2017 has been a good year for fights in the sport. Klitschko vs Joshua, Ward vs Kovalev II, Thurman vs Garcia, Spence Jr vs Brook, to name just a few. A lot of big names have been active, Mikey Garcia, Badou Jack, Gervonta Davis, Jorge Linares, Terence Crawford, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Deontay Wilder, Vasyl Lomachenko and even Floyd Mayweather all laced up their gloves and stepped inside the ring this year. None of these fights compare to what’s about to happen on Saturday.
After years of speculation, hoping and even a little bit of praying from boxing fans across the world the fight between Mexican superstar, Canelo Álvarez, and Kazakhstan’s hard hitting, Gennady Golovkin, was finally confirmed. On May 6th, after he dominated Julio César Chávez Jr for 12 straight rounds Canelo invited Golovkin, accompanied by his trainer Abel Sanchez and promoter Tom Loeffler, into the ring to let the world know that they had reached a deal and would be fighting each other on September 16th.
For those who are new to the sport of boxing and don’t know much, if anything, about the fighters I’m going to write about their careers so far as well as their styles, so you can familiarise yourself with them before the bout takes place on Saturday.
Canelo Álvarez 49-1-1
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1990, Canelo is the youngest of 8 children, all 6 of his brothers were also professional boxers, including former interim WBA World Light Middleweight Champion, Rigoberto Álvarez. Though Canelo had been practicing his boxing in front of his house with his friends and neighbours since he was 10 years old it wasn’t until after watching Rigoberto’s professional debut 3 years later that he joined a proper boxing gym, and was coached. When Canelo was 14 he won a silver medal at the Junior Mexican National championships, only to better that feat a year later when he returned to the competition in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico, and this time walked away with the prestigious gold medal.
The only problem for Canelo during his amateur career was finding junior fighters willing to square up against him, after he won the Junior Mexican National championships at the tender age of 15 his trainer, Chepo Reynoso, recommended Álvarez turn professional in order to secure more bouts. Subsequently his amateur career finished with an impressive record of 44-2.
Canelo took to the professional fight game like a fish to water, knocking out 11 of his first 13 opponents, he did however have his 5th fight be ruled a split decision draw, the only draw of his career so far. In his third fight Canelo fought future IBF Lightweight champion Miguel Vázquez and won via SD, the two met again for a rematch in the June of 2008 where the now experienced Canelo won by UD. History was made that night when all 7 of the Álvarez brothers fought on that card, 4 winning and 3 losing.
Fight fans outside of Mexico really started to take notice of Canelo in 2010 after he knocked out Brian Camechis in a punch-perfect performance to retain his NABF Welterweight title on the 6th of March. He later agreed a deal that would have him fight in the main undercard bout for the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Shane Mosley PPV fight in May 2010, against José Cotto. Canelo dispatched Cotto in impressive fashion with the referee having to step in and stop the fight in the 9th round.
After the Cotto fight Canelo decided it was time to move up in weight class, so he left the Welterweight division (147lbs) and came up to Light Middleweight/Super Welterweight (154lbs) where he fought in his first bout for the vacant WBC Silver Light Middleweight title, he defeated Luciano Cuello via TKO in the 9th round. His next two fights came against Carlos Baldomir and Lovemore N’dou both of which were for his WBC Silver Light Middleweight title, both of whom he beat. Canelo proved his worth in the Staples Centre, Los Angeles, when he convincingly knocked out Baldomir in their fight. Next challenge for the prolific Mexican would be to travel to Anaheim, California, to face the EBU Welterweight champion, Matthew Hatton, for the vacant WBC Light Middleweight title, Canelo dominated from the first bell landing almost 50% of the 626 punches he threw, although he was docked a point by the referee for hitting after the break Álvarez still managed to win the fight by UD with all 3 judges cards scoring 119-108.
Canelo spent the next 18 months defending his WBC Light Middleweight title 5 times against 5 veteran boxers, including legendary Shane Mosley, who was 19 years the senior of his opponent. Mosley lost via UD to the baby faced 21 year old Álvarez. Shane formally retired after this fight (though he did return to the ring for his comeback 13 months later). In early 2013 Canelo once again defended his WBC Light Middleweight title, this time against Austin Trout. However not only was Canelo’s WBC Light Middleweight title on the line, Trout’s WBA Super Welterweight title and the vacant The Ring Magazine Light Middleweight title were also up for grabs for the winner. Álvarez defeated Trout via UD, making him the Unified Light Middleweight champion of the world.
The biggest challenge of the then 23 year old’s career was facing a fighter most people bill as the greatest defensive boxer of all time, a man who some people stretch far enough to call the greatest boxer ever, of course this is Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather Jr. The fight took place on the 14th of September 2013, at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Coming into the fight Canelo was ranked by The Ring Magazine as the #1 Light Middleweight fighter in the world, as well as holding the WBC and WBA Light Middleweight belts, Floyd was ranked by The Ring Magazine as the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world, as well as being the WBA Super Welterweight champion, WBC and The Ring Magazine Welterweight champion. The vacant Lineal Light Middleweight title was also on the line for this fight. The fighters both came in with similar records, Mayweather boasting a perfect 44-0-0 during his 15 years as a pro, and Álvarez also having an excellent ring record of 42-0-1 in the 8 short years of his career.
In the lead up to the bout a lot of analysts thought this would be Mayweather’s toughest opponent to date, that was clearly not the case when the first bell rang. Mayweather outclassed and outboxed the young Mexican from start to finish, turning Álvarez from a powerful counter puncher into a fighter who had to come forward and generate his own offence. Though that was the expected tactics from the Mayweather camp Floyd performed at an extremely high level defensively, optimising his “make ’em miss and make ’em pay” style. He used his ring generalship and fight IQ to his advantage, slipping Canelo’s jab with his shoulder-rolls and now-iconic defensive stance, pivoting out of danger and landing a right hook to either the body or the head. Canelo threw 294 jabs and landed only 44, that’s 15%, compared to Mayweather throwing 330 and landing 139, which is a much more respectable 42%. Álvarez lost the fight via MD, the decision was heavily criticised by analysts across the world, most thought Mayweather won by a clear margin, the judge who scored the bout a draw retired from judging boxing after the fight. In this fight Álvarez lost his WBA, WBC, and The Ring Magazine light Middleweight titles.
In March 2014 he beat Alfredo Angulo via TKO in the 10th round, Canelo then fought 4 months later against American, Erislandy Lara who he beat via SD. He knocked out James Kirkland in quick fashion, dropping Kirkland with a straight right in the 1st round, from then on it was Canelo’s fight winning early in the 3rd round. In 2015 Canelo matched up against Miguel Cotto, brother of Jose Cotto who Canelo fought and beat back in 2010, the fight against Miguel was for The Ring Magazine, the lineal and for the vacant WBC Middleweight titles, all of which Canelo picked up when he beat Cotto via UD.
Amir Khan was the next challenger for Álvarez’s titles, he came across from England to the T-Mobile Arena, Nevada to show his worth. Khan surprised many fans by starting quickly and landing clean shots on Canelo, winning the first 2 rounds Khan had a lot of momentum and confidence stem from that, he kept his distance well whilst still actively throwing shots. In Round 6 the knockout of the year was secured by Canelo, a bone-shattering right hand sent Khan slamming to the floor, the referee stopped the fight straight away. Álvarez retained his WBC, The Ring Magazine, and lineal Middleweight titles. Next Canelo fought against another Brit, this time it was against the WBO Middleweight champion, Liam Smith. The fight didn’t start at an electric pace, both fighters took the first few rounds to figure out their opponent’s game plan, though Álvarez did the more meaningful work of the early rounds. Canelo dropped Smith in both the 7th and the 8th round before finally landing an extremely well-placed left hook to the body of Smith, who couldn’t return to his feet to beat the 10 count, Canelo won in the 9th round via TKO.
Álvarez most recent fight came against the son of legendary Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chávez, who is widely regarded as one of the best boxers of all time, the same can’t be said for his son, Julio César Chávez Jr. Whilst Chávez Jr is a good fighter he has struggled with his dedication to the sport throughout his career, trained by his uncles who didn’t value the discipline it takes to be a world champion in the sport of boxing, he missed weight often and didn’t train hard enough to beat some of his opponents. He did however switch trainers from his uncles to the excellent trainer Freddie Roach as well as training under Ignacio Beristáin. In his fight against Canelo, Chávez Jr looked drained and tired from the opening bell, the weight cut may have taken the energy away from him, Canelo realised this and put on an a boxing exhibition, landing whatever he chose to throw, with little resistance offered from Chávez Jr the bout was won 120-108 on all three judges scorecards, a complete shut out.
Gennady Golovkin 37-0-0
Born in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, in 1982. Karaganda is an industrial city in the centre of Kazakhstan, it’s known for it’s coal mines and it’s military base, meaning there’s usually only two jobs people in the city undertook, they either joined the military or went to work down the mines. When senior Sky Sports journalist, James Dielhenn, asked if everyone raised in Karaganda was tough? Golovkin replied “Yes, absolutely.” “I like the people of Karaganda. People are smart, they are true people – not fake”. Much like Alvarez it was Gennady’s older brothers, Vadim and Sergey, who got him and his twin brother, Max, into the sport of boxing. Gennady grew up with older brothers who tried to show him not to be scared of anyone, often they would pick fights for him with grown men and tell him to go fight. The older brothers encouraged the twins to learn the sport as a means of self defence when they were both 8, when Gennady and Max were 9 Vadim and Sergey both joined the Soviet Army in order to support their financially struggling family. In 1990 the Golovkin family were informed their son Vadim had been killed in conflict, 4 years later in 1994 the family went through the pain once again when they were told their other deployed son, Sergey, had also died in action.
Gennady, now the eldest son in the family, took his fighting skills to amateur boxing tournaments across Eastern Europe with his 15 minutes younger brother, Max. Gennady has said on numerous occasions that he felt Max was a superior boxer to him. In 2000 Gennady won the Junior World Championships in Budapest, Hungary as a Light Welterweight. In 2002 he won the Asian Games in Busan, South Korea as a Light Middleweight, on the back of this performance he secured a spot on the Olympic Solidarity program in the November of 2002 to prepare him for potentially representing Kazakhstan at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. In 2003 he won the World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand as a Middleweight. Max was also a member of the Olympic squad that was preparing to go to Athens and fight, but the Kazakhstani Olympic committee told the Golovkin family they would only need one Middleweight fighter it was down to the parents to decide which one of the twins would go, and which one would stay and have to get a job at home. The parents came to the decision that since Gennady was older he would be the one to go, both the brothers accepted this verdict from their parents, Gennady went to Athens and won a Silver medal in the Middleweight divison.
Golovkin stayed amateur throughout the rest of 2004 and even into late 2005, where he competed in the World Championships only to lose in a huge upset to Mohamed Hikal of Egypt. GGG ended his illustrious amateur career with a mesmerising record of 345 wins and only 5 losses. Golovkin signed his first professional contract in late 2005 with Universum Box-Promotion and made his debut in the May of 2006. He spent his first 12 months as a professional fighting 8 times and knocking out all 8 of his opponents. Though Gennady was winning, and winning convincingly the big name fights and the title fights weren’t becoming available to him.
Gennady began growing tired with his promoters in 2009, his record was 14-0, 11 of those wins coming via knockout, he felt he deserved an opportunity to fight meaningful fighters, his wish was not met. He fought 4 times during 2009, dispatching all of his opponents by knocking them out. In his 17th bout, in July 2009 he fought against John Anderson Carvalho for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental Middleweight and knocked him out.
In January 2010 GGG parted ways with Universum Box-Promotion and sought after a new promotion to work for. Golovkin’s Manager, Oleg Hermann rang Abel Sanchez in Big Bear Lake, California and asked if he would be interested in meeting Gennady, he said “sure”. With tapes of footage from some of his fights, Gennady’s team arrived in California and met with Sanchez, for hours that day they dissected the tapes, commenting on them, critiquing them, and developing a rapport between fighter and potential new coach. That day Sanchez said Golovkin was “90 percent complete”, Gennady still had gyms to look around across the west coast but he knew he liked this one. 2 months later Sanchez got a call asking if he could pick up GGG from the airport, he wanted to train under Sanchez, at his gym in Big Bear, California.
Golovkin signed a contract with K2 Promotions. Under the leadership of Abel Sanchez Golovkin developed his ‘Mexican’ style of fighting that he’s now known for, before he trained under Abel, GGG, was a counter puncher who waited for his opponents to make a mistake before he capitalised with his excellent knock out power. His first fight as a K2 Promotions fighter was against Milton Nunez for the WBA interim Middleweight title in Panama City, Panama. The fight didn’t last too long, 58 seconds it took Golovkin to knock out Nunez, the quickest victory of Gennady’s professional career. In 2011, Golovkin knocked out Nilson Julio Tapia and then Kassim Ouma in successive fights where he was defending his WBA Middleweight title. In his next fight Golovkin stopped veteran Lajuan Simon to once again defend his WBA Middleweight title, as well as winning the vacant IBO middleweight title.
2012 was the year Golovkin finally broke America, he fought hard-hitting Polish southpaw Grzegorz Proksa, Golovkin was making his debut on HBO and certainly impressed by dropping Proksa three times before the fight was stopped in the fifth round. Golovkin fought 4 times in 2013, 3 times in America and once again venturing to Panama City, Panama where he fought Nobuhiro Ishida of Japan, Golovkin’s overhand right in the third round crumpled Ishida leaving helpless on the canvas forcing the referee to put an end to the fight immediately. In 2014 he had two more fights defending his WBA and IBO Middleweight titles against Osumanu Adama and Daniel Geale and beating them both via TKO in the 7th and 3rd respectively. Gennady was now 30-0 and really making a name for himself across America, he agreed a deal that would see him fight Mexican knock out specialist, Marco Antonio Rubio on the 18th of October at StubHub Centre, California, this was GGG’s first fight on the west coast and it was for his WBA and IBO Middleweight titles and the WBC interim Middleweight title. Rubio failed to make weight and due to this was sloppy and clearly ill-prepared, Golovkin took full advantage and knocked out Rubio in the 2nd round. This was Gennady’s 12 consecutive defence of his Middleweight title, tying Marvin Hagler and Felix Sturm for 3rd most in Middleweight history .
He fought 3 time in 2015, Martin Murray who withstood GGG’s power all the way until the 11th round onslaught, Willie Monroe Jr was next for the undefeated Kazakh fighter, the fight was stopped in the 6th round. In his last fight of 2015 Golovkin fought Lemieux in Madison Square Garden, New York, a stadium he’d only dreamed of fighting inside, this fight was for Golovkin’s WBA, IBO, and WBC interim Middleweight titles, as well as Lemieux’s IBF Middleweight title. The fight was won by Golovkin in the 8th round via TKO, unifying his WBA, IBO, and WBC interim Middleweight titles with Lemieux’s IBF title. Gennady landed 51% of his 549 punches thrown, landing well with the jab as well as hooks to the body.
His next two fights were in 2016, one in Inglewood, California, against Dominic Wade for all of Golovkin’s belts, he put on a punch perfect performance and dispatched Wade early in the 2nd round via KO. Next in store for Gennady was a trip over the pond to The 02 Arena in London, England to fight undefeated British IBF Welterweight champion Kell ‘Special K’ Brook. Brook’s legs buckled early in the 1st round but he recovered and managed to land clean combinations, in the 2nd round Brook suffered a broken eye socket and during the next 3 rounds Brook was surviving rather than attacking his opponent, his corner threw the towel in 5th round to protect their fighter from his own courage. Next in store for Golovkin was what some people thought would be his toughest fight so far in his professional career against Daniel Jacobs (32–1), once again Gennady’s WBA, WBC, IBF and IBO Middleweight titles were on the line. In front of a full house of nearly 20,000 people the fighters went toe to toe and the fight went all 12 rounds, the first time in his career that Golovkin had gone all 12 rounds, it also ended Golovkin’s impressive 23-fight knockout streak dating back to 2008, GGG won by unanimous decision.
Style makes fights, and these two fighter’s styles leave us very excited for this matchup. Golovkin is a “walk you down” Mexican style fighter, biting down on his gum shield and standing straight in front of fighters, this is a style that is extremely popular with fight fans, everyone likes to see punches be traded by brave fighters, this personifies Mexican style boxing. Canelo’s style is a lot smoother, one that’s pleasing to boxing “purists”, with his excellent footwork, killer hooks and devastating uppercuts Canelo avoids a lot of damage that his opponents try to inflict on him, and the name of the game is to hit and not be hit. With Gennady walking him down will Canelo be able to manoeuvre on the rope as he usually likes to? Will Canelo’s footwork and counter punching stifle Gennady’s forward momentum enough to land a clean body shot? Personally I think the bout will be won by Canelo Alvarez, I think Gennady will take a knee, the first 8 count of his career, from a devastating liver shot from Alvarez, his body shots may prove to be too much for GGG on the night and I think he’ll win via points.
Whatever happens in this fight will be historic, this is the fight of the decade and has the potential to even overtake Gatti vs Ward 1 as the fight of the 21st Century in my books.
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