Two of the all-time greats conclude their epic trilogy when Saul “Canelo” Alvarez puts his undisputed super middleweight championship on the line against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
5 AM Sunday SA time
Canelo Alvarez (1.17) v Gennady Golovkin (4.65) (Undisputed Super Middleweight Championship)
The complex, controversial and legendary rivalry between these two icons of the sweet science will culminate five years to the day of their first fight.
Their maiden meeting, while thrilling between the ropes, ended up spotlighting boxing’s shady underbelly. The consensus was clear, that Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 knockouts) had done more than enough to earn the win, yet it was ruled a split draw – an egregious miscarriage of boxing justice that marred the much-anticipated superfight.
The rematch went down a year later with Canelo (57-2-2, 39 knockouts) clinching a legitimate albeit narrow majority decision win.
It pays to be the pound-for-pound king, a distinction Canelo’s held since this rivalry started, in more ways than one. Aside from earning multi-million dollar purses, the golden boy of boxing – whomever it was throughout generations – headed into battle with the unspeakable favour of some if not all of the judges.
It’s why Canelo was gifted the draw in 2017 and was once again evident in the Mexican megastar’s last fight, in which he challenged Dmitry Bivol for the WBA light heavyweight champion in May. Bivol had boxed a perfect fight and was still almost robbed by the judges.
What it showed, yet again, was that those who oppose the biggest name in boxing shouldn’t expect a fair shake and that they need to bank at least 10 of the 12 rounds if they want to get their hand raised.
Add the fact that the third and final chapter of their rivalry takes place over the Mexican Independence Day weekend and it’s safe to say nothing but a knockout will do for GGG.
Can the Kazakhstan great get it done? One can never discount a fighter the calibre of Golovkin and that Canelo’s coming off his first loss in eight years – and just the second of his 61-fight pro career – will entice plenty of punters to back the big underdog.
Further motivation to go with GGG is that he’s undefeated since the 2018 loss to Canelo, winning four on the trot, most recently beating Ryoto Murata via ninth-round TKO in April to add the WBA middleweight title to the IBF belt he won from Sergiy Derevyanchenko in 2019.
However, renewing hostilities with his greatest rival is a massive leap up from the competition he’s faced in the twilight of his career. As the A-side of the equation and the younger man by eight years, waiting four years to grant GGG – now 40 – one last shot at revenge is a cunning move on Canelo’s part.
The 32-year-old has torn through the toughest competition in his weight classes since the second act, stopping a trio of previously undefeated titleholders in Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant to immortalise himself as the first-ever undisputed super middleweight champion.
The loss to Bivol, at 175 pounds, proved to be a case of biting off a bit more than he could chew. A wounded animal, his return to 168 pounds will see him return to form as GGG doesn’t have the size, speed or agility that allowed Bivol to beat Canelo.
What he does have is one of the best chins in boxing history, so Canelo will have to be content with a decision victory.