By Cliff Rold
The talking is over.
At least for now.
Thank God for that.
After the long wait for the first fight, and now another (less) long wait after Saul Alvarez failed a PED test on the way to the rematch, is this the end? Have we reached the final page in the Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin rivalry?
Much could depend on what happens in the ring on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 PM EST). A Golovkin win in a close fight, after the debated draw in the first, wouldn’t change the pecking order of stars. Alvarez remains the biggest draw in North America. A close loss could eventually yield a third fight.
An Alvarez win might preclude a third chapter. Golovkin isn’t getting any younger and Alvarez might not be in a hurry to see him again, especially after the contentious build to the third. Often, pre-fight histrionics don’t play out as post-fight animosity. This one feels like some real bad blood.
And what happens if, at the end of twelve, we again don’t have a winner? That’s not a possibility anyone wants.
The world wants a winner, without controversy.
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: Lineal World Middleweight (2015-Present, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBC Super Welterweight (2011-13, 6 Defenses); WBA/Ring Jr. Middleweight (2013); WBC Middleweight (2015-16, 1 Defense); TBRB Middleweight (2015-17); WBO Jr. Middleweight (2016-17); Ring World Middleweight (2015-18, 2 Defenses)
Weight: 159 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Record: 49-1-2, 34 KO?
Record in Major Title Fights: 10-1-1, 6 KO
Last Five Opponents: 181-9-2 (.943)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Miguel Vazquez SD4, UD10; Carlos Baldomir KO6; Lovemore N’dou UD12; Kermit Cintron TKO5; Shane Mosley UD12; Austin Trout UD12; Floyd Mayweather L12; Erislandy Lara SD12; Miguel Cotto UD12; Amir Khan KO6; Liam Smith KO9; Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. UD12; Gennady Golovkin D12
Title: WBA “super” middleweight (2010-Present, 19 Defenses); WBC middleweight (2014-Present, 7 Defenses)
Previous Titles: IBF middleweight (2015-18, 4 Defenses)
Height: 5’10 ½
Weight: 159 ¾ lbs.
Hails from: Los Angeles, California (Hails from Kazakhstan)?
Record: 38-0-1, 34 KO
Press Rankings: #1 (BoxingScene, TBRB, Ring, ESPN, Boxing Monthly, BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 19-0-1, 18 KO (20-0-1, 19 KO including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 171-5-2 (.966)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Kasim Ouma TKO10; Daniel Geale TKO3; David Lemieux TKO8; Kell Brook TKO5; Daniel Jacobs UD12 (Jacobs was the sub-WBA champion); Saul Alvarez D12
The Case for Alvarez: After being accused of ducking Golovkin in the delay for the first fight, Alvarez has now signed up for two fights. The first, even though many felt he’d lost, was still a solid night for him. Put aside the horrendous Adelaide Byrd score that cast a shadow over the fight. It was tight, competitive, and Alvarez started and finished strong. Punch stats can be misleading, but the CompuBox scores the first time show how close many rounds were. Alvarez was outlanded, and threw less, but the numbers are more glaring in total than round by round. This time, Alvarez has to do more to assert himself in the middle of the fight. When Golovkin got on track, his physicality gave the appearance of him imposing his will. Alvarez needs to counter smart, and more often, without being reckless. Time is on his side. Alvarez has moved deeper into what should be his physical prime. Golovkin has moved a little farther away. Alvarez has to be the one controlling the pace, move his hands more, and look to make the energy of youth matter.
The Case for Golovkin: Golovkin has to get started with more urgency this time and he has to close the show. He also needs to go to the body more. One of the most devastating body punchers of his generation did a little more head hunting than was his norm in the first fight. Did the moment get to him a bit? Was he looking to do more than win on his biggest stage? If either of those was the case, if the pressure of the spotlight was a little new to him, it will be less so this time. Golovkin still has a heavy jab; using it to vary his attack more will only help. Golovkin learned the first time that he can’t roll over Alvarez but he could still outfight and outbox him for long stretches. After a long career, he needs to summon the best effort he has to close not only this show but cap his era in the middleweight division.
The Pick: Both fighters should be confident based on their performances the first time. Alvarez knows that the boogeyman many declared he was afraid to fight he managed to fight just fine. Golovkin has seen what Alvarez brings and can know he missed some of the little things in the first fight that got him where he was. If Golovkin does go to the body more, he could open himself up to counters. If Alvarez throws more, he opens himself up period to a still devastating puncher. Alvarez looked angry on Friday at the weigh-in and while usually that doesn’t mean anything one wonders if all the controversy of the last year is under his skin. For a long time, this corner was leaning towards Alvarez to win this one but at the end of the day the feeling is Golovkin is still close enough to his prime to put together a complete performance. He’s just a little better fighter than Alvarez and that will matter. This time, Golovkin gets to the body more, fights with a greater sense of urgency, and earns the decision he probably should have had the first time. The pick is Golovkin.
Rold Picks 2018: 30-12
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]