By: Sean Crose
Gennady Golovkin is a long way from Kazakhstan. The 35 year old product of the former Soviet Union is now in Las Vegas for the biggest fight of the year (so long as you don’t count a certain novelty bout between an all-time great and an Irish mixed martial artist that went down a few weeks ago). Golovkin’s opponent? None other than the man who might be the current face of the sport – Saul Alvarez, better known as Canelo, a red haired Mexican star who has lost only once, and that was to the greatest boxer of his era, Floyd Mayweather.
The 2017 version of Canelo, however, is not the young man who faced the Herculean task of besting Mayweather back in 2013. For Canelo has since grown from a talented youth to a polished pro with an accomplished skill set and the power to turn off the lights at a moment’s notice. In fact, the consensus seems to be that the Canelo-GGG fight, which goes down this weekend at the T-Mobile Arena, is a coin toss. This wasn’t the case about a year ago, when most fans seemed to feel that Golovkin would mop the floor with Canelo, a fighter who actually seemed to be avoiding him. Now, though, the charges of ducking have faded off and a prime Canelo is ready to face a version of Golovkin some feel is less than his best.
For middleweight king Golovkin had a hard time of it when he bested the vastly underrated and underappreciated Daniel Jacobs last March at a sold out Madison Square Garden in New York. Sure, he beat the Brooklyn native by decision, but there were those who legitimately felt that Golovkin should have lost he fight. What’s more, there are whispers that Canelo waited until Golovkin started to look weak before agreeing to face the man in the ring. If so, it might prove to be just another case of a fighter playing it safe rather than face a top level incarnation of the man known as GGG.
“He’s been a little bit frustrated these last few years,” trainer Abel Sanchez said of Golovkin during a recent conference call to promote this weekend’s bout. “We’ve had a terrible time getting people in the ring with him,” promoter Tom Loeffler claimed on the same call. Loeffler even stated that “the other champions really weren’t willing to get in the ring with him.” Sure enough, while big names like Canelo opted to face the likes of little known Liam Smith, Golovkin was heading to places like London in order to fight welterweight titlist Kell Brook, the biggest name (and perhaps the bravest soul) available at the time.
Yet it’s also worth noting that some feel Canelo himself merely avoided Golovkin out of loyalty to his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya. Indeed, Canelo built his reputation at least in part upon a willingness to take on challenging opposition, like the slick, accomplished Erislandy Lara, who Canelo squeaked by via decision in 2014 after a tough chess match of a fight. What’s more, Canelo has exuded nothing but confidence since the match with GGG has been signed. Perhaps, one may conclude, the man feels that a great weight has been lifted off his shoulders.
One thing is certain, Canelo is – or certainly shouldn’t be – a walkover. Reasoned, objective reflection indicates that GGG has quite the challenge on his gloved hands this Saturday. That’s how it should be when it comes to a superfight, however – and yes, Saturday’s is a superfight. “A long time ago it was my dream to come to the United States,” Golovkin has said. “Right now, my dream is real.” Undoubtedly, Canelo will be eager to turn the dream into a nightmare.