The biggest fight of 2018 will take place Saturday night in Las Vegas. It is the long-awaited rematch between Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin (Triple G) and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez for the unified and undisputed middleweight championship of the world. Golovkin and Alvarez fought one year ago in the most-hyped bout of 2017. I remember it well: my son got married that night, on an island in a northern lake that miraculously had satellite television coverage. He and I, along with quite a few other wedding guests, slipped away late at night to watch the fight.
Golovkin, the defending champion, was robbed. It was an excellent fight, but GGG won handily. One judge, however, scored the bout a draw while another, who apparently was watching another fight altogether, or else had the boxers mixed up, scored it heavily for Alvarez. So the fight was judged a draw.
That scenario obviously set up a rematch, which was scheduled for last May. But Alvarez failed a drug test and was suspended for six months. Now the long-awaited Glolovkin-Alvarez II is upon us.
I like both fighters a lot. Golovkin goes into the rematch 38-0-1, with 34 knockouts. The draw one year ago is the only flaw in his record. Alvarez is 49-1-2 with 34 KOs. His only defeat came at the hands of Floyd Mayweather. Golovkin has been, for some years, the monster of the middleweight division. A ferocious puncher, GGG doesn’t seem to mind getting hit. He is generally willing to take a punch in order to deliver one in return. Alvarez, too, is aggressive although he hasn’t shown Golovkin’s punching power over the course of his career.
Both fighters have pretty typical backgrounds for the sport. GGG grew up in a tough mining town in Kazakhstan, while Canelo–undoubtedly the most popular person in Mexico–has been fighting professionally since he was 14. There are few if any records of his early years in the ring. (Canelo, by the way, is Spanish for cinnamon. Alvarez, unusually for a Mexican, has red hair.)
The most salient difference between the boxers may be their ages. Golovkin is 36–not ancient by today’s standards, by any means. But his power has slipped in the last couple of years, and he hasn’t been quite his old devastating self. Alvarez is 28 and at his athletic peak. GGG is my favorite fighter, but I predicted Canelo to win last year because I thought Golovkin’s skills were starting to decline.
This time? Who knows? Golovkin was the better fighter one year ago, and perhaps he still is today. He was in training for the Alvarez rematch when Alvarez was disqualified, so he took a fight against a lesser opponent and scored a second-round knockout. So maybe the old power is still there.
A week out, GGG is a slight betting favorite. I hope the gamblers are right. Here are some highlights of the first fight:
You can watch Saturday night on HBO PPV. This is one of the few sports events that I genuinely wouldn’t miss.