There’s no better time than the present when it comes to a great fight, and while time may have passed for the most optimal time to make Saul Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin, chances are we are going to get one hell of a fight for the Middleweight title this weekend.
Golovkin has been on top of the Middleweight division since his grand arrival to the United States over five years ago, destroying unworthy foes one after the other biding his time until the big fight he had sought so feverishly would finally drop on his lap. Like Bernard Hopkins vs. Felix Trinidad, Golovkin’s most significant challenge is coming to him at an advanced age and in the process of a long, historical run as world champion.
For Alvarez, it is the product of marinating gone wrong. The former two-division champion has been put through the ringer after beating Miguel Cotto for the WBC Middleweight belt in 2015, yet constant delays and hold ups in negotiations always seemed to reflect cowardice on Alvarez’s end. For boxing’s last surviving superstar, Golovkin stands as the ultimate test of merit even more so than an already impressive resume that suggests that his best is yet to come.
When it comes down to what Alvarez can do to win this fight, he’s going to have to be willing to be in the danger zone for large portions of time and rely on his hand speed and body punching to create a points and distance gap between him and his stronger foe. While Canelo’s best work seems to be done as a counter-puncher, Golovkin’s recent performances against Kell Brook and Daniel Jacobs have shown a vulnerability of the champion when it comes to fighting on the inside. Of course, the strategy consists more of outworking Golovkin in the points when they do get into close quarters while trying to score clean shots to the body in hopes that he can slow Golovkin’s approach and try to keep him from getting set with his faster hands and using enough movement to keep him from sitting down on his punches.
The problem is that Alvarez is going to have to hope Golovkin sticks to his script of non-stop aggression that plays into his hands, because Golovkin is just as capable of using his slight advantages in height and reach to work behind his heavy jab and make Alvarez come to him. Indeed, Canelo’s best wins have come against opponents with no recourse other than to pressure or engage, but against more cerebral foes like Floyd Mayweather and Erislandy Lara, he tends to get frustrated taking the lead as most counter-punchers do and wastes energy by throwing punches for the sake of being busy.
Then again, he hasn’t been in the ring with anyone like Golovkin when it comes to power and persistence. Though the Middleweight division has been god-awful, Golovkin has been in with some formidable punchers and walked them down all the same, taking shots as he went and seldom showing the effects as he imposed his will on his hapless opponents. Canelo’s opponents have all wilted in one way or another in terms of his power, but none have showed the durability and the capacity to punch back arguably harder as Golovkin.
The notion that Golovkin has intentionally looked bad in his past two fights is ludicrous, especially when he’s been shown to have lapses in his defense over the course of the past five years against lesser foes. Kell Brook and Daniel Jacobs should have been overmatched by Golovkin’s sheer power alone, but were able to stand their grounds and got their shares of shots in before he could return fire, and Canelo’s combination punching as well as his own size makes it possible that he could be equal parts of the two men Golovkin looked shaky against. Very few opponents tested Golovkin to the body in fear of being right in the range of his power shots, so while Golovkin’s chin isn’t in question, his ability to take a shot down there is up in the air.
Ultimately, this is going to come down to who can build up a significant lead early before things devolve into a mess later on. If Golovkin can work behind his jab and force Canelo to come to him at a more measured pace, he can build an insurmountable points lead and pull ahead if Canelo gets desperate and the fight gets chippy. On the other hand, Canelo can outwork Golovkin in the pocket as to draw his hands up high to openly target Golovkin’s body with what should be his money punch of a left hook. If he can tag, evade and sustain a pace, it is not outside of all likelihood that Canelo can hold on to get a narrow decision win if he starts to run out of gas.
Barring some kind of unexpected disaster, this fight is going the rounds and is going to be close. I narrowly favor Alvarez’s speed and work rate over Golovkin’s power, not to mention that his resume and big fight experience has prepared him for what he’s going to see Saturday night. Golovkin can very well win this fight if he can resist the urge to just plod forward and punch, but a knockout might be the only way for him to be sure.
This weekend, expect Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to come out on top against Gennady Golovkin with a hard fought decision win, though their business will be far from settled.