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Canelo vs GGG 2: Fight preview and matchup

Canelo and Golovkin meet again, and there are a lot of stories to be told.

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Canelo Alvarez

Canelo Alvarez and Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin Media Workout Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Record: 49-1-2 (34 KO) ... Streak: D1 ... Last 5: 4-0-1 ... Last 10: 8-1-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’8” / 70½” ... Age: 28

Thoughts: One of the weird things about getting older is that time sneaks up on you quicker and quicker as the years go by. I’m not old, but we’ve had this site up and running for over 12 years now. I am certainly older now than I was then, and when we started this site, Canelo Alvarez had just turned pro, was in the very early stages of his career in Mexico, fighting at clubs against nobody in particular, learning his craft.

He really came onto the scene in 2010, over eight years ago now, when he faced Jose Miguel Cotto on the Mayweather-Mosley undercard. The big flash memory of that night is Mosley rocking Mayweather in the second round, only for Money May to go on to completely dominate the fight. I did some radio spots after that, and as much as the main event, people asked me about Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the 19-year-old Mexican fighter who featured on the undercard.

Was he going to be a star? I thought he would be, I told them. He had made some waves in Mexico and was coming to the States to up his earning power, to become a bigger part of the major league level of the fight game.

I wound up being right, and I’m wrong often enough to appreciate connecting on one. Alvarez has become a superstar in the sport. After Cotto, he kept inching forward, beating Luciano Cuello, then former welterweight champ Carlos Baldomir, Lovemore N’dou, Matthew Hatton, Ryan Rhodes, Alfonso Gomez, and Kermit Cintron.

He met Mosley himself two years after the Mayweather-Mosley show, and dominated the veteran. He beat Josesito Lopez and then stepped it up for good, beating Austin Trout before taking a young man’s gamble and facing Mayweather in one of the big money fights of all time.

Mayweather schooled him, but Alvarez took the lessons to heart. He came back strong, beating Alfredo Angulo and Erislandy Lara and James Kirkland, then scored a career-best win over Miguel Cotto. Since then, he’s beaten Amir Khan and Liam Smith and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, and went to a controversial draw last September against Gennady Golovkin in one of the biggest fights of 2017.

Now, they finally meet in a rematch, a year after the first bout, in what will be without question the biggest money fight of 2018. It’s probably not what a lot of people want to hear, but I don’t particularly care that he failed a couple of drug tests earlier this year, other than it canceled the original May date this fight held. I don’t know if it was contamination or not any more than anyone who isn’t Alvarez. And If I expected fighters to be role models or even clean athletes, I’d have been driven out of being here a long time ago. If he was flat-out cheating, he wasn’t the only one in the sport doing it. It’s a problem I can’t solve.

On paper, there are things that favor Canelo. He’s 28, right in his prime, and has the better chance of improving upon the first fight compared to the 36-year-old Golovkin. There are things Canelo no doubt learned about GGG in that fight that he and his team will try to apply to their advantage in this clash.

And he’s really a terrific boxer, too, which is often overlooked, even still. If he’s better than he was last September, he has a great shot at earning a legitimate victory this time.

Then again, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that he was flat-out cheating. He could be a totally different fighter this time around. He could be smaller, weaker, flatter in the ring than he has been. We haven’t seen him since that first fight with GGG, he hasn’t fought since then. He does look a little smaller in the training we’ve seen, there’s really no questioning that.

It’s up in the air, and a lot of how Canelo is perceived by the boxing fans around the world rests on what we see on Saturday night, for better or worse. If he looks like a different, worse version of himself, people are going to shout it from the rooftops. If he looks good, maybe he re-writes the story in the middle of its development.

Gennady Golovkin

The Chivas Fight Club In The Ring With Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin At Banc Of California Stadium As He Prepares For The Anticipated Rematch With Canelo Alvarez In Las Vegas On September 15 Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Chivas Regal

Record: 38-01 (34 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 4-0-1 ... Last 10: 9-0-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’10½” / 70” ... Age: 36

Thoughts: Generally you’re not supposed to have favorite fighters if you cover the sport, but I don’t much care for all that, so I still do. I talked about Israel Vazquez here while he was my favorite fighter in the world and I never saw any point in hiding that. In the years since, I’ve had less “favorite fighters,” but GGG has for years now been someone I knew I could tune in and get my time and money’s worth watching.

Golovkin was doing damage and creating buzz long before he made it to American TV regularly, fighting mostly in Germany with stops in places like Panama, Ukraine, his home in Kazakhstan, and Denmark. He finally came to the U.S. in 2012 to face Grzegorz Proksa on HBO at the Turning Stone in Verona, New York.

GGG lived up to the hype for everyone, blitzing through Proksa, dropping him three times en route to a fifth round stoppage. TV numbers were miserable for that show, which aired on HBO, but the network knew they had someone that could be molded into a star, so they stuck with him.

He appeared a few months later and battered Gabriel Rosado. He took a trip to Monte Carlo and beat Nobuhiro Ishida, then came back to the States and HBO for wins over Matthew Macklin and Curtis Stevens. He went back to Monte Carlo and beat Osumanu Adama, then back to HBO for wins over Daniel Geale and Marco Antonio Rubio.

By that point, he’d become a reliable enough fighter for the network to accompany him to Monte Carlo in 2015, where he battered Martin Murray. He’s been a headline attraction for a good while now. He beat Willie Monroe Jr, headlined his first pay-per-view by demolishing David Lemieux, destroyed Dominic Wade, smashed Kell Brook’s face, and finally saw his knockout streak end in a tight battle with Daniel Jacobs, still a win, and maybe the best to date, for GGG.

He got the big money fight with Alvarez, and a lot of people believed he should have won, but he didn’t. He was going to do it again, but instead wound up obliterating Vanes Martirosyan on Cinco de Mayo this year.

For as great as Golovkin has been to watch, he still is searching for that genuine, career-defining sort of victory. I don’t think his opposition has been soft, I’m not arguing that. He fought who would fight him, and he’s got some really good wins. But he doesn’t have that true, marquee event victory that you point at and go, “Yeah, that’s where he really did it.” Maybe he should have gotten it a year ago. But he’s got another chance now.

There are, again, things that favor Canelo. But let’s again say, for the sake of argument, that Canelo really is smaller and weaker and not so sharp this time around. If he’s not, he’s running into a buzzsaw of a middleweight, and it’s going to show. If Canelo is less than he was a year ago, for reasons nefarious or otherwise, GGG will chew him up. We won’t have to wonder. Even at 36, Golovkin can bring the big drama show and can absolutely wreck a guy. Ask Martirosyan.

Matchup Grade: A+. It’s the biggest fight of the year between the top two middleweights in the sport, it deserves no less than this. The first fight was a really good tactical battle, but this might be something more explosive. Sure, they’re selling a fight, but I think there’s a genuine dislike that has developed here over the last year. Golovkin’s side believe they were robbed a year ago, and then Alvarez failed the drug tests and had to pull out in May, which cost them money. Alvarez’s side are at least publicly taking great offense to being called cheats by the GGG side, and want to prove this time that Canelo is the better fighter, plain and simple. Both are promising action. Realistically, we probably get another tactical fight — Canelo and crew can talk up throwing bombs all they want, but he’s not a dumb fighter, and they know that’s the surest way to get shelled by Golovkin’s ferocious attacks. But I do expect a bit more liveliness this time. Alvarez has a lot to prove to a lot of people, whether he’ll admit that or not, and Golovkin badly, badly wants this victory to prove he’s the best at 160 if not the entire sport. I don’t too often call fights — especially those that cost $85 on pay-per-view — “can’t miss,” but I think this is one you have to see live.

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