Most people have decided how Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s undisputed super middleweight title bout with Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin will go. Unlike their two hotly-contested previous meetings, in 2022 it is expected the 32-year-old ‘Canelo’ will have too much for the 40-year-old Kazakh legend. In truth they’re probably right. Alvarez is in his physical prime while Golovkin has eaten more leather than usual in recent fights, despite winning them.
But a key element of this superfight has been missed in most quarters. With the main focus on the trilogy and the secondary talking points surrounding the decline of ‘GGG’, a tertiary issue is being missed. The usually-impervious Alvarez is coming off his second career loss. His humbling points defeat to Dmitry Bivol had none of the forgivable caveats of his last loss, a decision defeat to Floyd Mayweather when he was 23 years old.
The Mexican can’t blame youthful inexperience for the Bivol reverse. Also, not to disrespect the WBA light heavyweight champion, but Alvarez cannot claim he was beaten by the world’s best boxer either. This is arguably the first inexcusable loss of his professional career. ‘Canelo’ was defeated, in his prime, by someone who deserved to beat him. This makes the proposition of a third go-round with ‘GGG’ more daunting than it first appears.
Golovkin is not the sort of fighter you want to face to boost your confidence. Ryota Murata may have landed more shots than we are used to seeing strike ‘GGG’ last time out, but he still got knocked out. Sergiy Derevyanchenko gave Golovkin one of his toughest ever outings but still got beaten on points. ‘Canelo’ himself has emerged from 24 rounds with Golovkin with a draw and a win to show for it, but both were controversial. He is going into the ring with the Bivol loss in the back of his mind, against a man who just won’t give in and who he has failed to break down in 72 minutes of combat.
After the Floyd defeat, Alvarez felt his way back to title level slowly. Popular fringe contender Alfredo Angulo was his comeback opponent. He ground the veteran down in ten rounds. Further non-title action against Erislandy Lara and James Kirkland followed before he returned to the very top with a win over Miguel Cotto for the WBC and The Ring middleweight titles. This time ‘Canelo’ is straight back in at title level, defending the super middleweight championship he unified in stunning form last year. His opponent is a reigning middleweight champion in his own right. Mention decline all you want, but comeback fights don’t get any tougher than this.
Many fighters throughout history have dominated with “kneel before Zod’ efficiency until tasting humbling defeat to their own personal Superman. Mike Tyson was truly ‘the baddest man on the planet’ at one stage, and that reputation just about endured the James ‘Buster’ Douglas defeat. But when he was beaten into defeat and then into ear-biting lunacy by Evander Holyfield, he was no more. Jeff ‘Left Hook’ Lacy was a similar wrecking ball, tearing apart all and sundry until Joe Calzaghe gave him the beating of his life.
‘Canelo’ has made this game look easy for nearly a decade since the Mayweather reverse. But Bivol could prove to be his Holyfield or Calzaghe. Similarly, we could be watching a new iteration of ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard, who rode out his defeat to Roberto Duran and came back better than ever. Manny Pacquiao rebounded from painful losses to change the very nature of the sport. Some very good fighters have fallen at this hurdle in their careers. But the truly great ones find a way to overcome it. What’ll it be, Mr Alvarez?
*18+ | BeGambleAware