Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin will step into the ring for the third time this September. The Sportsman understands Alvarez’s undisputed super middleweight championship will be on the line, rather than Golovkin’s WBA and IBF middleweight belts.
This trilogy fight will come as a surprise to some. The bout had long been rumoured, but it appeared to be in jeopardy when ‘Canelo’ lost his WBA light heavyweight title challenge to Dmitry Bivol earlier this month. Promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed beforehand that Alvarez-Bivol had a rematch clause in the contract, and ‘Canelo’ initially appeared receptive to exercising his option for an immediate return.
Bivol is still in the Mexican’s sights, but according to ‘Canelo’ that fight will have to wait. The main motivator seems to be the fact the Golovkin fight was already agreed before the shock loss to Bivol. Speaking at his golf invitational this week, Alvarez said, “We already had that contract, that agreement, so we have to continue what we started, and I think those are the two biggest fights in boxing, the fight with Golovkin and the rematch with Bivol.” The defeat clearly still rankles, with ‘Canelo’ adding, "Unfortunately, we lost, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try again.”
While contractually obligated to fight Golovkin, does the match-up actually make the most sense for ‘Canelo’ next? The answer is probably yes. An immediate rematch with Bivol might satisfy the competitive fire that burns inside the 31-year-old, but it would be dangerous. The comprehensive nature of his loss to the WBA king brought into question his suitability as a light heavyweight, as well as presenting a stylistic nightmare. Those are two issues that won’t just go away. Bivol’s win felt less like a ‘Buster’ Douglas-style bolt from the blue and more like a preordained domination. When Alvarez gets back in the ring with his conqueror, it must be with perfect preparation, and on his own terms.
Golovkin is perhaps the perfect fight to take in the interim. The box office appeal is there after their two controversial but incredibly exciting bouts in 2017 and 2018. Most feel ‘Canelo’ never conclusively settled the grudge, despite drawing the first bout and winning the second. ‘GGG’ is still a high-level competitor, having won four fights and two world titles since he last faced Alvarez. But despite his good run of form, Golovkin could well be there for the taking.
The Kazakhstani fighter is 40 years old now, and has taken part in a lot of fights that made his “big drama show” catchphrase a fitting one. Golvokin’s unforgiving wars down the years looked like they’d caught up to him last time out. Japan’s Ryota Murata was able to tag him repeatedly during their bout last month, as ‘GGG’ relied on his almighty power to eventually turn the tide. No disrespect intended, but if a fighter like Murata can catch Golovkin with as many clean punches as he did, ‘Canelo’ should have a field day.
Neither man has been knocked down in their careers, and it seems that this bout is more likely to be won on skill than power. Nine years younger, and until recently the pound-for-pound king; ‘Canelo’ looks more likely to win a boxing battle. Barring ‘GGG’ finding the sort of punch he couldn’t muster in their 24 previously shared rounds, the sort that neither Bivol nor Sergey Kovalev could find when facing Alvarez up at light heavyweight, it is hard to picture him being victorious.
Ultimately the fact this bout was basically locked-in before Alvarez’s defeat to Bivol is a blessing for the fighter. A winnable, bankable fight with an old rival looks to be exactly what he needs at this point. A few years back, facing ‘GGG’ at this stage would have been career suicide. Now it looks like the perfect fight to get ‘Canelo’ back in the win column, and allow him to choose his next move, whether it is Bivol or not, from a position of strength.