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Canelo vs Golovkin: Fight preview and matchup

Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin finally square off this Saturday in Las Vegas.

Canelo Alvarez

Canelo Alvarez v Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Record: 49-1-1 (34 KO) ... Streak: W7 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'9" / 70½" ... Age: 27

Thoughts: Canelo Alvarez has been tracked as boxing’s next superstar for the last seven years, dating back to his 2010 win over Jose Miguel Cotto on the Mayweather-Mosley undercard. Then just 19 years old, Alvarez stole the show for many observers and pundits that evening, showing not just good skill beyond his years, but the “it” factor, a star quality.

He progressively collected scalps for a while after that, with his development smartly handled against carefully chosen foes. Luciano Cuello, a shot Carlos Baldomir, Lovemore N’dou, Matthew Hatton, Ryan Rhodes, Alfonso Gomez, Kermit Cintron, and then two years after being on his undercard, a weathered Shane Mosley himself. Josesito Lopez was sacrificed to Canelo after Lopez broke Victor Ortiz’s jaw, ruining a scheduled Canelo-Ortiz showdown for September 2012.

Then came some bigger challenges: Canelo demanded a fight with Austin Trout, who had upset Miguel Cotto and ruined another money fight that had been mapped out, and he beat Trout by decision. He took a gamble in 2013 against Floyd Mayweather, losing and exposing his inexperience against that level of fighter.

Since then, he’s mostly torn through opposition, but with fame comes criticism. He beat Alfredo Angulo down in March 2014, but Angulo had been stopped by Erislandy Lara nine months prior. So Canelo fought Lara — a high-risk, relatively low-reward fight — and won a disputed split decision.

James Kirkland, who hadn’t been at his best in years, was knocked out in 2015. The fight with Miguel Cotto made sense again by then, and Alvarez won one of the bigger fights of 2015, albeit, again, with some controversy about the scoring, at least among the pro-Cotto crowd.

Since then, Alvarez and Golden Boy have all but begged for the negative press and fan reaction. Instead of fighting Gennady Golovkin before now, Canelo has taken an extremely scenic route to the fight. He was shockingly matched with Amir Khan, a weak-chinned if very talented welterweight, in a 155-pound catchweight fight in May 2016. That went as expected, with Alvarez knocking Khan out in the sixth round.

A move back down a pound to 154 saw Alvarez go to AT&T Stadium in September 2017 for a disappointing matchup with Liam Smith, which, again, Canelo predictably dominated. And then, there was the fight earlier this year with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, a 164-pound catchweight that sold well on pay-per-view, but was an all-time stinker, as Chavez put in a performance akin to Jaime Lannister trying to fight Brienne of Tarth, only with his hands bound by chain, and after a year of halfway starving as a prisoner. Although unlike Lannister, Chavez was never hailed as a great fighter of his era, except perhaps by himself.

Anyway, Canelo-Chavez was a pile of shit, and then they invited Gennady Golovkin to COME ON DOWN, and finally, we had our fight. The timing wasn’t great, even if the idea was fun, because Golden Boy went from having ripped you off on a bad pay-per-view to immediately selling you the next one. But at least it was the fight everyone wanted.

The question I have is this: it’s been two years since Alvarez was really challenged in a ring. Has this fuckaround schedule of his done him any favors? He should theoretically just be entering his prime years in the ring, but did they pull him back too far and hurt him in the process?

Gennady Golovkin

Gennady Golovkin v Daniel Jacobs Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Record: 37-0 (33 KO) ... Streak: W37 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'10½" / 70" ... Age: 35

Thoughts: GGG, unlike Canelo, has become a star more organically — that’s not to say that Alvarez doesn’t deserve his stardom, he’s a hell of a fighter and has the massive Mexican boxing fan base behind him. It’s just that it was always kind of a gimme because of that. If he did as well as projected, yes, he would be a star.

But Golovkin is a fighter from Kazakhstan who was never guaranteed stardom. It was clear early in his career that he might be a special fighter, but that doesn’t make you a star. Golovkin has become a star because he’s been promoted very well on HBO, making his debut on the network five years ago against Grzegorz Proksa. That fight drew really poor TV ratings, actually, but people who watched it talked about it, and as a result of people talking about it, GGG picked up some buzz.

That continued with wins on HBO over Gabriel Rosado, Matthew Macklin, Curtis Stevens, Daniel Geale, and Marco Antonio Rubio in 2013-14 (plus non-HBO wins over Nobuhiro Ishida and Osumanu Adama in Monte Carlo during that time period). GGG showed himself to not only be charismatic in the ring, but strangely appealing outside of it. There’s a seeming cold pleasure he takes in the destruction he causes between the bells, and people responded to that. “Good Boy,” notably, became part of the boxing lexicon. There was nothing humble about GGG, but he preached respect for the sport, and it felt real.

In 2015, he beat Martin Murray and Willie Monroe Jr handily on HBO, then made his pay-per-view debut with a win over David Lemieux that October. The show didn’t sell very well, and neither did his 2017 return to pay-per-view against Daniel Jacobs, an even better matchup that still didn’t convince people to spend extra money. Between those fights, he beat Dominic Wade and Kell Brook, a blown up welterweight who came all the way up to 160 and got his face broken.

From a marketability standpoint, there’s no questioning that Canelo is the A-side against Golovkin. He’s just a bigger star. He can sell a pay-per-view, and Golovkin, frankly, has not been able to do that in his two attempts.

In the ring, the question about Golovkin is mostly centered on the Jacobs fight, where he scraped out a decision on scores of 114-113, 115-112, and 115-112, and it was absolutely a close fight, one I could have even seen an argument for Jacobs to win.

But Canelo is not Daniel Jacobs. Jacobs is taller, longer, and true, natural middleweight — he’s never fought below the division, while Canelo, of course, has for the majority of his career, and has been reluctant to move up to 160 full-on. It’s not about who’s pound-for-pound better between Canelo and Jacobs. Most would say Alvarez. This is about styles making fights, and Canelo’s style might be more to Golovkin’s liking.

Matchup Grade: A+. We’ve wanted the fight for a couple of years, and now we have it. I’m not on the ‘GGG has faded’ train — not really, anyway. If he has, it’s not by a whole lot. Daniel Jacobs is a good fighter and a tough matchup for anyone, and Alvarez still has never faced a serious puncher at this weight. I can see this going either way. It’s for all the marbles that I care to count at 160. It’s a real championship fight, as big as they come in boxing.


  • Joseph Diaz Jr vs Jorge Lara: Diaz (24-0, 13 KO) is a former U.S. Olympian and, at 24, a top prospect in the featherweight ranks. He’s a really good offensive fighter in particular, though he seems to lack real power. Lara (29-0-2, 21 KO) is a 26-year-old fighter from Mexico who has been in with some decent fighters, going to a technical draw in 2015 with Jesus M. Rojas, and then knocking out a faded Fernando Montiel in the first round in April 2016, dropping Montiel four times. He stopped Mario Briones in the third round in his last fight in May. Grade: B-
  • Diego De La Hoya vs Randy Caballero: De La Hoya (19-0, 9 KO) has impressed me over the years by being more than a famous last name, and continually developing into a better all-around fighter. At 23, he’s as ready to step up as he’s going to get. That said, I still question his ceiling, and Caballero (24-0, 14 KO) is no easy task. This is a 26-year-old fighter who briefly held the IBF bantamweight title a couple of years ago. I like this matchup, and think it’s pretty even on paper. Grade: B
  • Ryan Martin vs Francisco Rojo: Martin (19-0, 11 KO) is nicknamed “Blue Chip,” a 24-year-old lightweight prospect with two wins this year. Rojo (20-2, 13 KO) is an interesting matchup — he doesn’t have a deep record, but he did knock out Dante Jardon in February, a fairly notable upset. Grade: C