The announced fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor may have stolen its thunder, but that doesn’t mean the highly anticipated bout between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin will deliver any less bang for the buck.
2017 has brought big fights — look no further than the 90,000 people who bought tickets to watch the dramatic battle between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko, and look forward to predictions that Mayweather-McGregor will threaten the records set by Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao two years ago.
The year has also brought important fights, including (but not at all limited to) Leo Santa Cruz’s rematch win over Carl Frampton, Badou Jack and James DeGale battling to a hard-fought draw, Keith Thurman unifying world titles against Danny Garcia, Errol Spence rising toward the top of the 147-pound division by stopping Kell Brook, and Andre Ward defeating Sergey Kovalev.
Canelo vs. GGG is a welcome combination of both.
It is a big fight AND it is a tremendously important fight. It features two of the top three middleweights in the world — more on that later — in a fight that we’ve long wanted and are finally receiving.
There have been fights we’ve waited for that fizzled out spectacularly; Mayweather’s win over Pacquiao was a high-priced disappointment to a mass of people who hadn’t thought clearly about how exactly the action was going to go. That’s not what we expect to happen when Alvarez faces Golovkin.
Although it’s a pay-per-view — the cost we must pay to get two big stars to step in the ring with each other — there’s still a great chance that we all will come out the richer.
First, there’s the idea of delayed gratification. We’ve waited for this fight because it needed to happen, because Golovkin has for years been thought of as being the best middleweight in the world, yet there was always the pesky reality that someone else was the lineal champion — the man who beat the man, and so on.
That reality was particularly pesky because the past two lineal champs could claim to be king of the 160-pound division even though neither was actually a 160-pound fighter, nor was either in the habit of facing other 160-pound fighters.
Miguel Cotto dethroned Sergio Martinez in June 2014 — a legitimate win to become champion, even if Martinez was no longer anywhere near as physically able as he once was. Cotto didn’t fight again for another year, sapping former titleholder Daniel Geale down to a catch-weight of 157 pounds and making short work of him.
Then Canelo unseated Cotto in November 2015. Suddenly, the talk turned to Canelo vs. GGG. Their promoters agreed that each man would have one more fight before facing each other later in 2016. Golovkin dispatched a late replacement opponent named Dominic Wade. Canelo knocked undersized and under-chinned Amir Khan out cold, then called Golovkin up to the ring.
But soon Canelo straight up ducked Golovkin, getting rid of his world title belt — he of course remained lineal champion — and heading in a different direction. He took on 154-pound titleholder Liam Smith, won that belt, and continued to say he would go on to face Golovkin. The terms just needed to be right, both sides said.
All of which led to this past May, when Alvarez fought a drained and disappointing Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on a night that served three purposes. First and foremost, it made Canelo another boatload of money. Second, it allowed Alvarez to see how his body felt at a heavier weight (he tipped the scale at 164 pounds). Third, it essentially turned into a high-priced infomercial when the post-fight interview transitioned into the announcement that Canelo vs. GGG was a done deal.
And all of which leads to Sept. 16, 2017, when fans will flood the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and many more will shell out to watch the fight from the comfort of their own homes.
It is a fight that has been nearly two years in the making, and it is a night where for 12 rounds or less it will be someone’s unmaking.
Perhaps Canelo will show that he truly is one of the best, not only at middleweight but in the entire sport. Remember, while he’s fought and won seven times since losing to Mayweather in 2013 — the lone defeat on his record of 49-1-1 (34 knockouts) — he’s only actually had two truly notable victories, against Erislandy Lara and Cotto. He’s clearly very good, but this is his chance to show that he’s great. Otherwise, it will become clear just how well-managed his career has been.
Yes, there have been risks taken — he fought an undefeated Austin Trout in 2013, right after Trout had beaten Cotto, and few others have been willing to step in the ring with Lara. And this Golovkin fight is a risk as well, though it is one that comes with huge rewards. There’s a reason why Canelo and his team are risking it against Golovkin instead of other top middleweights. Win or lose, it’s worth more, and in more ways than one.
Golovkin, meanwhile, will either prove what people have believed — that he was the true champ all along — or will be undone by what eluded him for too long, a fight against a top-tier, top-notch middleweight.
He’s undefeated, with an impressive record of 37-0 with 33 KOs, but he’s had to make do with those who’ve been available and willing. The best names on his record are David Lemieux, Daniel Geale, Daniel Jacobs and Martin Murray.
The best of those was the Jacobs fight, which took place this past March. It was close enough that there was some debate about who deserved the nod on the scorecards. Jacobs fought very well, and Golovkin, despite scoring a knockdown in the fourth round, didn’t look anywhere near as dominant as we’d become accustomed to. Golovkin was more patient with his offense, well aware of Jacobs’ hand speed, power and boxing ability.
Canelo and Jacobs aren’t the same, but you can guarantee that Alvarez and his team have watched that fight closely for lessons learned.
This won’t actually be the first time that Canelo and GGG have shared the same ring. They sparred together in May 2011, with Golovkin getting the best of the session while Canelo had his moments. That was sparring, of course, and not a fight. Canelo was just 20 years old at the time. Golovkin was 28. Now Canelo is nearing his 27th birthday while Golovkin is 35. Each is better now than he was then.
Now we get to find out who is the best.
It is a big fight. It is an important fight. And it should be a good fight as well. Their styles should mesh. This won’t be reminiscent of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, even if there are moments when one man is trying to come forward and the other is choosing to box.
The winner will be the true middleweight champ, with no caveats to that description. We won’t call them undisputed, however, for there are others who will want to challenge them next.
Jacobs, for one, deserves another shot. Billy Joe Saunders is the one other major world titleholder. And another generation of middleweights — a talented pool of contenders and prospects — is on its way up.
Of course, depending on how things go on Sept. 16, there could also be rematch. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. After all, we’ve waited this long just to get Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin to fight each other. We can wait until that actually happens before discussing whether they should do it again.