In the past decade, we have seen some of the most exciting sporting events. Whether it be the 2011 World Series between the Rangers and Cardinals (particularly, the David Freese game), the Seahawks not running it from the one-yard line against the Patriots, Ray Allen hitting a buzzer beater to save the Heat, or Deshaun Watson leading the Clemson Tigers down the field to beat Alabama, there has not been a lack of awesome sporting moments.
That being said, nothing beats a great championship fight in boxing. Today’s match pits Middleweight Champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in a highly anticipated title fight. First, a little background on both fighters.
Fighter Profile: Gennady Golovkin
Golovkin has acquired a completely mythical reputation by holding onto the middleweight title for eight years with knockout after knockout. His knockout rate of 89.2 percent is the highest in the history of the division. Golovkin had a streak of 23 knockouts broken in his last fight against Daniel Jacobs, a fight which he won unanimously. The Kazakh first made himself known in the 2004 Athens Olympics, taking silver to Russian Gaydarbek Gaydarbekov. No professional league existed in Kazakhstan, so Golovkin fought for years in Germany, decimating opponent after opponent. Golovkin’s fights started being aired on HBO in 2013, and he built a strong cult following. His style of stalking his opponents like a shark in water endeared him to fans who missed the days of fighters insistent of doling punishment. His rib cracking body shot to end Matthew Macklin really built his momentum.
Golovkin continued to win, with his most impressive knockouts coming against talented journeymen like Daniel Geale and David Lemieux. At this point in his career, no middleweight wanted to fight GGG, a not-too-stupid business decision. Kell Brook, a welterweight champion, moved up in weight and gave Golovkin problems, that is until GGG literally broke Brook’s face. This set up a title fight with cancer survivor Daniel Jacobs, a tall, rangy fighter that made GGG uncomfortable. While GGG did knock him down in the fourth round, Jacobs fought a solid fight and survived all 12 rounds. Many saw the fight close, but I felt Golovkin was in control throughout. The knock on GGG was that he never faced any premiere competition, that is until he was challenged by…
Fighter Profile: Canelo Alvarez
Mexico is a country rich in boxing history, and right now their premiere fighter is Canelo Alvarez. Alvarez turned pro at 15 and by age 19, he was 30-0-1 and won a WBA title, putting him on the pay-per-view undercard for Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley. Alvarez continued to take on all comers and increase his stock, knocking out Carlos Baldomir and Kermit Cintron and winning decision over Matthew Hatton and the aforementioned Mosley. Alvarez took on Austin Trout and faced some adversity, but eventually came out on top to set the 20-year-old up with a fight against pound-for-pound king Mayweather. In the biggest fight of his career, Alvarez proved to be a little too green, but still only lost by majority decision (note: the judge that score this a draw was entirely wrong as Mayweather dominated).
Alvarez recovered from his setback with a knockout over Alfredo Angulo, and then won a controversial split decision over Erislandy Lara. Lara has a very awkward fighting style and Alvarez never could find a true rhythm. Alvarez then fought brawler James Kirkland, a style matched perfectly for his counterpunching style. Kirkland came out fast and even looked like he stunned Alvarez early, but Alvarez recovered and dismantled Kirkland, knocking him into the stratosphere. He then picked Miguel Cotto apart and knocked out the pesky Amir Khan after Khan gave him early fits. Alvarez’s most recent fight was against Julio Cesar Chavez in a fight for Mexican supremacy in which Alvarez embarrassed Chavez, coasting to a victory in which he won every round. But still, Alvarez hadn’t fully endeared himself to a country that is only proud when its boxers take on the toughest challenges. Fans have wanted this fight for years, and if Alvarez waited any longer until GGG aged out (as Mayweather did with Manny Pacquiao), the Mexican fans would never respect him.
How Golovkin Can Win: Not Fall Into Canelo’s Traps
Golovkin likes to force the pressure, displaying great ring generalship and understanding angles to put the competition in uncomfortable. This falls in line with Alvarez, who doesn’t have great footwork so he likes to fight with his back against the ropes and counterpunch. Although Alvarez is the hardest puncher Golovkin has faced, he does pack enough power to put you down with one of his patented counter hooks as he did with Angulo. That being said, Golovkin has shown to have a strong chin, never being knocked down as an amateur or professional. Still, with a puncher as concise as Alvarez, GGG will want to limit open shots.
How Alvarez Can Win: Work Golovkin’s Body
It’s tough to expect Alvarez to do what Jacobs did to Golovkin, as Jacobs is such a bigger fighter. But one thing learned from that fight is that GGG stops moving forward as ferociously when he respects your power. As the smaller and shorter fighter, Alvarez is going to have to stop GGG from working inside by providing tough inside blows on his own. Alvarez needs to dictate the pace of this fight if he is to win, as Golovkin is such an active fighter when he is comfortable that it is hard to steal any rounds.
This is such a tough fight to call because as dominant as Golovkin has been, he hasn’t fought the level of competition that Alvarez has beaten. This fight pits the greatest aggressor in the sport against an all-time counterpuncher. That being said, I think Golovkin is just too much. He overwhelms with so many punches and is willing and able to take a shot or two in order to land a damaging blow. I am unsure if Alvarez has the punching power to set Golovkin off course. Still, this is a fight that could go either way. I’m taking Golovkin in a close, but unanimous decision that cements his legacy, but I foresee both fighters having their arms raised at the end of the bout thinking they’ve won. And I’ll be ready with my credit card in hand to buy the rematch.