Two entities traveling towards one another, on similar paths, at different constant speeds: it may sound like an algebra problem but it also describes Canelo Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) vs. Gennady Golovkin II (38-0-1, 34 KOs), a highly anticipated bout set to take place on Saturday night. Over the course of their careers, Golovkin was forced to take the scenic route to arrive at his highly-anticipated second meeting with Alvarez. In contrast, everything Alvarez has done leading to the middleweight title fight at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena seems to have occurred in fast forward.
Alvarez, 28, has been the contemporary avatar for Mexican prizefighters since Oscar de la Hoya signed him to Golden Boy Promotions in 2010. Alvarez was 23 when he was squaring off with Floyd Mayweather on pay-per-view at the MGM Garden. That 12-round unanimous loss, in which he was methodically picked apart by Mayweather, only served to earn him more recognition. Sans Golovkin, his last four pay-per-view bouts have been wins over prominent fighters, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Liam Smith, Amir Khan and Miguel Cotto.
Alvarez is seasoned in marquee pay-per-view draws, but this victory would be by far his most important on the big stage.
Golovkin and Canelo's original fight lived up to the billing, but its epilogue inspired outrage in Golovkin's camp. According to CompuBox stats from their 2017 fight, Golovkin connected on 218 total punches to Alvarez’ 169, and landed fewer power punches. Golovkin, 36, seemed to dominate between the 5th and 11th rounds, landing a flurry of combos and shaking off Alvarez’s power blows. By all almost all accounts, Golovkin should have been awarded a victory by unanimous decision in the aftermath of his authoritative performance.
However, a dubious 118-110 scorecard in Alvarez’s favor from judge Adalaide Byrd resulted in the only blemish on Golovkin’s perfect record. In the aftermath, a clause triggered in Alvarez's contract set a rematch for Cinco de Mayo weekend. But Alvarez was suspended after he tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol, putting their rematch on ice. In Alvarez’s stead, Golovkin knocked around Vanes Martirosyan for a swift two-round victory.
Raised in Kazakhstan, Golovkin wasn't privy to the Mexican boxing infrastructure and boxing-industrial network that facilitated Alvarez’s rise. Once he began leaving a trail of fighters seeing stars after facing him, he struggled to earn due recognition, as Eastern Europeans tend to lack popularity among boxing audiences. This was evident in the promotion for Alvarez-Golovkin I. Alvarez earned the larger guaranteed purse for their inaugural match, even though Golovkin ostensibly dominated the proceedings. Golovkin’s camp negotiated a meager 42 ½ to 57 ½ percent revenue split for the rematch.
Despite those impediments, Golovkin is now a household name among boxing fans. His reticent personality, undefeated record in 37 fights, and 89 percent knockout rate, the highest in the history of the middleweight division, has made him the antidote to Mayweather’s controversial reign as the pound-for-pound No. 1 boxer in the world. Golovkin is currently tied with Bernard Hopkins for the most consecutive middleweight title defenses, though there remains a latent fear that he’s approaching mortality since Daniel Jacobs took him the distance in March 2017.
Alvarez is quick and evasive, countering with a real pop mixed into his combos, which enables him to take advantage of overaggressive pressure fighters. Few boxers have the capacity to inflict as much damage as Golovkin. Alvarez may be a deft counterpuncher, but messing with Golovkin’s devastating power is a risky endeavor. Golovkin's durable chin has been tapped before, yet he's never been knocked to a canvas. In addition, he made 23 consecutive opponents see stars before the final bell.
Ultimately, their journeys don’t matter nearly as much as the condition they arrive in. Alvarez needs a signature victory on his resume to overshadow his underwhelming results in the two most significant pay-per-view bouts of his career. As the deft counterpuncher out of this pair, Alvarez relies on taking advantage of opponent tendencies and with this being Golovkin’s first professional rematch, familiarity may benefit the former disproportionately.
If past is prologue, carnage will ensue when two of boxing's most exciting fighters collide in the ring for the second time Saturday night.