Over the next few weeks, Boxing Social’s Luke G. Williams will be running the rule over an octet of fighters aiming to topple Saul ‘Canelo’ Álvarez. Today he examines what might happen if the Mexican was to meet Kazakh arch-rival Gennady Golovkin for a third time…
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s dominant performance at super-middleweight against Callum Smith in December has left the boxing world pondering whether any man alive between 160lbs and 175lbs has the capability to topple the Mexican master craftsman.
Few expect Avni Yildirim – Canelo’s WBC mandatory challenger and next opponent – to be the man to depose him.
But how might other top contenders from middleweight to light-heavyweight fare against the phenomenon from Guadalajara?
Gennady Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KOs)
GGG is thirsting for another crack at the man who many believe he bested in their controversial first showdown in September 2017 – a contest that was ruled a draw, although most ringside observers felt Golovkin did enough to win.
A rematch between the duo in 2018 edged in Canelo’s direction via a majority decision, with one drawn scorecard overruled by razor thin 115-113 verdicts in the Mexican’s favour.
Since that night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, GGG has shown visible signs of decay and skills erosion. Although he dispatched the limited Steve Rolls easily enough in June 2019, he barely squeaked past Sergiy Derevyanchenko in October the same year and was then absent for the ring for over 12 months.
On his return last month, he dispatched the unbeaten but overmatched Polish boxer Kamil Szeremeta in seven rounds – probably about twice the time he would have taken in his pomp.
What chance – then – a GGG victory if these bitter rivals meet again?
Truth be told, Golovkin’s chances recede with every day that passes, as his reflexes and reactions inexorably slow. Even if he was to face Canelo this year he will have most likely passed his 39th birthday by the time they get in the ring.
A further factor in Canelo’s favour is weight. The Mexican has made it clear that a third match against GGG will only take place at super-middleweight, a division Golovkin has never fought in but Canelo has grown and settled into. The Kazakh has never been a big middleweight and at 168lbs he would be at risk of being physically overpowered and overwhelmed by Canelo.
Right now, GGG probably still has enough in the tank to give Canelo a stern argument. With his ferocity and volume punching he is always going to be in with a chance of banking some rounds against an opponent whose punch output is far lower and more selective.
The statistics from the duo’s first two showdowns back this point up. According to Compubox, in their first fight GGG threw 703 punches compared to Canelo’s 505 (outlanding him 218 to 169), while the Kazakh threw 879 in the rematch compared to Canelo’s 622 (connecting with 234 compared to Canelo’s 202). Tellingly, the Mexican had a slight edge in power punches landed in both fights (114-110 and 143-116).
Worryingly for Golovkin, in his later fight against the far inferior Derevyanchenko, his Ukrainian opponent was able to land both more punches (230) and more power shots (183) than Canelo managed in either showdown – clear evidence of GGG’s defensive decline and increasing inability to avoid punishment.
All things considered, the precision and power of Canelo would surely be the decisive factor if the two men fought again.
Ominously for GGG, the 30-year-old Mexican standout is also talking a good fight, having told The Ring this week, with more than a hint of malice: “I feel good right now, I feel strong. I feel like I’m at my peak and I continue working hard. If a [Golovkin] fight happens a third time, I feel so good that I could I most likely knock him out and do some serious damage.”
Prediction: Canelo by clear and uncontroversial decision if the fight happens in 2021. Canelo by late stoppage if the fight takes place in 2022 or later.
Main image: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA.