When Gennady Golovkin embarked on a twenty-three fight knockout streak, he became one of the most feared and avoided champions in the sport, mesmerising audiences with displays of ruthless aggression and brutal punching power.
In his two most recent outings against arguably his foremost rivals in the division, Golovkin has eschewed the predatory style that has characterised his career for the most part under Abel Sanchez, and adopted a more conservative approach.
Eighteen months ago, in his middleweight title defence against the similarly explosive Daniel Jacobs â€“ someone, who, by all accounts outweighed Golovkin considerably on the night â€“ Golovkin elected to soften his opponent up with jabs and methodically work his way inside, maintaining a comfortable pace throughout the twelve rounds
Ultimately, despite scoring a knockdown in the fourth, Golovkin was unable to produce the expected killer blow and as a result the legendary knockout streak came to an end. However, the former Olympic silver medallistâ€™s patience, pressure and work rate were looked upon favourably by the New York judges as he was deservedly designated the winner in a relatively competitive affair, via a narrow unanimous decision.
The truth is, Golovkin has never been a one-trick pony, and this is something that is now widely acknowledged in boxing circles.
Although Golovkin certainly possesses punching power sufficient to reduce many of his counterparts to quivering wrecks on the ring canvas, Golovkin showed in March 2017 that he also possesses the discipline and composure to overcome someone as dangerous, stubborn and athletically gifted as Daniel Jacobs; someone who is still considered in certain quarters to be the second best middleweight in the world.
Although Jacobs and many ringside observers felt that the close decision warranted a rematch, it wasnâ€™t to be. Golovkinâ€™s next showdown would be with Mexican superstar and middleweight debutant Saul Alvarez, that September.
It was a truly captivating contest where neither fighter was able to significantly hurt the other. Following a slow start, Golovkin largely became comfortable in the role of aggressor, manoeuvring Canelo around the ring with power jabs. Canelo, meanwhile, was able to skilfully evade many of Golovkinâ€™s shots despite struggling to match his adversaryâ€™s pace and clearly tiring in the middle rounds, in the face of Golovkinâ€™s unrelenting assault and steady forward march. Nevertheless, the Mexican enjoyed sporadic success, firing back with combinations and rallying furiously in the final three rounds.
There was a general consensus that Golovkin deserved the decision. In the eyes of most, he was the busier man and landed the more meaningful shots. Some might argue that he looked marginally sloppier than usual and mostly content to headhunt over the course of the fight.
Many of the less charitable observers claim that a draw was a fair enough, and a draw is what we got, with scores of 114-114 even and 115-113 to Golovkin; while Adelaide Byrdâ€™s bizarre 118-110 scorecard in favour of Canelo will forever remain a mystery, even to those well acquainted with the realities of Nevada judging.
The subsequent controversy surrounding Golden Boy Promotions amidst allegations of judicial incompetence or possible corruption was only compounded further when a positive clenbuterol test resulted in a six month suspension for Canelo, causing the May 2018 rematch to be postponed and rescheduled for September.
Now, Golovkin understands that perhaps he was somewhat complacent to leave his fate in the hands of the judges last time out, and will unquestionably be aiming to harness his superior size, strength and stamina manner to secure a win inside the distance.
At the age of 36, it is important to note the reigning WBC and WBA middleweight champion is a battle-tested fighter, not necessarily a damaged fighter. After all, for the most part, Golovkin is not usually associated with being on the receiving end of sustained punishment; he is decidedly more accustomed to dishing it out to hapless victims, as he demonstrated last time out in his two-round evisceration of Armenian veteran Vanes Martirosyan.
Golovkin is seemingly determined to silence his sceptics – who suggest that he has slowed down – with an assertive, ferocious performance; one that will presumably leave no doubt as to who the best middleweight in the world really is.
Likewise, Canelo – angered at Abel Sanchezâ€™s derisive comments calling his integrity into question – is also promising a clinical knockout win; one that would probably earn him the status as one of the greatest Mexican boxers of all time.
At the tender age of just 28-yeas-old, he has a thoroughly impressive resume and has already amassed several notable scalps and career accolades, including Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Austin Trout, and Erislandy Lara. Canelo will be looking to capitalise on his sharp hand speed in order to have the first and last word in any exchanges, in addition to employing lateral movement in abundance, aspects of his style that troubled Golovkin at times in their first fight last September.
In this high-profile fight â€“ one of many for Canelo, but only the third in which he has been the underdog â€“ it is imperative for the Mexican to keep Golovkin on the defensive by increasing his punch output; something which will no doubt be rewarded by the judges, but also something that leaves him vulnerable to return fire from one of the most spiteful punchers in the sport.
Golovkinâ€™s size, strength, stamina, conditioning and uncanny imperviousness in response to heavy blows on the chin, honed by high-altitude training in Big Bear, are factors that will inexorably prove decisive in this fight. The most probable outcome is a fatigued Canelo succumbing to a late stoppage, between rounds nine and twelve.
Whatever the case, boxing fans can be expect to be treated to a thrilling exhibition of heart and drama this Saturday night â€“ not to mention skills of the very highest quality – and potentially, according to some, the coronation of a new pound-for-pound king.
Article by: Navi Singh
Follow Navi on Twitter at: @hombre__obscuro