Boxing is alive and well.
On Saturday night, Gennady "GGG" Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) will fight Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) in what figures to be the cherry on top of a stunning year for the sweet science.
The fight features two of the best in-their-prime fighters in the world. Neither GGG nor Canelo will show up to outpoint his opponent, nor will they be there to just collect a paycheck — this will be the type of fight to remind the world that, maybe more than any other sport, boxing captures your imagination and doesn’t give it back to you until it’s done with it.
Golovkin, 35, is your boxing-fan-friend’s favorite boxer. He’s been a show-closer since he turned pro, and his introduction to the American audience has been as violent as it has been poetic.
Canelo, 27, is close. He’s close to a lot of things. He’s a superstar in his native Mexico, and he’s a young, good looking and charismatic fighter with the tools to match. He’s already been in big fights – he’s gone up against Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley – but this is his biggest.
It begs to be mentioned that this fight was supposed to happen a while ago. Tired of having A-side opponents run from him, Golovkin honed in on Canelo, and he and his promoter publicly postured for the fight. Canelo, for what it’s worth, seemed to personally want to test himself against the Kazakh star. His handler, Oscar De La Hoya, opted to steer him down a more patient path. A 35-year-old Golovkin is a little less intimidating than a 33-year-old one.
Back in February 2015, Golovkin was listed as a -350 favorite. Over two years later, the Karaganda, Kazakhstan native is being priced between -150 and -175 depending on the shop. At the time of this writing, Golovkin is being offered at -156 at BetOnline while Canelo is posted at +136.
On fight day, it is expected that Canelo will receive a majority of the tickets. He is the A-side of this card and is wildly popular in his native Mexico. He also figures to have the crowd behind him inside the arena for this one.
Canelo backers are hoping that GGG has slowed down. He didn’t look invincible against Daniel Jacobs in March. It’s a what have you done for me lately world, and Alvarez has looked the sharper of the two fighters in the past calendar year.
Golovkin backers saw Canelo dominate Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in May. But they also saw that he couldn’t put a defeated and depleted boxer, who was merely a prop for the real show that night, on the canvas. If you can’t knock down Chavez, how on earth do you expect to do it to GGG?
Stylistically, the two fighters are meant for each other.
Canelo is a maestro against the ropes. His movement is smooth and slippery, his defense holds up and his ability to counter with precise combinations is his bread-and-butter.
Golovkin brings power, pressure and poise in the ring. His herculean jab is hard to pick up and he doesn’t let his opponent breathe.
Each side has plenty of evidence to back his claim, which is why there’s been plenty of two-way betting action since the line opened. But which fighter will come out on top?
During this and every fight, the announcers will ask, "Who will make the adjustments?" And as obvious as it sounds, that is what a lot of fights come down to. Can Golovkin make it work if he can’t get through Canelo’s guard? Will Canelo be able to strike fear into the poised Kazakh if he needs to come forward?
While this style clash may seem like it favors Canelo, who is a smidge more technically sound than GGG, there’s something to be said about the size of the two combatants. Alvarez is not a full-fledged middleweight like Golovkin. He may appear bigger on fight night, but Golovkin has been fighting at this level for years and years and is physically stronger than Canelo.
If Canelo couldn’t finish off Chavez Jr., the only way he’s going to win is by significantly more punches than Golovkin throughout a full 12 rounds. Not only will Canelo need to score, but he’s going to need to throw with power, and if GGG doesn’t feel that he can be hurt by the Mexican star’s best shot, he will stay right in his grill and smother Canelo.
If Golovkin works his jab and doesn’t come out of his shoes and get caught coming forward, he should be up enough on the cards to force Canelo out of his comfort zone and start to trade shots. Once that happens, it shouldn’t be long before GGG’s arm is hoisted toward the rafters.