Canelo vs GGG 2: It's complicated
There were many twists in the plot leading to the GGG vs Canelo rematch. Michael Montero leads you through the maze with a step-by-step guide...
The date was 16 September, 2017; the location was T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. After 12 entertaining rounds it went to the judges’ scorecards. Gennady Golovkin started slow, perhaps feeling the big-stage jitters early on in his first bout in Vegas. After doing little more than surviving the middle rounds, Canelo Alvarez surged with a late rally.
While most of the ringside media felt that GGG had done enough to earn a decision victory, the judges disagreed. Dave Moretti returned a score of 115-113 for Golovkin, while Adalaide Byrd tabulated an atrocious 118-110 scorecard in favour of Canelo, evened out by Don Trella’s 114-114 result.
The post-fight press conference was dominated by talk of Byrd’s score. All of this overshadowed what was a very entertaining middleweight championship bout that had lived up to expectations.
Naturally, they were going to do it again. Early this year the rematch was announced to take place on the 5 May Cinco de Mayo holiday. The Canelo vs GGG 2 express was chugging along full steam ahead until suddenly the tracks blew up.
On 5 March the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) sent a letter to both fighters’ teams informing them that Canelo had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Two samples collected in Guadalajara on 17 and 20 February contained traces of banned drug clenbuterol, a bronchodilator that has been on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited list for years.
In response Canelo’s promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, released a statement from Team Canelo claiming that tainted meat was the culprit.
Mexico has a long-documented history of livestock contamination that has affected hundreds of athletes in recent years. Later that month the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) temporarily suspended Canelo as part of their investigation into the matter.
The case played out along with all the typical hysteria on social media. Suddenly everyone with a Twitter account was a PEDs expert. Conspiracy theories and amateur analysis flew about.
In spite of all the craziness, both fighters remained in training camp preparing for their scheduled rematch. In late March, Team Golovkin invited reporters to camp in Big Bear, California for a public workout. Several writers asked him for his opinions on the clenbuterol situation. To everyone’s surprise, the normally mild-mannered GGG broke character in front of American cameras for the first time, letting loose with the sort of tirade he normally reserves for Russian-speaking media.
Golovkin claimed the tainted meat excuses were rubbish and accused Canelo of cheating, citing photographs he had been sent which he believed showed needle marks on his body. Golovkin even mentioned Canelo’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya, saying he too was “dirty”. Golden Boy president Eric Gomez responded by saying GGG was scared and had only said those things to find a way out of the fight.
Canelo returned fire by posting a video on social media promising to “kick Golovkin’s ass”. As things were heating up between the fighters and their teams, a dark cloud remained looming over Cinco de Rematch. Whispers among media insiders began to leak that the Nevada commission was indeed going to suspend Canelo due to its strict liability policy on PEDs.
On 3 April Golden Boy held a press conference in Los Angeles to announce Canelo’s withdrawal from the rematch with Golovkin. Later that month the Nevada commission reached a settlement agreement with Canelo’s team to suspend the Mexican superstar for six months retroactive to the date of the first test.
It was subsequently revealed that hair follicles and a urine sample were collected on 29 March as part of the commission’s investigation and returned negative for PEDs. This did not irrefutably substantiate Canelo’s tainted-meat claims but certainly added credibility to them.
Meanwhile, Team GGG was moving forward with the 5 May date. Managing director Tom Loeffler reached an agreement with Vanes Martirosyan and his promoter Don King or Martirosyan to meet Golovkin in Los Angeles on a non-PPV HBO broadcast. It wasn’t much of a contest as Golovkin pulverised the former junior middleweight title challenger in just two rounds. During post-fight interviews Gennady said he absolutely wanted Canelo next.
With the suspension ending in August things still lined up perfectly for a 15 September bout, the night before Mexican Independence Day. But after all the vitriol spewed by both sides and the original contract for the rematch now defunct, could a new agreement be reached?
Further complicating matters was the fact that Golovkin had not one, but two mandatory challengers to his titles waiting in the wings. Houston’s Jermall Charlo won a WBC eliminator last summer and claimed the body’s interim title when he stopped Hugo Centeno Jr in April. Sergiy Derevyanchenko, a Russian Olympic Games representative now based in New York, claimed the IBF mandatory position last August.
During negotiations for the Martirosyan bout, the IBF hit Golovkin with an ultimatum to fight Derevyanchenko by 3 August or have his title vacated. Loeffler met with the IBF president in late May asking for an extension, but an immediate ruling was not given.
A few days later another hurdle was added to the rematch talks. Out of nowhere, Golovkin demanded a 50-50 revenue share with Canelo. The split for the first bout was 70-30, which equated to roughly $50m for Canelo and $20m for Golovkin after PPV upside.
The original agreement for the rematch was 65-35. But after the clenbuterol scandal, the suspension and the cancellation, Golovkin believed he deserved a bigger share. He felt that he had made too many concessions before and was unwilling to make concessions now.
“I am the champion, I have the belts, and I won the first fight,” Golovkin told Boxing Monthly. “All I’m asking is for a deal that is fair.”
Once again, the Canelo side claimed that GGG was looking for excuses to get out of the fight. Golden Boy CEO De La Hoya said they were moving on and looking at new opponents for Canelo’s return. Then, in early June, the IBF stripped Golovkin of the title he had won in 2015 when he stopped David Lemieux. It was a rough sequence of events for the 36-year-old who now calls California home.
“For the IBF to not give us any leeway with this whole situation just doesn’t make sense,” Loeffler told BM. “Other than Cecilia Braekhus, Gennady was the only champion in boxing to hold both the IBF and WBC belts. Those two originations don’t see eye to eye and unfortunately GGG got caught in the middle of a political dispute.”
Loeffler was referring to a proposal that WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman put forth to streamline the mandatory madness. Sulaiman suggested that Charlo and Derevyanchenko fight each other to determine a “unified mandatory” that would either fight the Canelo vs GGG 2 winner or Golovkin next if the rematch folded.
“That scenario would have created a marketable challenger,” Loeffler said. “We were willing to add Charlo- Derevyanchenko as the co-main on Gennady’s next card. But the IBF wouldn’t go for it.” Ultimately the New Jerseybased organisation chose to mandate a fight between Derevyanchenko and Daniel Jacobs for its vacant title. The very same Jacobs who knowingly broke the IBF rules before his fight with Golovkin last March when the New Yorker refused to participate in the second-day weigh-in the morning of the bout, essentially telling the IBF he was not interested in their title.
“Ironic that they chose to strip the unified champ who always followed their rules and have the guy who broke them fight for their belt,” Loeffler said.
Amidst the chaos there were some positives. Back in May, Canelo announced that he had signed a contract with VADA to undergo year-round testing. In the months prior, many had questioned why Canelo was never enrolled in the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program. Further, the 17 and 20 February samples that came back positive for clenbuterol marked the first time Canelo had ever been tested in Mexico.
Signing up with VADA for completely random, year-round testing began the healing process for his tattered reputation. Golovkin followed suit about a week later, signing an agreement to continue testing with VADA through his next fight. One major hurdle was cleared, yet the 50/50 demand still loomed.
Despite all the posturing in the media, Gomez and Loeffler continued to negotiate financial particulars behind the scenes. Golden Boy offered a 60/40 share but Golovkin declined.
At that point De La Hoya said Canelo would fight Jacobs in his return on 15 September. This prompted GGG to lower his demands to a 55/45 split. Golden Boy responded with a final offer of 57½/42½ and an ultimatum, stipulating that if Golovkin did not accept its terms by noon on 13 June, the Canelo vs Golovkin rematch was no more.
That Wednesday would prove to be a nerve-racking one for boxing fans, as minute-by-minute updates of the negotiations were posted on social media.
Golovkin held firm on his demand for a 55/45 split and when the noon deadline passed, it looked as if the rematch was dead.
But in the end De La Hoya agreed to put in money from his promotional side, giving GGG the split he wanted with some additional credits from other revenue streams going to Canelo only, and the fight was signed.
The Golovkin side had negotiated their way into a significantly higher payday. Canelo vs Golovkin I did north of 1.3m PPV buys in the US and generated the third largest gate ever in the state of Nevada. The rematch is on pace to top those figures.
Now that the monetary matters had been sorted out everyone could get back to analysing the actual matchup. What adjustments do the fighters need to make in the rematch? Before we can answer that question, we need to look back at the first bout, in which Golovkin pressed the action after a measured start.
According to CompuBox, after throwing just 71 punches in the first two rounds, GGG averaged 63 per round for the rest of the fight. Canelo on the other hand only threw 50 or more punches in two rounds. One of these rounds was the 12th, which all three judges gave to Canelo.
Without that final-round surge, where Canelo essentially doubled his offensive output from most of the previous rounds, Don Trella’s scorecard would have gone to GGG and Golovkin would have won by majority decision.
Canelo’s underrated upper body movement and defensive ability seemed to give his older opponent trouble. Coming in, both men had connected on nearly half of their power punches against recent opponents — a “power punch” is basically any blow except a jab — yet Golovkin landed at 32 per cent.
Meanwhile, Canelo’s accuracy held up as he landed 42 per cent of his power shots. But Canelo fought mostly in spurts. In the rematch the winning formula for Canelo is simple: throw more punches. He was outlanded in 10 of the 12 rounds last September and threw nearly 200 fewer punches than GGG overall.
Many feel Golovkin should go to the body more this time around, as all but eight of his landed blows in the first bout were upstairs. However, if you ask his trainer Abel Sanchez, he’ll tell you that they don’t need to change a thing.
“Why would we change anything? We won the first fight,” Sanchez told BM. “But we’re not going to rest on our laurels either. It all depends on Canelo. If he does the same thing he did last time, it’ll just be a track meet and we’ll win on the cards. If he stands and fights like he claims he will, we’ll knock him out.”
Sanchez has been vocal about how he feels Canelo ran too much against Golovkin, as well as what he sees as a change in Canelo’s character. “About six or seven years ago Canelo used our facilities in Big Bear for a few training camps,” Sanchez said.
“He was so different then, so humble and down to earth. Money has changed him. He’s become a diva.”
Sanchez, always outspoken, also feels that essentially Canelo gets preferential treatment across the boxing spectrum. If you thought the bad blood only existed between the fighters, you were wrong. Clearly the trainers are all in as well and the trash talk is coming from all angles this time. The animosity is real. Finally, the stage is set for Part II and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Beyond the incredible paydays both men will receive are lucrative opportunities that lie ahead for the winner. A unification match with WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders could be next. Saunders had already agreed to fight GGG on 25 August in Los Angeles if the rematch with Canelo fell through.
“When it looked like the Canelo fight wasn’t going to happen, I called Frank Warren and we quickly reached an agreement,” Loeffler said. “After GGG beats Canelo again, I definitely think a unification fight with Saunders is possible for December.”
The victor on 15 September will inherit WBC mandatory Jermall Charlo, who appears hungry for an opportunity to prove himself against the elite.
Then there is Japan’s Ryota Murata, who captured Olympic gold in the 2012 London Games. The current WBA “regular” middleweight champion is a bona fide star in his homeland, where he does impressive TV ratings. Loeffler has expressed interest in a fight between Golovkin and Murata at the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome.
“GGG is the rare champion who will travel,” Loeffler said. “We went to Monte Carlo to fight Martin Murray. We came to London to fight [Chris] Eubank Jr but he backed out and we ended up fighting [Kell] Brook there. Gennady would be more than willing to fight Murata in Japan. That would be a big event over there.”
Before any of those potential matchups can become a reality, Canelo and Golovkin must settle their business in Las Vegas. The hope among boxing fans is that the hostility between the two carries over into the ring and we are treated to an explosive sequel with a decisive outcome.
Michael Montero can be found on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram via @MonteroOnBoxing. His weekly podcast The Neutral Corner can be heard on iTunes, Stitcher and SoundCloud.