Canelo vs Golovkin needs a definitive winner with legacies on the line

JEFF POWELL: Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez were both once the best pound-for-pound fighter on earth… although they insist their powers aren’t waning, boxing cannot afford another questionable result

  • Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin square off for a third time on Saturday 
  • Canelo is 1-0 up after a draw and a points win in two controversial results 
  • He insists he’s in his prime but after 61 fights could he be slowing down? 
  • Golovkin feels he has never lost but will Father Time finally catch up to him? 
  • Whatever the outcome, boxing cannot afford another questionable result 

There are slugfests which rouse the blood lust. There are games of cat-and-mouse which empty the hall.

There are highly technical duels of rarefied skills which absorb the connoisseurs but leave the thrill-seeking voyeurs cold. There are clashes of differing styles which collude in the making of fine fights.

There are mismatches so cynically unbalanced that they threaten with grievous bodily the inferior opponents hired for the sole purpose of being beaten. Or worse.

Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin will fight in their Las Vegas trilogy bout on Saturday

Very occasionally two brave men equipped with the full compendium of the prize-ring’s many talents engage in stupendous combat. They elevate the hardest of all games to the pinnacle of a Noble Art. 

They do so with razor expertise of movement, laser speed and perfect timing. With thunderous concussive punching which each withstands with a jaw of stone and a heart of oak.

For such spectacles to scale perfection demands that they should be a pair of the greatest prize-fighters of their generation.

It is on that premise that we have been lured to this cathedral city of boxing by Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golvkin. It is on their promise that they have worked tirelessly to turn back the years so as to re-present themselves in their trilogy fight here this Saturday night as masters of their universe. 

The rivals, both at one point the sport’s pound-for-pound best, insist they have worked as hard as possible to make the trilogy as enthralling as their first two encounters 

Each has reigned in recent years as the best pound-for-pound fighter on earth. Each insists that his star has tilted on its axis by force of circumstance rather than being dimmed by the passage of time and so many brutal fights.

Ask Canelo, the flame-haired Mexican, who is the greatest pugilist on the planet today and his answer is not Oleksandr Usyk, the former undisputed world cruiserweight champion who has so spectacularly dislodged Anthony Joshua as the major shareholder in the heavyweight crown.

‘Me,’ says Alvarez. ‘I am still the best of all. The one who keeps taking on the big challenges. Still the undisputed super-middleweight champion.’ He says so even though he suffered a second shock loss of his career, to Russian light-heavyweight Dmitry Bivol, in his last fight. 

He blames that defeat on taking it too much for granted that he could handle the bigger man. He denies that the wear and tear of 61 fights has taken a toll even though he is still only 32.

‘I’m in my prime,’ he says. ‘I’m at my perfect weight now at 168lbs. I feel fresh and strong. I’m excited by this fight which is one of the most important in my career.’

Canelo says he remains boxing’s finest and is in possession of all the super-middleweight belts

That’s despite losing to Dmitry Bivol (left) last time out, or Oleksandr Usyk claiming back-to-back wins over Anthony Joshua (right)

Ask Golovkin the Kazakh KO king if 40, which he has just turned, is a dangerous age for a fighter and he says: ‘I feel as young as ever. I live the perfect healthy life. I am ready to avenge the decisions Canelo was given over me in our first two fights.’ 

And no, he does not agree that he looked a little jaded in the most recent of the interim fights he won while waiting four years for Alvarez to return to their bitter fray.

Triple G believes he won their first fight, which was scored a draw, and probably their second which was judged in favour of Canelo.

A feud has festered in the meanwhile. Says Alvarez: ‘He is not the nice person he pretends to be. I am motivated all the more highly by the crap he has said about me. I am driven to punish him badly by knowing that when I beat him again it may well bring the end of his career.’

Says Golovkin: ‘I don’t know why this fight is so personal for him but I do want to knock him out for the sake of clean, fair boxing.’ 

Whether that is reference to Canelo failing a drugs test in the middle of this rivalry or to the controversial judging of the first two fights, he leaves unspoken.

Golovkin, who has just turned 40, insists he didn’t look jaded in his April win over Ryota Murata

The legendary middleweight also believes he deserved to win both prior bouts against Canelo 

What they do agree upon is that they are two of the pre-eminent fighters of this era. Not without justification. Both have overwhelming win records, packed with knock-outs. 

Golovkin has scary one-hit power, as Martin Murray, Kell Brook and Martin Murray discovered to their distress. Alvarez inflicts deep hurt by cumulative punching. Ask Amir Khan, Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders. 

But such is the punch resistance of both that they have withstood countless bombs landed on each other in parts one and two of a series capable of coming to a glorious climax now in the T-Mobile Arena.

That prospect is heightened by a potent concoction of raging will to crush an arch- enemy and anxiety about the repercussions of defeat.

‘They’ve given us 24 fantastic rounds already,’ says promoter Eddie Hearn. ‘This one can be even more amazing. Defeat could be the end for Gennady, or leave Canelo in a terrible position outside the world’s top ten. 

‘Victory would enshrine the legacy of either. Canelo could go on to regain world dominance. Triple G would have earned the right to a fourth fight, with the series balanced at one win each and a draw.’

A feud has now festered between the greats, who both insist they are gunning for a knockout 

Ah, that word legacy. Alvarez uses it when he says that he ‘must win for myself, for my country on this Mexican Independence weekend, for my many fans coming to Vegas, for all the millions watching back home.’ 

Golvokin uses it when he talks of ‘repairing the hurt of those decisions which scarred my perfect record even though I still believe in my heart that I am undefeated.’

The fires of pride are stoked to a furnace. Which of them is in the greater danger of being burned? Is Canelo worn down by so many tough fights? Is Golovkin past the age of full potency?

The casino sports books on the Vegas Strip are in no doubt. They quote Alvarez as the odds-on-favourite. 

Part of that calculation is that this is Canelo country. The arena will resound to mariachi bands and the roars of Viva Mexico from thousands of his countrymen and women gathering here for those patriotic celebrations.

Promoter Eddie Hearn (centre) insists another defeat would be disastrous for both fighters

Yet Golovkin, who has not fought in his native Kazakhstan for 12 years, is so accustomed to campaigning abroad that he was unaffected by the cacophonous support for Canelo at the first two fights in this very building.

Triple G ponders whether he needs a knockout to be given the win. Canelo would prefer ‘to put an end to this beyond all doubt by stopping him inside the 12 rounds.’

Most likely it will go to a decision. Hopefully one beyond dispute. Neither Las Vegas nor boxing can afford yet another night of questionable judging in a fight of this magnitude and importance.

The eight-year age gap should give Canelo the edge in another memorably close fight but victory for him is not the foregone conclusion which many here on the Strip are imagining.

And whoever prevails must be the rightful and deserving winner of this fight for the ages, however narrowly. All those involved in this potential epic and the very sport itself deserve nothing less. Canelo and GGG included.

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