Canelo vs GGG 2 preview: No love lost

Graham Houston
12/09/2018 2:41pm

Big fights are often sold as grudge matches but Canelo vs Golovkin 2 will take place against a background of real animosity. GGG is sure he won last time, Canelo has something to prove after the PEDs controversy — and Graham Houston feels at the very least questions will get answered...

All the anger, controversy and sheer bad blood have led to a denouement that, one hopes, will settle all dispute when Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez meet in a middleweight championship rematch at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on 15 September.

The road to the return fight has been convoluted but, barring unforeseen circumstances, we’re ready for liftoff. Golovkin and Canelo each has something to prove. Golovkin wishes to demonstrate that he is the superior fighter and that Canelo was only able to stay with him last time due to the aid of performance enhancing drugs. Canelo seeks to show that he is a fighter who doesn’t need PEDs — and that he has been unfairly accused of cheating.

It did seem that Canelo’s physique was unusually ripped going into last September’s fight with Golovkin. He had never looked in quite such muscular shape. Modern-day nutrition and training methods? Or something more, shall we say, suspicious?

Everyone has their own opinion. Golovkin and his trainer, Abel Sanchez, have made scathing comments about Canelo, who comes across as a man seething inwardly. So many fights these days are sold as grudge matches but this time the ill will seems genuine.

Last September’s draw, while unsatisfactory, was understandable. Golovkin was the fighter moving forward but Canelo started fast and finished strongly. Where the Mexican superstar failed was in allowing Golovkin to bully him in the middle part of the fight.

Boxing can come down to inches, seconds, straws in the wind. On the scorecards last time, judge Don Trella, who scored the bout 114-114, had Canelo winning the 10th round.

The 10th actually seemed one of Golovkin’s best rounds. Even judge Adalaide Byrd, who amazingly found only two rounds to give Golovkin, gave him the 10th. Had Trella been with the consensus and scored the 10th round in Golovkin’s favour, the fighter from Kazakhstan (but based in Los Angeles) would have won the fight. So near, but so far.

Canelo has been inactive since the last fight. Golovkin at least had the feel of being back in the ring again when he met Vanes Martirosyan in May, but that mismatch only went two rounds.

Golovkin, at 36, is now a year older and this could be to Canelo’s advantage although today a fighter in his mid-30s isn’t considered “old”. Still, it could be argued that Canelo, 27, has more room for improvement. With Golovkin, what we see is what we get. There aren’t going to be any dramatic changes. It is possible, however, that we actually haven’t seen the best that Canelo can produce.

Canelo, surprisingly, looked the harder puncher in the first fight, or so it seemed to me. Golovkin landed some good right hands but although he had Canelo retreating in the middle rounds he never actually seemed to hurt the square-jawed Mexican boxer. However, when Canelo stood his ground and let his hands go he appeared to steady GGG. While Golovkin was never actually rocked and never looked in any danger of being knocked down, he had the appearance of a fighter who knew he’d been hit.

Canelo might be going into the rematch with more confidence than last time. He now knows he can take Golovkin’s punches. Canelo also knows he has enough authority on his punches to make Golovkin wary.

Perhaps Golovkin fought the best fight he is capable of fighting in the initial meeting. Canelo blew his chance of winning by back-pedalling. In theory, if Canelo digs down and fights harder he can win. There was a reason why Canelo gave ground, though. Golovkin was putting him under heavy pressure. Canelo clearly didn’t much fancy getting into the trenches with the older fighter.

Still, it was Canelo who came on in the last two rounds, which he swept on the scorecards. The Canelo camp will no doubt be thinking: “If only he’d started his rally sooner.” In the Golovkin camp, however, the feeling is that if Canelo had rolled the dice at an earlier stage in the contest, he wouldn’t have been able to stay with GGG.

It’s no secret that Golovkin would prefer Canelo to be standing right in front of him. Abel Sanchez has basically accused Canelo of fighting in an un Mexican way by getting on his bicycle. Will Canelo be stung by such remarks and get involved in a more physical type of fight this time? Possibly, but I think it’s more likely we’ll see Canelo use a moving, boxing, countering style. After all, it almost worked for him in the first fight.

Indeed, it might not be unfair to Golovkin to say that Canelo looked the classier boxer and sharper puncher last time — but GGG was, it seemed, mentally and physically tougher, fought a more consistent fight overall and, at the end of the day, simply wanted it more.

The wild card heading into the rematch is the PEDs issue. We will likely never know if Canelo was artificially enhanced last September.

I’d like to have a look at Canelo on the scales before pulling the trigger on a pick but with a monthly magazine that’s not possible. A pity, because the weigh-in could be revealing. I went for Canelo to win the rematch prior to the fight’s postponement but then the drug-test issue cast a doubt. Tentatively, I’ll stick with Canelo — but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt over the clenbuterol situation. If nothing else, the rematch is likely to be revealing.

This preview was originally published in the August issue of Boxing Monthly magazine.