Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin will complete their trilogy when they meet Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (DAZN pay-per-view, 7 p.m. ET).
Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs), of Mexico, and Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 KOs), from Kazakhstan, first fought to a disputed split draw in 2017. Their rematch in 2018 ended in a majority decision victory for Alvarez in what was a very close fight (114-114, 115-113, 115-113 on the scorecards). Both of those fights were contested at middleweight.
This time Alvarez, 32, will defend his undisputed super middleweight championship against the 40-year-old Golovkin. Alvarez is coming off a loss in a challenge of Dmitry Bivol for the WBA light heavyweight title in May, but he’s still in his prime. Golovkin has four victories since the last meeting with Alvarez, including a TKO victory over Ryota Murata in April, but seems to be on his way out of the sport.
There is also bad blood between the fighters that has been boiling since the end of their first fight, through an Alvarez suspension for testing positive for clenbuterol ahead of the rematch and the long time it took to get this third meeting done.
Former two-division champion and current ESPN boxing analyst Timothy Bradley Jr. breaks down the super middleweight matchup, and Ian Parker offers up his best bet on the fight.
This is a trilogy fight. That says it all. I’ve been in a trilogy with Manny Pacquiao, and Pacquiao has been in another two with Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales. Morales also faced Marco Antonio Barrera three times, and Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti was another great trilogy. These fights are special. What really matters is the temperament and the style of the fighters. And that’s the reason you have great trilogies — because the fighters have each other’s number, they understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The style matchup is always critical and entertaining. I believe this one will be another entertaining bout, like the first two.
These fighters don’t like one another. Alvarez took the victory last time and didn’t want to take on Golovkin for a third time. It took some time, and Golovkin has been hunting Alvarez down and waiting for this opportunity. Finally, he’s getting the fight he’s wanted.
Will it be a little too late? Canelo is now in a different place, has gone up in weight and is a tested fighter at 168 pounds and also at 175. He fought the best fighter in the super middleweight division and he’s the undisputed champion now. He cleaned up that division. And then you have GGG, a 160-pounder going up in weight. To me, that means he’s going to be slower. Sure, he will probably be strong, but I think the added weight is going to slow him down.
But no doubt, the matchup is going to be very entertaining.
How does Golovkin win?
We saw in the fight against Bivol that the key to beating Canelo is controlling him from the outside. It’s all about maintaining distance and using various jabs — jabs to measure, probe jabs, double jabs, triple jabs — to keep Canelo occupied, to keep him on the defensive. And then GGG has to able to weather the storm when Canelo comes back with his offense. I don’t know if GGG still has the ability to do that at this stage of his career.
But Canelo has lows, too. Canelo will unleash offense and have to recharge, because he unleashes with power shots. When you throw power punches like he does, you can’t do it for the entire 12 rounds. It exhausts a lot of energy, especially against a strong fighter like GGG.
The jab is the key for Golovkin. When you face a counterpuncher like Canelo, the jab disrupts them. When Canelo uses the high guard, he leans forward, and when he does that, it basically brings his head closer to Golovkin’s jab. Combinations are key, too, and GGG has to find a way to get to the body of Canelo. He can’t be basic or generic and go one-two with the occasional hook. He has to be able to switch things up to confuse Canelo, and he must go down to the body. GGG can’t hunt for the head the whole time because he’ll get into patterns and Canelo will figure it out.
Golovkin thrives when he’s moving forward, when he’s dictating the pace. When he’s active, that’s when he’s at his very best. When he’s fighting off his back foot and defending, that’s when he’s not at his best.
The main thing for Golovkin is to fight fire with fire, but everything has to be controlled off the jab, disrupting the timing of Canelo, peppering him in the face with his jab. That could set up Golovkin’s right hand. Canelo uses a high guard, and I don’t think that’s going to change for this fight. I think that’s part of his DNA — he’s adapted and adjusted to that kind of style, the high-guard trap, where he lures his opponent to punch at him so he can counter in between punches or when the opponent finishes his offense and is still in range. Every time his opponent is in range, Canelo will punch.
When you use the high guard, you are allowing your opponent to punch you. At the same time, you can look for opportunities. And that’s a problem for GGG. He typically stands at a fighting distance. He doesn’t get in and get out, doesn’t use his legs. He’s a flat-footed type of fighter, because he’s a power guy.
One problem I see with Golovkin winning this fight is his age. He has slowed down and hasn’t been as active as he needs to be. And when Golovkin isn’t working, he’s vulnerable. He tends to wait. He recharges after unleashing his offense. That could be due to age, not being able to have the punch output needed to sustain all 12 rounds. For some reason, when Golovkin gets into the later rounds, he tends to fade and breathe heavily. Although GGG trains in the mountains of Big Bear, California, which brings a fighter advantages in conditioning, it seems to me that Golovkin has issues with being able to sustain a pace throughout 12 rounds.
A good example of this was in his 2019 fight against Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Golovkin started out fast, but Derevyanchenko picked the rhythm up midway and was able to close the gap in what ended up as a close decision victory for Golovkin. GGG has lows in his offense and when he’s not punching, he’s vulnerable. And I think Alvarez is going to take advantage of that.
If you look at the punch stats for the first two meetings between these two fighters, GGG landed just a few body shots. He landed just six in the rematch, to 46 for Canelo. And that disparity is a key to this fight. If GGG doesn’t throw body shots when Canelo is in front of him, he’s missing an opportunity to weaken Canelo, to slow him down and get his respect.
There’s a way to get that left hook to the body in there, but you have to be able to set it up. And you can do that by throwing a version of that punch before you try to land the actual punch. It could be a right hand or it could be a left hook, and then it’s followed by a right hand or a left hook to the body. Julio Cesar Chavez used that shot all the time.
On the other hand, Canelo knows the weakness of GGG, and that’s hitting him to the body. If you go back to Golovkin’s fight against Murata in April, you will see how well Murata went down to GGG’s body. Golovkin kept his hands at home and didn’t punch because he was defending constantly against those body shots. He doesn’t like those shots. He tries to protect himself from them and doesn’t punch back.
Keys for Canelo
Pressure and body work. Blast Golovkin down to the body, break him down, bring him into deep waters and try to drown him late in the fight. And that’s all about transition. It’s all about making GGG miss and making him pay — every time. And when I say Canelo must put pressure on GGG, I don’t mean walking him down. You can be right in front of him but at the right distance, and when you make him miss, you counter him with combinations — up to the head, down to the body. Once you hit GGG with that power, he gets in his shell and doesn’t punch back until you finish your offense. And when Canelo finishes his offense, he moves back and out of range. Canelo has that ability.
Canelo has to go back to boxing, too. He can’t fight in just one style. Canelo oftentimes has shown one style — basically pressing forward behind the high guard. He became accustomed to that, and it worked for him until it didn’t work. Now Canelo has to go back to his boxing ability. Canelo is a sweet boxer, too. He can fight off his back foot, moves well, changes locations. He has a great transportation system to set shots up. And he got away from that. He can add a little bit of that in this fight, go back to his old ways. I think he did that in training, because of his last fight — he had no reserves to fall back on in his last fight.
Fighting against GGG, Canelo can pressure by staying in front of GGG at the right distance, and make him miss and make him pay using jabs and various feints. He can use the high guard to lure him in and counter. But when he counters, he has to do it in combinations because GGG doesn’t punch when his opponent is punching at him.
Who has the most pressure on him?
Canelo’s back is against the wall because he can’t afford another loss. If he loses to GGG, the Canelo hype train can be over. After back-to-back loses, he could still fight in front of fans who will still love him, but he will have lost more steam if he fails to beat GGG, especially considering Golovkin’s age and the way the first two fights went.
For Golovkin, this is the only fight that matters to him. This is the fight that he was waiting for, and he finally got it.
Both of these two guys are going to come to fight, with their backs against the wall more than was the case in their other two meetings. But they have to be careful to not fight with emotion. The smarter guy is always the one that wins these fights. It’s not the one that bites down and thinks he needs to be macho. Yes, being tough is part of the game, but the ones that win these particular battles are smart fighters like Juan Manuel Marquez. In his fourth fight with Manny Pacquiao, Marquez allowed the aggressive Pacquiao to come forward, slipped a Pacquiao advance and … boom! It was a wrap.
Both Canelo and GGG wanted this fight badly, and the pressure is on both.
What to watch for: The longer the fight goes, the better for GGG
Canelo Alvarez isn’t too fond of Gennadiy Golovkin pretending to be a nice guy before their news conference.
Look for Canelo to be more aggressive than in the first two fights. I see him jumping on GGG early — I mean in Rounds 3 through 6. That is when he’s going to start piling on the attack.
Canelo got tired in his last fight. His activity early on against Bivol is what drained him late in the fight. That’s when Canelo can have issues. If he comes out fast and gasses out in the second half of the fight, that’s when I’m going to say, “Oh, oh. I really like GGG’s chances.” Canelo has to make sure he paces himself. He cannot come out too fast.
Things tend to be easy for Canelo early on. He has the speed advantage here. He can throw combinations and is going to be able to land on GGG and hurt him with shots. But what happens if GGG survives? Once you get to the seventh, eighth and later rounds, things are going to get really interesting for me. GGG has enough experience, enough grit and enough determination to keep himself in the fight. The fight evens up at that point.
The older fighter has to be able to weather the storm early against the younger fighter. For the older fighter, his edge is late in the fight. That’s when he uses his experience, his cleverness. That’s when Golovkin is going to be able to take advantage, or at least try to take advantage, of Canelo.
Canelo wins this fight. He’s the better overall fighter. He does a multitude of things, whereas GGG has only a few things that he can do. GGG is a killer — he’s looking for one shot to hurt you and take you out. Canelo is going to be more about accumulation of punches to build up to a stoppage. I see Canelo with a late stoppage or a unanimous decision. He’s going to be able to take advantage of the lows of GGG and will make pay.
The best bet, by Ian Parker
The trilogy fight promises to be another fun fight. Alvarez sits at a -500 favorite, so right out of the gate, that is way too high of a betting line for a straight bet. However, I don’t disagree with Alvarez being the favorite, nor do I think he loses in this fight. Based on their last two contests, with both ending by some form of decision, I would look at a few other options instead of laying the -500 on Alvarez, unless you want to toss him in a parlay.
With both men knowing their opponents so well and both being extremely durable, I have a hard time believing this fight doesn’t go the distance. I expect Alvarez to be the faster and more active fighter, but putting GGG away inside the distance isn’t happening. Alvarez to win by decision is currently sitting at either even money or plus odds, and sounds like the most logical play.
The bets: Alvarez by decision, fight goes the distance, over 10.5 rounds