By Tris Dixon
TIME and again in the sport you hear the twenty-first century boxing phrase of a fight being left to ‘marinate’.
The word choice is something Noble Art fans have rightly become wary and sceptical of.
Yet on September 16 in Las Vegas the perfect ingredients – with the recipe for a legitimate mega-fight to stand alongside the others in the rich tapestry of boxing history – will be added to the pot at the perfect time as middleweights Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez are, finally, allowed to come to the boil together at the T-Mobile Arena.
Golovkin might have been at his absolute sharpest a year or two ago, but back then he may have been out of reach for Alvarez, who at the same time could have been considered too green and not fully-fledged at the weight.
Now, as things stand, you can make a case for Golovkin being on a gradual decline and ‘Canelo’ at his best, which makes the timing immaculate. That is not said to discredit Alvarez, merely a look along the respective form-lines.
A couple of years ago, when the boxing world began to buzz about the possibility of the Mexican redhead and the Kazakh brute meeting, you would have been hard pushed to have found an even split of experts picking the younger man to win. It is not so difficult today.
You would have either had to go out of your way to make a case for ‘Canelo’ or been a staunch supporter. But the right amount of ‘marinate’ has seen this develop into a first-class attraction and fight.
It has simmered. It is now ready to come to the boil. And everyone is ready to see it.
There were times when it felt it would never materialise, that the two leading fighters from 154 to 160 inclusive would not fight. We were teased with it, felt it was right there, then it was further away then ever. Then it was dead and buried, resurrected and here we are.
Former junior-middleweight champion Alvarez, 27 and 49-1-1, has filled out physically, grown psychologically, matured and seems to be hitting something of a peak.
During that development, 37-0 Golovkin – who seemed unstoppable a couple of years ago – was pushed to the absolute wire by Danny Jacobs in March, looked far from invincible against welterweight champion Kell Brook last year and he turned 35 in April.
The scales seemed to have balanced perfectly.
That is not always the case.
Some fights are left to ‘marinate’ for too long and end up producing something quite stale. Think Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao, even though that may have been destined to be more dull than many hoped whenever it happened. Worse still, while the marinade is working its magic, one fighter trips up and we do not see the fight at all. If we do, the lustre is lost. Remember when Zab Judah slipped to Carlos Baldomir but still fought Mayweather? Or when Top Rank were building Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa into a super-clash with a then-wonderful potential blend of power, speed, ambition and explosiveness. We did not see that one at all, in the end, after Lopez came unstuck against Orlando Salido. It may have been around this time that ‘marinate’ became a go-to word for promoter Bob Arum.
Still, momentum had been lost. The fight never happened. Fans missed out.
With the aforementioned Pacquiao-Mayweather, financially the time was clearly right when they eventually met. Both made record-setting numbers, but fans felt short-changed with the stars of the show several years removed from their best. As an event, the time might have been spot on. As a truly meaningful fight, it had gone beyond its sell by date due to the Filipino’s form.
One is not particularly fond of the word, or the meaning behind ‘marinate’ in boxing. Too often it is a cover word for dodging, ducking, politics or any other number of excuses you could care to mention for the fights we want or need not happening.
It is better, certainly less frustrating, for the sport to use successful fights and fighters as infomercials to build longer feuds, with rematches, trilogies and multiple contests. It has been several years since boxing’s most recent great rivalries took place, since Juan Manuel Marquez bluntly knocked out Pacquiao (2012) or Rafael Marquez wrapped up his four-fight series against Israel Vazquez (2010).
But in this case, the promoters and the fighters have timed it just right. There is even time for a second fight. Or a third.
The time is now and in a month the dust will be settling on the most real big fight that can be made in boxing. The world cannot wait any longer. The result will hang in the balance until a winning hand is raised. And that is just the right amount of ‘marinate.’