What to expect when Canelo and GGG step into the ring a third time


It was a hard deal to get done, but Canelo Alvarez has agreed to square off against middleweight titlist Gennadiy Golovkin for the third time. The fight is scheduled to take place in September, although it will depend on how many fights will be delayed in the months to come due to the coronavirus pandemic and logistical challenges.

Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs) is 1-0-1 against Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KOs) in two huge fights that ended in controversial decisions. So now that they have agreed to a third bout, what can we expect? Dan Rafael and Steve Kim have some answers.

How will Canelo-GGG III play out?

Rafael: Like almost everyone, I thought Golovkin deserved a close decision win in the first fight in September 2017, but got a raw deal in a split draw in which judge Adalaide Byrd preposterously scored the fight 118-110 in Alvarez’s favor. While Alvarez got a close majority decision in the rematch in September 2018, most of us at ringside actually had it a legitimate draw. So Golovkin can make a legit argument that he is, at worst, 1-0-1 against Alvarez. But time waits for nobody in boxing and while Alvarez appears to be still at the top of his game at age 29, having decisively defeated Rocky Fielding by one-sided knockout at super middleweight, Daniel Jacobs by a clear, but close decision at middleweight and Sergey Kovalev by devastating 11th-round knockout at light heavyweight, Golovkin has shown his age.

Golovkin is 37 now and since the fights with Alvarez, GGG knocked out Steve Rolls (at 164 pounds) in four rounds, but took a surprising amount of shots in a very violent slugfest with Sergiy Derevyanchenko to win a vacant middleweight belt. Many thought Derevyanchenko deserved the decision, and even if you thought GGG did, there is no arguing that he struggled a lot in that fight. He has also had a calf injury since. The point is, GGG is still a quality fighter, but he is very clearly on a downward slope. At his age, with how he has looked in recent fights, I would expect Alvarez to finally defeat GGG, and do so convincingly.

Kim: Since they last fought in 2018, it looks as though Canelo is the ascending fighter who keeps adding more facets to his skill set. He’s evolved to a point that many believe he is the best fighter in boxing.

Unfortunately the same can not be said for Golovkin. After blowing out the undefeated — but severely untested — Rolls last June, he struggled mightily in defeating Derevyanchenko for the vacant IBF middleweight title. He was fortunate to get his hand raised in victory last October. It looks like Father Time is quickly catching up to the “Big Drama Show”.

What can GGG do differently in the third fight? How does he win?

Rafael: I don’t think he can do a whole lot differently than he has done. He is not going to suddenly become a better puncher or a faster fighter or more intelligent. He still has power, though, and even though Alvarez has a great chin, GGG has the capability to stop anyone. So there’s that, plus he could also win some nip-and-tuck rounds based on the fact that he is likely to be more aggressive than Alvarez, whose natural instinct is to be more of a counter puncher. But after 24 rounds with so many scores that folks disagree with, maybe he wins this time because the judges get it wrong again.

Kim: Golovkin isn’t winning on the cards (he’s 0-2 in that department) and at his advanced age and with the wear and tear on what has been a long career, he may not have the gas tank anymore to go 12 rounds against a prime Canelo. So why not go for broke and turn this into a brawl, throw caution to the wind, and instead of starting out slow as he has twice done in the other two fights against Alvarez, come right out of the gate and let his hands go?

Regardless of who you feel has actually won their first two encounters, Golovkin, keyed by his educated left jab, has been able to hit Canelo much more than his recent opponents, and even buzzed him a bit late in their second fight. He has to be able to carry over that type of tempo. If he can’t win the 12-round marathon, turn this into a shorter sprint.

Should they have their scheduled interim fights before they meet in September?

Rafael: Obviously we would all like to see them go right at each other next, but that is not the plan, nor what the contract says. The contract calls for interim bouts. While GGG probably would go right to a fight with Alvarez, he has a mandatory defense to make and even if he didn’t, Alvarez has no intention of passing up on at least $35 million he will make to fight Billy Joe Saunders first. Besides, from what I am told, the third fight is not necessarily contingent on both Canelo and GGG winning the interim bouts. So it is possible one of them could lose and the third fight would still happen anyway, just the way it did when Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao fought on the same 2005 card with Top Rank, having said they both needed to win to get to a rematch. Well, Pacquiao won his fight against Hector Velazquez by sixth-round knockout but Morales lost by upset decision to Zahir Raheem and Top Rank went ahead and did the rematch between Morales and Pacquiao anyway.

Kim: Yes. Fighters are better when they are active and in rhythm, ring rust is something that has affected many fighters, as boxers who fight so infrequently slowly dip their toe into the water in the early rounds against other marquee boxers. You can train all you want and spar an abundance of rounds — it’s not the same as facing real opponents in a real fight.

But right now, boxing, like the rest of the world, is at the mercy of the coronavirus, and it just may not be logistically possible for either man to have a fight before the early fall.

Who will be more impacted by a long layoff if they don’t have a fight until September? Why?

Rafael: I don’t think either of them will have any issues. They are seasoned pros who have had layoffs. Alvarez has been training for May 2 and looks to be in great shape from the videos he has posted. Golovkin had a little layoff because of a calf injury but is back in camp and getting ready for his mandatory defense. Layoffs are overblown in my opinion, especially when it comes to veteran superstars.

Kim: Golovkin. Canelo fought in November and within a few weeks was already back in the gym with head trainer Eddy Reynoso in San Diego, preparing for his next assignment. Gololvkin, after his grinding affair with Derevyanchenko, has been surrounded by a lot of uncertainty. He had an ill-fated experiment training with Victor Conte at the SNAC facilities in the Bay Area, and more troubling, his body seems to be breaking down on him. Just how much is he actually focusing on boxing at the moment?

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