By: Niki Ross
January is typically a bleak month for boxing cards, big match ups with the most significance always feel like years away, heaven forbid fighters should enjoy the festive period too. Thankfully, in the last week of the darkest month of the year, the Canelo vs Golovkin rematch was announced as a done deal. Surprise surprise May 5th, the revered Mexican holiday which was hijacked by business savvy broadcasting suits holds the key date with a venue still to be established. Don’t hold your breath for anything other than a Las Vegas T- Mobile Arena do over.
In the aftermath of the first fight over 20,000 people took part in a HBO post fight Twitter poll. Over 70% of those voted in favour of Golovkin having won the fight and with a compubox reading of 218- 169 punches landed in Golovkin’s favour its hard not to agree. Especially since he landed more in all but 2 rounds. It was too much for the usually cool-headed Lennox Lewis who took to twitter to voice his displeasure of what was strongly perceived as a scandal, “These scorecards were ridiculous!”, a sentiment shared by a string of other celebrities and fighters across social media. On paper, this should give Golovkin a clear opportunity to cement his status as the linear middleweight champion. Providing an opportunity to right a wrong which was born out of inexcusable incompetence from a judge who is already well known for producing controversial, inconsistent scores. But it may not be that easy. In his last three fights Golovkin has shipped some punishment. Its not often people talk about his defensive abilities which are sadly underrated but this is because he is simply too happy to walk through a punch. Amongst his many attributes his chin is something to be marvelled. He’s never tasted the canvas in over 300 amateur fights and almost 40 in the pro ranks. And because he can take a punch it seems to make him all too willing to accept one. Whether its to land his own or to demonstrate that he is made of sterner stuff than mere flesh and blood, he’s walked through some big punches with nothing but a shrug of the shoulders. Is it finally catching up with him?
After the 2013 schooling from Floyd Mayweather, Canelo Alvarez went home to lick his wounds and came back as a vastly improved fighter. Not to say he wasn’t a competent operator at elite level pre Mayweather. After spending 12 rounds in a ring being toyed with by one of the finest defensive masters in the game, he has evidently learned a lesson or five. So much so that you can see Floyd in some of his defensive and countering work. His performances from this point have been proof that he could be boxings number 1 pound for pound figure once he picked up some career defining victories. An accomplishment which was hindered by some cute matching making by his promoters at Golden Boy. After letting him off the leash, albeit tentatively and after relinquishing the WBC title to Golovkin, he has come through the first test by the skin of his teeth. He failed to cope with Golovkin’s pressure which is nothing to be ashamed of, nobody has. He was tagged by jabs all night long and seemed happy to let Golovkin steal the door mat from under his feet. He went backwards an awful lot and didn’t throw enough punches in the process. But he survived. He survived one or two big shots but he made Golovkin think twice about throwing any heavy artillery more often than not. The stand out was that he made Golovkin, one of the most accurate punchers in the sport, miss wide of the mark on numerous occasions. And when he did, he often slashed him with razor sharp responses.
The rematch is hotly anticipated as another “fight of the year” candidate and it may be so, but do not expect the same script to play out. Canelo has proven adept at adapting and improving after fights so his dance with Golovkin the first time round should yield some marked improvements. Golovkin, for all his dominance in the first fight struggled to make many of his power punches count, possibly a combination of the wear and tear showing on the old veteran and Canelo’s incredibly elusive defence. The defining point of any of his fights is Golovkins heartbreaking jab. He rammed it in the face of Canelo just like he did to the face of Danny Jacobs 6 months prior. Its fair to say he has the most effective jab in the sport right now. Golovkin has always been synonymous with mythical Thor like power, however in his last two fights it has failed to have its usual impact. Yes, Danny Jacobs was dropped in the 4th. But he got up. And that fear we’ve seen in other fighters failed to materialise. In fact Jacobs seemed happy to trade at times taking confidence that his power was forcing Golovkin backwards. Noticeably, during the fight with Canelo, Golovkin had his man on the ropes and where we used to see uppercuts and left hooks to the body, he was reluctant to pull the trigger, reduced to tapping at the guard and waiting for openings, openings that he used to blast open himself. He was hesitant, he seemed to respect Canelo’s power and efficient countering. On the flip side, Canelo respected Golovkins power, but he didn’t seem scared by it. So what next?
The rematch is the most likely contest to produce Golovkins first loss. Whether you bought into him or not his fights over the last 6 years have been unadulterated entertainment but now it seems that his mentality has shifted. He’s no longer as free flowing with his hands, granted, the level of his opposition has increased significantly but this is what elite prize fighting is about. Showing the world what you can do against the man everyone thinks might have your number. By the time the fight takes place he will be 36 years old, he has many miles on the clock. He takes into this fight the chin of a superhero, the stamina of a marathon runner and a unique ability to place relentless pressure on his opponent for every second of every round, spearheaded with boxings best jab. But his aggression has waned, replaced by caution and so by default has his power or his ability to wield it. Canelo Alvarez will be 27, he is at the peak of his physical powers and is naturally blessed with blazing hand speed and reflexes. He is possibly the best counter puncher in the world and his punches have some fizz in them. He’s gone the distance already with his opponent and never before has someone had a second chance to dethrone the man who 12 months ago seemed an immortal force of violence. Canelo has shown that he learns very well from his fights, the first fight was a crossroads which unfortunately produced a bad result. We’re beyond the crossroads now and down this path we should see Canelo making the right adjustments and fighting with more belief. The belief that he has what it takes to become the undisputed middleweight champion of the world.