By Peter Lim
Only a year has passed since their first fight so, short of one or both fighter growing old overnight, it will be the same two fighters squaring off in the rematch. But while they might not have changed physically as fighters since their first encounter, Gennady Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs) and Saul "Canelo" Alvarev (49-1-2, 34 KOs) will undoubtedly have altered their game plans as neither secured the victory the first time around.
Two minor things have changed, though, since they fought last September. First, their emotional mindsets. Both fighters entered the ring last year without any ill-feeling towards each other a year ago. That's no longer the case.
Golovkin has been vocal about his disdain for Canelo's attempted use of of clenbuterol that resulted in the postponement of the rematch originally scheduled in May. Canelo's supposed attempt to cheat, Golovkin said, disrespected him, and more importantly, the sport as a whole. Canelo claims his two positive tests for the performance-enhancing drug was a result of eating tainted beef and resents Golovkin's accusation of cheating.
Second is the rust factor. While Canelo has been inactive for a year as he sat out his suspension, Golovkin has had one fight during that interim. But Golovkin's two-round blowout of Vanes Martirosyan wasn't much of a rust remover.
The overriding factor that will determine how the Canelo-Triple G rematch will play out remains what each fighter has learned from their first encounter and what tweaks, tuneups or overhauls they have made to their battle plans, and only they and their closest inner circles know what that is. But a good way to speculate on their revised game plans is to look at what each fighter did right and wrong in the first fight.
What Golovkin did right
Establish the jab: When Golovkin pumped his jab, often in doubles and triples, it was spot on. And it wasn't one of those cutesy, pity-pat or range-finder jabs; it was a thudding, head-jolting jab that could inflict damage by itself.
Command respect: Golovkin quickly made it evident who was the harder hitter when the two planted their feet and traded punches. He visibly rocked Canelo while easily absorbing Canelo's best shots when the two went mano-a-mano which forced Canelo to uncharacteristically go into retreat mode. Golovkin is blessed with the ability to fire mind-numbing power punches with either fist from any distance or angle and he used it early and often to gain Cenelo's respect.
Cut off the ring: Except for Danny Jacobs, Golovkin has been able to turn troublesome movers into stationary targets, and he again proved that propensity with Canelo. Canelo rarely allows his opponents to impose their their will on him but against Golovkin, he found himself covering up with his back against the ropes on numerous occasions. But Golovkin didn't fully capitalize on those occasions, which will be further discussed below on what he did wrong.
What Golovkin did wrong
Lack of consistency and intensity: Much of what Golovkin did wrong was not doing enough of what he did right. By taking his foot off the accelerator, Golovkin allowed Canelo to seize momentum and dictate the tempo of much of the fight.
Golovkin's piston jab couldn't miss Canelo's face but there were stretches in the fight where it was almost absent. Plus, he often deployed the jab as an end to itself rather than use it to set up power punches.
Although he got the better of the exchanges, Golovkin seemed content to let Canelo off the hook, letting him reset rather than chasing him down to further engage. When he rocked Canelo with a clean power shot, he would often step back to admire his work instead of following through with subsequent punches.
Abandoning his body attack: It was baffling that Golovkin's devastating body punching that came second nature to him in his previous fights was almost non-existent. It was as if he was deliberately suppressing that killer instinct to pulverize Canelo's ribcage.
What Canelo did right
Exercise restraint and adapt: Once Canelo realized he couldn't stand toe-to-toe with the harder-hitting Kazakh, he activated plans B, C and D. He utilized his ring savvy and counter-punching ability against a stronger man much like Mayweather did against him and Spinks against Holmes in their first fight.
Circle and ambush: Canelo proved versatile enough to fight effectively in retreat mode. By abruptly changing directions, he was sporadically able to lure Golovkin in and stop him in his tracks with combinations before spinning away.
Punches in bunches: While Canelo couldn't match Golovkin in power punch for punch, he made up for it by sneaking in multi-punch combinations that forced Golovkin to reset and reload.
What Canelo did wrong
Get caught on the ropes: Had Golovkin unleashed his entire Arsenal of savagery instead of exercising caution while Canelo was pinned against the ropes, the outcome would undoubtedly be different. Canelo can consider himself lucky that something was holding Golovkin back that night.
Allowing Golovkin to get off first: Canelo might have been able to get away with taking a punch in order to return fire with a vengeance against previous opponents, but he would be ill advised to do that against such a vicious puncher like Golovkin. Even Golovkin's jab shook Canelo when it landed clean.
Sparse body punching: Like Golovkin, Canelo failed to live up to his full body-punching potential in the first fight. He worked the body sparingly at best, half-heartedly at worst.
How the rematch will unfold
Will Golovkin and Canelo merely attempt to magnify what worked for them in the first fight and minimize what didn't or will there be a major overhaul? Having absorbed Canelo's best shots quite easily in the first encounter, will Golovkin throw caution to the wind and let his fists fly with reckless abandon? Will Canelo attempt something risky like turning southpaw occasionally to throw Golovkin off like Danny Jacobs did?
The biggest and most intriguing question, though is what happens if one or both decides to switch their body punching mode to overdrive? Both are murderous body punchers and, while their chins have been sufficiently tested in the past, neither has really tasted their own bitter medicine to the torso.
See prediction for Canelo vs. Triple G II at: http://peterliminator.blogspot.com/