Your author Bob Smith was so intrigued by this matchup that he decided to come out of retirement as a boxing writer for a brief preview. He started to write articles, inspired by the rise of Golovkin in late 2012 and early 2013 and wrote about 60 articles for this website for a period of a few years before slipping back into obscurity around 2015.
This is a meaningful fight. It is not too late, as some suggest. Yes, it is true Golovkin has aged and Canelo has improved. But as someone who thought Golovkin clearly won the first fight and also edged the second fight – at worst, it should have been a draw – this makes the fight all the more interesting. Let’s begin with the first fight.
The First Fight
According to CompuBox, Golovkin out-landed Alvarez in 11 of the 12 rounds, and overall, by almost 50 punches, which should have led to a clear decision victory. After all, the object of boxing is to hit and not get hit, and this is what Golovkin did. However, the judges were impressed by two things: first, Golovkin did not completely obliterate Canelo, as he did many of his previous opponents and second, Alvarez edged Golovkin power shots landed, and his shots were quicker and flashier, due to his fast hands and beautiful technique. However, of the 24 outlets that covered the first fight, 20 scored the fight for Golovkin, 3 thought it was a draw, and only one scored the fight for Alvarez.
I do believe that Golovkin was surprised and intimidated by the hand speed and punch resistance and ability to counter of Alvarez, so he kept a safe distance and did not press for the knockout. And at the time, for Golovkin not to win by knockout was a huge achievement – he had I believe tied the record for most title defense in a row, or almost did so. And he had a KO streak of 21 in a row before being forced to go the distance by the quick and tough Daniel Jacobs. So, one factor in the judge’s willingness to declare a draw was that Golovkin did not even get a knockdown of Alvarez, whereas he did in his previous 22 fights, and won 21 of 22 by knockout.
Second, it is true that Canelo out-landed Golovkin in power punches in 7 of the 12 rounds. It is tough to find people that believe Alvarez clearly won the first fight, or that the score of Adelaide Byrd was accurate – but arguably in some of the rounds Alvarez did the more effective power punching, at least numerically. Stylistically, Alvarez appeals to an American and Mexican audience, he has very fast hands and crisp shots, so regardless of impact, his power shots do seem more effective than an East European style that plods forward, even if the punches are like being kicked by a mule.
The Second Fight
Given that the first fight was ruled a draw, the boxing public demanded a rematch, which happened a year later in 2018. And the result was similarly controversial – of the 19 media outlets that covered the fight, 10 scored the fight for Golovkin, 8 ruled it a draw and only 1 of the outlets favored a Alvarez victory.
According to CompuBox, Golovkin won 8 of the rounds, Alvarez won three of the rounds and they threw the same number of punches in 1 round. So, this should have led to a clear Golovkin victory by the hit or not hit condition. But not so fast – Alvarez out-landed Golovkin in power punches in every round from the 4th round onward, save for the 5th round. And if you look at a subset of those power punches, body shots, Canelo landed 46 shots to just 6 shots for Golovkin.
Again, there are two factors, which provide a rationale, even if they do not justify, why some judges and fans thought that Canelo deserved the victory. The first was that Golovkin proposed a “Mexican style” fight where the two would go at it in the center of the ring and slug it out. In this, Alvarez called the bluff of Golovkin and came forward for this fight, making the clever guess that Golovkin could not keep up with his fast hand speed, tremendous counterpunching, and better inside game, as well as likely superior physical strength. So, the fact that Golovkin adjusted and boxed from a distance and out-jabbed Canelo should have given him the victory in a technical sense but in the eyes of many fans, Canelo solved the riddle of Golovkin and stood up successfully to the power puncher. The other factor was that Golovkin was extremely hesitant to go after Alvarez especially to the body, for fear of quick counters, probably by uppercut.
I do believe that the reason that Golovkin lost the 2nd fight on the judge’s cards if not CompuBox was the advice of his trainer at the time, Abel Sanchez, to avoid throwing body shots almost completely. I don’t understand this decision – body shots would have worn down Canelo, made him less likely to go forward, and set up the overhand right of Golovkin. Maybe an expert in boxing can let me know why a trainer would advise this. In any case, Golovkin parted ways with Abel Sanchez after this fight, and Alvarez secured a hotly disputed decision victory.
Since the Second Fight
There is absolutely no question that since the second fight Alvarez has had the better track record and has improved more and accomplished more. Lets’ review what each fighter has done since September of 2018:
Golovkin fought only four times in the past four years – he defeated Steve Rolls, a non-entity, by 4th round KO, and earned a hard fought and very close decision with Sergey Derevyanchenko, which some argue could have gone the other way, and then two stoppages against Kamil Szeremata (7th round RTD) and Ryota Murata (9th round KO). In his most recent fight, he seemed quite troubled with the body work of Ryota Murata. Also, he did lose a couple of the earlier rounds before coming back around the 5th round on dominating Murata until the KO. All of his fights were in the middleweight division. Some might argue he has aged, and undoubtedly, he has done so chronologically, however, his last four fights were not so intense, so in terms of rounds and damage done, Alvarez may in fact be the “older” fighter.
Alvarez has a stellar resume since 2018. He fought 8 times, and in different divisions as well. He had a 3rd round KO of Rocky Fielding, then defeated Daniel Jacobs at the middleweight level, by UD, and I will say was more impressive in his victory than was Golovkin. After this, he defeated a fading but still dangerous Kovalev by KO in the 11th round. A bit about this fight – Kovalev was on the downward part of his career, yes, but what kept him cautious and honest during the fight was the speed and counterpunching advantage of Alvarez, in the same way that Golovkin was cautious also in both fights.
After this, Alvarez made a clean sweep of the titles of the super middleweight division, I believe the first time that this has ever happened, and really found his rhythm at that weight. In succession, he defeated Callum Smith by UD, Billy Joe Saunders by RTD in the 9th round and Caleb Plant by TKO in the 11th round, with only a short tune up fight of three rounds with Avni Yildrim, which he won by KO. But more significantly, all three of these fighters were undefeated champions and Alvarez beat them all!! This is a very notable achievement – to have to adjust stylistically to all of these different fighters and to excel in all of these – this is much more impressive than anything Golovkin has done since 2018 and Alvarez improved and learned something new in each of these fights.
Alvarez did learn his limits against Dmitry Bivol, a tough and skilled light heavyweight champion in his prime, who won a UD against Alvarez earlier this year. Still, it says a lot for Alvarez that he took the fight on the advice of his trainers – and I still do think that he can beat all but perhaps the Top 5 heavyweights like Bivol, Beterbiev, Joe Smith or Anthony Yarde. Hopefully with the loss, he will not attempt to go up to cruiserweight. I still do think he will lose any rematch to Dmitry Bivol and should just move on.
Malignaggi and Marquez
There are two scenarios for how this fight will go: predictable and exciting. The predictable outcome, enunciated by Paulie Malignaggi, is that the Alvarez team has successfully waited for Golovkin to age, and that Alvarez has improved significantly since then whereas Golovkin has declined due to age or at best stagnated. Two variations on this thesis are that Alvarez is the better boxer now and will win a clear and definitive unanimous decision or that it is very likely that Alvarez will knock out Golovkin due to the skill and experience difference.
By contrast, the Marquez thesis is that there is a strong analogy to be made between the trilogy of Alvarez and Golovkin and the four fights of Pacquiao and Marquez, where Marquez was robbed of even one victory in several close and hotly contest bouts.
So, which thesis is correct? Both have problems. The problem with the Malignaggi thesis is that while it is true that Alvarez has waited out Golovkin chronologically, he has had the more difficult fights, and has accumulated more wear and tear since then. Moreover, Alvarez is 32 now and has thus been a professional boxer for more than half of his life. And the KO version of this thesis ignores the chin and defense of Golovkin, who has never been knocked out or even knocked down in any boxing contest, professional or amateur, and apparently even in sparring.
The problem with the Marquez thesis is that Pacquaio was an aggressive and sometimes careless fighter who moved forward constantly, and that Marques was a defensively oriented fighter with a higher boxing IQ; by contrast, it is Golovkin that moves forward, and Alvarez is a defensively oriented fighter with a higher boxing IQ. So, if anything this should favor Alvarez given that he is the counterpuncher.
Sadly, I do believe that the result will be predictable – Alvarez will intimidate Golovkin with his improvement, his hand speed, his combinations, his defense, and his body punching. I see two results as likely – either Alvarez gets a clear UD victory or Alvarez gets a clear UD victory in part due a to knockdown by a body shot.
The previous two fights are a matter of the historical record, and fans are free to go back and re-score them at any time. But for this fight, Alvarez is the more improved and shrewder fighter and despites the best efforts of Golovkin, his cautiousness and defensive skills will make him only engage in effective as opposed to reckless aggression, and Alvarez will win with his skilled combinations and effective defense.