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Can Gennadiy Golovkin finally get a win over Canelo Alvarez in third fight?

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With news that the third bout is agreed upon for September, does an older GGG really have a shot against a prime Canelo anymore?

Gennady Golovkin v Canelo Alvarez: Weigh-in Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

Canelo Alvarez isn’t going to return on May 2, when he was slated (unofficially but known to everyone) to face WBO super middleweight titleholder Billy Joe Saunders. The current idea is for Canelo to now fight Saunders in June, and a deal is in place with the camps and DAZN for the Mexican superstar to then return in September (or whenever, nothing is concrete at this point) for a third fight with his great rival, Gennadiy Golovkin.

Golovkin is also scheduled (unofficially) to return in June against IBF middleweight mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta.

Assuming Canelo and GGG both win their fights — Canelo should and Golovkin absolutely should — we’re looking at a big trilogy bout between the two star fighters, whose stars shine no brighter than when they’re matched with one another. Outside of Canelo’s 2013 fight with Floyd Mayweather, his bouts with GGG are the two biggest of his career. And GGG has never come close to having as “big” a fight as those two bouts any other time.

So what can we expect when the two meet again?

Canelo (53-1-2, 36 KO) and Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KO) first squared off in Sept. 2017, a fight that ended in a draw, which is always controversial, but that one more than most. The cards from judges Dave Moretti (115-113 Golovkin) and Don Trella (114-114) were defensible, at least in my view. The card from judge Adalaide Byrd (118-110 Canelo) should’ve sent her into a semi-forced CJ Ross-style retirement, but Big Addy hasn’t the sense of shame Ross seemingly did after her absurd 114-114 card in the Mayweather-Canelo fight in 2013.

Their rematch was intended for May 2018, but was pushed back when Alvarez infamously failed drug tests, which was blamed on tainted beef from Mexico, something everyone important (sanctioning bodies, commissions, etc.) pretty much just agreed to go along with in the end.

The rematch did come about in Sept. 2018. This time, with more controversy, Canelo got the duke on majority decision scores of 114-114, 115-113, and 115-113 from Glenn Feldman, Dave Moretti, and Steve Weisfeld.

Personally, I scored both fights the same: 116-112 Golovkin each time. I’ve never felt the outcomes were so insane that they were robberies, as I think you can probably make a solid case for Canelo in either one.

But I’m not making the case.

What have we seen from these two since their last meeting?

Gennady Golovkin v Canelo Alvarez Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Canelo has fought three times, getting right back to work after the fall of HBO boxing by quickly signing a monstrous deal with DAZN. He moved up to 168 for a Dec. 2018 fight at Madison Square Garden with the UK’s Rocky Fielding, a decent mid-tier fighter who proved hopelessly overmatched against a legitimate top-tier guy. Fielding was overwhelmed and stopped in the third round.

He went back down to 160 for a May 2019 win over Daniel Jacobs, a sort of quietly competitive fight where nobody felt Jacobs deserved the win, but he certainly wasn’t completely blown out, either.

Last November, Alvarez made the calculated move up to 175 pounds to face aged titleholder Sergey Kovalev. The fight was close on the cards through 10 rounds, with Alvarez up 96-94 on two and even on the third, and you could’ve argued Kovalev ahead at that time, too. Then Canelo knocked the Russian out in the 11th.

GGG, meanwhile, took his sweet time after the second Canelo fight and HBO getting out of the fight game. He entertained big offers from various outlets before finally signing with DAZN himself in March of last year; it was probably the biggest money offered, and it was the obvious path to a desired third fight with Alvarez.

Golovkin, after nine months out of the ring, returned for a catchweight tune-up last June, knocking out Steve Rolls in the fourth round. That fight told us nothing, really, other than yes, GGG can still steamroll mid-level opponents, just like he always has.

In October, however, he had a lot more trouble with Sergiy Derevyanchenko. GGG did regain the vacant IBF middleweight title (stripped from Alvarez for failing to make a deal with Derevyanchenko, his mandatory challenger, which Golden Boy blamed on Derevyanchenko not actually wanting to accept a fight with Canelo), but he had to really scrape and claw to do so. Derevyanchenko is a good fighter, but it also showed us, perhaps, that Golovkin is getting a little long in the tooth. And on that note...

Has GGG passed the point he can beat Alvarez?

Gennady Golovkin v Sergiy Derevyanchenko Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Gennadiy Golovkin is going to turn 38 in a few weeks. Canelo Alvarez turns 30 in July, he’s right in his prime years.

We’ve also seen GGG make a big trainer switch, going from Abel Sanchez, the man who was in the corner pretty much the entire way for the Kazakh star, to Johnathon Banks. Banks is a fine trainer, particularly for a veteran fighter who perhaps just needed a chance of pace in camp, but it’s still a big deal.

We’ve also heard some worrying stuff from the Golovkin camp this year. That fight with Szeremeta was originally intended to happen in February. Then it was March. Then it was April or May. Now it’s June. He’s struggled with a calf injury, for one thing. He joined Victor Conte’s SNAC program earlier this year, too. That alone isn’t a “worrying” sign, loads of fighters work with Conte. But it wasn’t exactly encouraging about a month later when Conte asked Golovkin to leave the facility because “he was simply not able to do what we asked him to do.”

As competitive as they were the first two times, it can’t be ignored that Golovkin has simply gotten older, and gotten into the “old years” of his career, while Alvarez has more just advanced deeper into what should be the best days of his career. And if the fight were to happen at 168 pounds, it would be Gennadiy moving up in weight; he’s never fought over middleweight other than that fight with Rolls at 164 last year and a couple lower-tier bouts in 2008-09 where he was around 161 pounds instead of 160, which really doesn’t even count.

Canelo has proven capable so far north of 160. That said, every time he’s fought over the middleweight limit, he’s been in against a carefully-chosen opponent. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr had long since been exposed as a punching bag by 2017; Fielding is simply not a top-level guy; and Kovalev was cherry-picked to give Canelo the big accomplishment of winning a belt at 175. It’s smart business, mind you.

I think it’s easy to write off Golovkin’s chances here. For one thing, Canelo has long downplayed any need to have this fight again, but suddenly he’s open to it. That is in part, surely, due to pressure from DAZN to put on an actual mega-fight, which none of the first four (counting Saunders) of Canelo’s 11-fight deal with the streaming platform have been. Big fights, yes, because they’re Canelo Alvarez fights. But not a real mega-fight. And that deal isn’t so great without any mega-fights.

It’s also in part due to the fact that Canelo is kind of running out of attractive opponents. And you have to consider that it’s in part due to the fact that he and his team believe Golovkin is faded, that he’s now ripe for the picking. And, honestly, they haven’t been wrong about this sort of thing yet.

But we can never, ever forget one of the most vital things about boxing: styles make fights. Period. And Gennadiy Golovkin will be as “up” for a third bout with Canelo as he can get himself anymore.

There was a similar situation in recent years, of course. In three fights in 2004, 2008, and 2011, Juan Manuel Marquez went 0-2-1 against Manny Pacquiao. Every fight was debatable. Some people felt the Mexican standout deserved to win each and every one of those great fights.

Pacquiao went back to that well to close out 2012, six months after a loss to Tim Bradley that remains largely agreed upon as a pure robbery. Marquez was 39 years old. Pacquiao was just about to turn 34. Manny was certainly seen as more in his prime than JMM.

And then it happened.

Marquez knocked Pacquiao out at the end of round six. After eight years of frustration fighting his rival, never getting his hand raised in victory, Juan Manuel Marquez beat Manny Pacquiao when it was least expected of him.

When Canelo-GGG III happens, Canelo Alvarez will be the betting favorite. I’d imagine most people will pick him to win. Hell, I’ll probably wind up picking him to win. But no, I’m not counting Gennadiy Golovkin out despite the age, any warning signs, or whatever else. This is just one of those rivalries, I think, like Pacquiao-Marquez, where the fighters’ strengths match up so well that until one of them is truly, truly shot, we’re always going to see a real fight.

And I’m looking forward to it.