Mental Warfare Tactics Backfired for Gennady Golovkin


By: Kirk Jackson

If newly dethroned champion Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin 38-1-1 (34 KO’s) is looking for excuses for the results of defeat against Mexican rival Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 50-1-2 (34 KO’s), he may want to look towards his corner’s direction.

Golovkin and his trainer, Abel Sanchez, castigated Alvarez for “Running” and not fighting “Mexican style” during their first encounter last year. There is cultural appropriation and many of the HBO analysts along with other members of mass media perpetuate that ignorance, but that’s another story.

Post the initial fight and leading up to the rematch, Sanchez and company dismissed Alvarez and his elusive fight style, questioning his boxing character.

“What happened to Canelo’s body shots? You can’t punch someone when they’re running, and Canelo was running so it’s hard for Golovkin to throw his punches when Canelo is running,” Sanchez said in one of the interviews leading up to the rematch.

“Canelo knocked out Liam Smith with a body punch. That’s supposedly his favorite punch. Why didn’t he throw it against Golovkin to the body? He didn’t, you cannot punch a target that’s running.”

It appears Sanchez’s words ignited a fire matching Canelo’s hair color, because Alvarez didn’t move much in this exhilarating rematch and regularly brought the fight to the powerful Golovkin. Alvarez arguably walked down the bigger fighter for 9, 10 rounds of their 12 round championship fight.

HBO commentator Roy Jones suggested the comments from the Golovkin camp implied they would knock-out Alvarez if he’s willing to stand and trade.

This cast a narrative of the fight before it happened and when Alvarez took the fight to Golovkin in the rematch, he changed the “Story” of the fight in his favor. “Story” was a common term echoed throughout the course of their fight by HBO commentators.

To Sanchez’s credit, he gave respect towards his adversary after the fight, although not directly in the ring during the customary post-fight interviews.

“We had a great fight, the one we expected the first time around,” Sanchez said. “I had it close going into the 12th round. We had good judges, who saw it from different angles. I can’t complain about the decision, but it’s close enough to warrant a third fight. Canelo fought a great fight. Congratulations.”

Not only did the mental warfare tactics from Golovkin’s camp backfire, they cost Golovkin the fight and highlighted weaknesses from Golovkin in spite of his performance. It’s his version of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The good was the actual fight. Back and forth action, high-paced action, competitive, both combatants displaying iron chins and gigantic hearts, placing themselves within that realm of vulnerability that is the boxing ring on the grandest stage.

The bad were the tactical errors and blame that can be placed on Golovkin and Sanchez. Golovkin has over 300 amateur fights, is an Olympic Silver medalist, professional world champion for more than eight years and the bigger fighter. Why couldn’t he stop the smaller fighter who started at junior welterweight (140 lbs.) from walking him down?

Sanchez trained a few Hall of Fame fighters and many world champions, but was there some form of advice or tactical adjustment to push the smaller fighter back to gain control of the real estate in the ring and control of the “Story” in the fight?

During the fight, Sanchez realized the hole they were in because after round seven, viewers could hear Sanchez loudly whisper in Golovkin’s ear, “You’re losing the fight.” Most of the fight was Golovkin backing up, fighting off his back foot looking awkward, robotic and uncomfortable.

That’s not to suggest you can’t win a fight off your back foot because you can, it’s just an observation of how the tables have turned and points to what HBO commentator Roy Jones suggested about the story of the fight favoring Canelo.

The ugly is the defeat and how it was handled. It was a close competitive fight, one of those fights a draw or decision either way is not a bad result – similar to the fight most recently exhibited between Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia.

But with this defeat, Golovkin lacks a signature win against a high-quality opponent. Some may argue Daniel Jacobs, but some may also argue Jacobs won or that Golovkin barely squeezed that one out. Just like some may argue Golovkin won the rematch with Alvarez, or that he won both fights. It boils down to the judges and what’s officially ledged in the history book. That’s an L for Golovkin.

The ugly is also how Triple G handled defeat. Frustration after a close fight is part of the game, it’s understandable. However if Triple G is regarded as a professional, such a nice guy and represents the sport properly, then he is not above providing a post-fight interview after losing.

The lack of the post-fight ring interview may relate to his tenure with HBO ending as this was the last fight on their contract. Regardless if that’s true or not, it’s not a good look.

And where Golovkin goes from here is uncertain. Although he and his trainer more than likely would prefer a third fight with Alvarez opposed to facing anyone else.

“I think that in this business, in this boxing business, they have to look at all the possibilities for the future not only for Canelo, but also for Golovkin,” Sanchez told BoxingScene.com following a press conference Saturday night. “I think that, as a pair, they stand to do better than any fight that either one could ever have [against another opponent].”

Fighting Alvarez guarantees more money, there is the revenge factor and oddly enough from a boxing tactical sense, it makes it’s the best move for Golovkin as Sanchez suggested.

Until the decision manifests, Team Golovkin can rest and ponder about the decisions pre-fight and during that cost them the fight.

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