0-1 with 33 knockouts. He is the WBC, WBA and IBO unified middleweight champion. Golovkin put together a superb amateur record of 345-5, culminating in the 2004 Athens Olympics middleweight silver medal. He should have been the gold medalist in most observers’ opinion.
There are honest, informed differences about who should be favored. It’s one of the many reasons fans are excited about this rematch. Both are strong, skilled power-punchers who like to control the action.
Keys to the Rematch
The 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.
In the first fight, Golovkin all but abandoned this weapon. He needs to go back and duplicate his performance against David Lemieux, who he rendered into a human Pez dispenser. Golovkin would also be smart to deliver some of those jabs to the upper body, wearing Canelo down in preparation for the body work he neglected in the first fight.
Speed kills in boxing
Speed can negate nearly any skills your opponent has. Canelo Alvarez had the edge in speed over Golovkin in the first fight, but it did him little good when he spent the middle rounds coasting. Whether it has anything to do with his failed drug tests, Alvarez appears to have visibly slimmed down. Public workouts and video all including a pointed display of hand speed. 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 has skill cutting off the ring, but he needs to improve upon the job he did against Alvarez in the first fight. If Golovkin can prevent Alvarez slipping past him around the ring, he can deploy a more active and varied arsenal of punches.
The knockout power of both men isn’t in question. 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. Despite the questionable pedigree of his opponent, Golovkin delivered a brutal knockout loss to Vanes Martirosyan in his last fight in May. Alvarez hasn’t had a knockout since fighting Liam Smith, a blown up super welterweight, in 2016. Canelo needs to combine speed and counterpunching with power to be successful here.
Assesing defensive skills
Golovkin’s.chin was once considered suspect, but it’s proved to be one of his best defensive skills. He has proven he can eat a punch. He tucks his head in like a turtle and doesn’t overly worry about opponents hurting him. Alvarez landed some impressive power shots in the first fight, but they didn’t wobble Triple G.
Alvarez isn’t especially fast on his feet, but his upper body movement makes up for it. If Alvarez chooses to ignore the pre-fight criticism and evade Golovkin, he may decide he’d rather play keep away to survive to the final bell and trust the Nevada judges to take care of him as they did in the first fight.
Fighter stamina and conditioning
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 has a reputation for running out of stream when fights go the distance. Let’s see if he feels the need to take a round off here and there. He can’t afford to do this in a close bout.
Fight venue and the judging situation
Las Vegas didn’t roll out the welcome mat for Golovkin in 2017 when he fought in Las Vegas for the first time. Alvarez has a significant “home town” advantage. Saturday will be his tenth fight in the city. The Vegas boxing business model needs fighters like Alvarez. There isn’t anything as blatant as a “fix” going on, but the judges know Canelo far better and know what to look for. In close fights, cards in Las Vegas can be all over the map.
In 2017, Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez said 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 would lean toward Canelo without a definitive reason to do otherwise. Cue Adelaide Byrd’s 118-110 card. However, had judge Don Trella scored the seventh round in the first fight for Golovkin as Byrd and third judge Dave Moretti did, Golvokin would have won a split decision.
For this bout, Moretti is back as a judge, along with East Coast based judges Glenn Feldman and Steve Weisfeld. Weisfeld frequently acts an an unofficial scorer for HBO Boxing. The judge is also imported from outside Nevada, Benjy Esteves Jr. from New York. This fight will be the 640th fight he has judges in his 26-year career.
The fans and the atmosphere
The pair fight in a sold-out T-Mobile Arena on Mexican Independence Day for the second time. Every fan present will be cheering enthusiastically for their favorite. Mexican fans favor Canelo, but Mexican-American fans have warmly embraced Golovkin 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.
Expect the T-Mobile Arena to once again be 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 significant pay per view fight, which can eat up a lot of time.
The 13th round
The two opponents now have experience with each other. Rematches start with a 13th round between the fighters. Who learned the most about the other? What adjustments if any will be made?
Golovkin needs to find a way to be busier and increase his connect rate on Alvarez. He can’t let Alvarez get away when he manages to fight him against the ropes. Power punches cannot be the only item on the menu. Golovkin must jab more and go to the body far more. He can’t be reckless but he needs to take a few chances.
Alvarez fought his best rounds at the end of the first fight. If he can put himself right back there in his mind’s eye, he’ll have a strong start to the fight and deny Golovkin getting into his rhythm.
The fans would love a brawl. Alvarez would be wise to avoid one. His speed and counterpunching skills can win him the fight. He should fight at distance, coming in strong when he has the opportunity. But he cannot stand and trade as effectively as Golovkin.
This is the intangible element making this fight so intriguing to experts and fans. After the clembuterol scandal and the difficulty in negotiating the business end of the fight, Golovkin’s team was steamed, rightfully so. Cue the trash talk. Trainer Abel Sanchez has a virtual gold medal in this sport, and he’s made it his business to needle Alvarez and get under his skin. He knows how to push Canelo’s buttons. Golovkin usually lets Sanchez be the bad cop to his good cop outside the ring. This time, Golvokin is freely expressing his frustration. The mean streak deployed inside the ring came out to play.
Alvarez and his team decided to lay low. They engaged in a minimal amount of promotional events. It was Alvarez who determined he did not want to see Golovkin or even face off with him prior to the weigh-in. Alvarez came aggressively at Golovkin on Friday and had to be pulled back. What could be called the face-off lasted all of three seconds. Alvarez chalked it up to enthusiasm. It was uncharacteristic of his normally controlled, steady state personality.
If the Golovkin camp has succeeded in getting into Alvarez’s head, it will be seen in retrospect as genius.
Stakes in this fight
Golovkin has more at stake than Alvarez in this fight. A loss would be devastating to his career. It’s truly the fight of his life. Alvarez would better survive a loss and his box office wouldn’t suffer. But his agreement with HBO is up, and he can ask nearly any price if he wins.
Golovkin will do his best to prevent the fight from going to the scorecards. He must start out quickly and get busier earlier. If he can’t score a knockout, building a lead on the scorecards will be critical. Golovkin’s jab needs to come out to play. It’s his ticket to success in achieving this goal. If this fight looks more like a replay 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. There, GGG will deliver the body shots after wearing Alvarez down with the jab, trying to set up a late round stoppage.
Prediction: Golovkin by unanimous decision
Get prepared for another controversial outcome. Golovkin gets the win on the cards he should have gotten in 2017. On Sunday the talk will begin about Canelo vs. Golovkin 3.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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