The Science is Sweet: Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez Breakdown
By: Kirk Jackson
Finally the time has arrived. Fans from all over the world will witness the unified WBC, WBA and WBO middleweight champion Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin 37-0 (33 KO’s) vs. the lineal and Ring Magazine middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 49-1-1 (34 KO’s).
Photo Credit: HBO Boxing
This is a 50-50 fight on paper, boxing critics and professional fighters split on who wins this highly anticipated match-up.
“I give the edge to Triple G because of who he is and what he has. But I love Canelo too.” – Sugar Ray Leonard.
“Do I think Triple G can beat Canelo? Absolutely not. I really believe Triple G has good punching power as a fighter. He’s got good punching power, but he’s flat-footed.” – Floyd Mayweather.
Lets take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each fighter, advantages each fighter will have and what they’ll do in attempt to emerge victorious.
Starting with the reigning, defending WBC, WBA and WBO middleweight champion, Gennady Golovkin.
Golovkin is regarded as a power puncher, a monstrous attacker, crushing chins, cracking ribs and breaking the will of many opponent sharing the ring with the Kazakhstanian star.
Golovkin’s punching power can change the game plan and approach of an opponent and it takes a fighter with a strong mental constitution to absorb the pain, withstand the damage and press forward.
Audiences saw a glimpse of the mental fortitude required in Golovkin’s last fight against Danny Jacobs. The question is can Alvarez withstand Golovkin’s punching power and pressure?
Speaking of pressure, Golovkin implements constant pressure while stalking his prey (opposition). Always well-conditioned, Golovkin never appears to tire.
Although considered by many as slow-of-foot, he cuts the ring off well, showcasing great footwork and ring intelligence.
Punch variation is also a sign of ring intelligence. Possessing the skill to throw varying types of punches and also knowing when to throw each type of punch per situation.
Golovkin’s jab may be his greatest punch; it dictates his offense and allows him to pin point the opponent’s positioning, allowing combinations to follow.
Triple G has a devastating left hook to the body and throws an awkward-angled, looping overhanded right and left hand that can end anyone’s night.
Golovkin’s best version of defense happens to be his offense, especially as he grows older. He has a solid chin and never tasted the canvas throughout his amateur and professional career.
However, shots from a powerful punching Curtis Stevens caught his attention, Golovkin was briefly buzzed from former welterweight champion Kell Brook and former WBA middleweight champion Danny Jacobs stunned Golovkin with hard shots during their encounter this past March.
He can be hurt, but he tends to dish out more punishment.
From a defensive standpoint, there isn’t much head movement from Golovkin and has a tendency to shell up when confronted with high punch activity and combinations – similar to former two-division champion Arthur Abraham.
Jacobs also highlighted a vulnerability to Golovkin’s body; something Alvarez surely observed.
Lets take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the lineal and Ring Magazine middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
Alvarez is a vastly experienced, technical fighter. Possessing tremendous hand speed, Alvarez likes to counter-punch opponents; displaying the ability to pull off high-skill level moves such as the pull-counter.
He likes to unleash combinations, digging hard shots to the body and while possessing an excellent sense of timing, Alvarez has the unique ability to effectively punch within the exchange.
Punching with the puncher, an ability that will pay dividends in his upcoming match-up with Golovkin, (but more on that later).
Alvarez can fight inside, fight within the pocket and can fight off his back-foot and effectively against the ropes.
Whether Alvarez wants to fight off the ropes against Golovkin is another matter, but Alvarez tends to fight off the ropes when attempting to lure opponents into expending more energy and being more offensive. Alvarez also fights off the ropes when he wants to take a breather and conserve energy.
The conservation of energy and pacing was a highlighted weakness of the past.
Alvarez appeared to fix this issue in his recent showing against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., beating his fellow Mexican compatriot to a pulp over twelve lopsided rounds.
Alvarez even stood up between rounds and the contest more closely resembled a sparring match more so than a sanctioned professional bout.
However, one may point out the contested match between Chavez and Alvarez took place at a catch-weight above the 160 lb. middleweight limit, Chavez was drained and merely just a walking punching bag not offering any form of resistance. All fair points.
But, one may also suggest Golovkin faced a lot of sub-standard opposition with the exception of Brook and Jacobs. Perhaps some of his skills are exaggerated against lower levels of competition.
If endurance is an issue for the Mexican star, he will lose. Golovkin applies constant pressure; his style is to wear on opponents mentally and physically.
The pressure is constant and as an opponent, you have to give something Golovkin to think about – whether it’s a punch, particular movements, angles.
Former multiple-division champion and former Alvarez opponent Amir Khan provides unique insight on the match-up between Alvarez and Golovkin.
“I think he (Alvarez) beats Triple G. A lot of people underestimate him, I don’t know why,” said Khan. “I’ve never been in the ring with Triple G, but I’ve been in with Canelo and he’s hard to hit.”
Adding additional muscle, it’s difficult to envision a lot of movement for Alvarez when facing Golovkin, suggesting he may bring the fight to Golovkin and be up close.
Foot work from and ring generalship will be a battle within itself. How will that pan out?
The key visible strengths from each fighter can be nullified by one another.
For Alvarez, his hand speed can be negated by Golovkin’s sturdy, consistently well-placed jab and through timing.
Golovkin’s punching power can be nullified through spacing; Alvarez must crowd Golovkin’s space and not allow him to find his range.
Alvarez can also throw off Golovkin’s timing if he can effectively counter-punch in between Golovkin’s punches; effectively fighting in between the exchange.
Will age be a factor ? Alvarez is 27-years-old and Golovkin is 35-years-old. Golovkin is not a war-torn, worn out 35-year-old fighter however. The only concern is the rough outing against Jacobs leading up to this bout.
Were the rumors true in regards to damaged ribs sustained from the impact punching of Jacobs? Will the supposed injuries suffered linger into the fight against Alvarez?
As to how the fight may play out, Alvarez will have to withstand the early onslaught from Golovkin and aim to take over after he finds his timing and rhythm which could happen around round four or five.
This contest may resemble that of the recent fights between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev. With Alvarez like Ward, targeting Golovkin’s body and spending a lot of time fighting in the pocket at close range.
The added weight for Alvarez may be a positive factor; the additional muscle in efforts to improve overall strength as he may attempt to push Golovkin back and stay in his chest.
We’ve never witnessed Golovkin fight on the back foot; the question is can he effectively fight moving backwards if necessary?
When Jacobs and the smaller Brook initiated the action and took the fight to Golovkin, it exposed weaknesses.
Alvarez is not necessarily a pressure fighter; he is aggressive at times depending on the opponent, but preferring to counter-punch and box.
However, you don’t have to swarm an opponent like Mike Tyson or Ricky Hatton to impose pressure.
Pressure may appear in the physical and mental form; constantly standing in front of the opponent, ducking and slipping low, clinching and pressing the opponent back at times and avoiding shots while countering ever so often.
The magnitude and pressure of the fight creeping in can all have an effect. This is the moment both Golovkin and Alvarez yearned for and we’ll see if it negatively affects either fighter.
Who can handle adversity and how will each fighter react if faced with adversity?
Although they are fighters with different styles and at different stages of their respective careers, the level of experience gained from fighting Erislandy Lara, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Amir Khan and Floyd Mayweather is ever so valuable.
Alvarez experienced the big moment and the experience of fighting under the big lights. He has the qualities to counter-act Golovkin’s strengths and appears focused and ready to implement the proper game plan to secure victory.
Golovkin has a great amateur background, size, technical ability and the dream fight he yearned for at his grasp.
Question is will it be enough? Although either fighter is poised to win, each fighter will go out to prove a point to the viewing audiences.
I lean towards Alvarez winning a highly contested bout, with his timing, counter-punching, quick combinations, body punching paying dividends in this fight.