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Though the biggest fight of the year took place a few weeks ago, the best one is happening Saturday in Las Vegas when Saul “Canelo” Alvarez battles Gennady Golovkin.
The two elite pugilists will square off at T-Mobile Arena, the same site that hosted Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor in late August. While that fight loomed large over the sport for months, this upcoming championship bout has far greater implications for boxing.
For all of his greatness, Mayweather only seems to have unretired for a payday he couldn’t refuse, while McGregor’s career boxing record may never move post 0-1. Canelo and Golovkin, meanwhile, are two middleweight monsters at the peak of their powers, and the winner will surely feel he deserves to be viewed as the pound-for-pound king.
With much to discuss, we convened our panel of experts—Lyle Fitzsimmons, Kelsey McCarson, Kevin McRae and Jonathan Snowden—to pick apart all of the talking points and predict how this superfight will pay out.
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Lyle Fitzsimmons: The closer it gets, the more I waver. I initially thought Golovkin would steamroll Canelo, but I’m far less convinced of that now. Canelo will not go down easy in this one. Nevertheless, I still think GGG lands the heavier shots over most of the rounds and does enough damage to end it in Round 10.
Kelsey McCarson: I like Alvarez in the upset. During Golovkin’s most recent fight against Daniel Jacobs, he didn’t look as virile as he has in the past, and Alvarez is a much better boxer than people seem to believe. I think the first few rounds will go Golovkin’s way, but Alvarez will be light on his feet and able to move Golovkin into his punches here and there. The middle rounds will be back and forth, and Alvarez will take the championship rounds with faster hands and more accurate punches. It will be a close fight, with some seeing it going the other way, but Alvarez will generally be credited with a clean win—the best of his career. Alvarez wins via majority decision.
Kevin McRae: Golovkin will win this fight via stoppage in Round 10. His jab is the key. It’s practically a power shot in itself, and it has put more than one guy on the seat of his pants. If he can keep pumping that punch into Canelo’s mug and set up his accumulating power shots, it’s difficult to see how the Mexican star can keep him off and avoid getting chopped down late in the fight.
Jonathan Snowden: I’ve thought long and hard about this. When two fighters are this good and this evenly matched, you have to.
GGG stalks fighters like they are prey. Canelo likes to sit back and let his opponents come to him. When these two clash, both will be in their element. With that in mind, I’ll take the stronger, heavier puncher. That’s GGG. Give me Golovkin via knockout in Round 8.
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Fitzsimmons: Like all long-anticipated matches, just seeing them in the ring together after final instructions will be a breathless moment. Couple that with a likely callout for Mayweather or McGregor afterward and you have yourself a few highlights.
McCarson: I think the first time Alvarez snaps Golovkin’s head back in the fight will be an eye-opener. Golovkin’s power is world-renowned, as it should be. But Alvarez also has heavy hands, and he places them in the right places at the right times. Golovkin won’t be able to walk forward and throw bombs to win the fight. Alvarez will force him to box honest, which will make this a tactical fight.
McRae: Canelo is a warrior, and he’s coming to fight. You get the sense that the fighting pride of Mexico has a significant chip on his shoulder after receiving heavy (but often fair) criticism for his recent opponent selections. GGG will win this fight, but Canelo will go out on his shield late in the contest, and he’ll get credit for that.
Snowden: After a brief period of feeling each other out, the two will eventually end up right in front of each other. Golovkin will throw a right hand. Canelo will attempt to duck it and pivot towards safety. Whether he can do that successfully will tell the story of this fight.
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Fitzsimmons: It might not be on the Hagler-Hearns middleweight level, but it’ll certainly be enough to make the Fight of the Year conversation. It’s hard to believe this fight won’t be compelling and thoroughly entertaining from end to end.
McCarson: It will be a good fight, but it won’t be the type of war one traditionally associates with instant classics. These are two of the best fighters in the sport. They are pound-for-pound elites who know how to set traps, lob counter attacks and use precise footwork with rhythm and balance. We will see a fun, competitive fight, but it won’t be the kind of barnstormer that Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward was.
McRae: Yes. Two fighters at the top of their games who present unique stylistic challenges the other has never seen before? That often leads to high-octane action, and this shouldn’t buck that trend. GGG is a massive power puncher who can stop you with one or an accumulation of punches. Canelo is a vicious body puncher who counters as well as anyone in the game. It’s hard to see how this won’t live up to the hype.
Snowden: What happens when an unstoppable Kazakh force of nature meets a Mexican warrior seemingly crafted out of marble? We’re about to find out. And it will be a fight people will tell their children about. It’s almost guaranteed to be everything we want it to be and what boxing needs.
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Fitzsimmons: I’m not sure he’ll actually be better than Andre Ward, Vasyl Lomachenko or Terence Crawford, but being the legit king of one of boxing’s signature divisions does warrant a certain amount of cache. As such, the winner and his camp—not to mention HBO—will bang the pound-for-pound drum.
McCarson: The winner may be able to advance in pound-for-pound rankings, but I don’t think he’ll universally be considered the best fighter in the sport. Ring Magazine, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America all list Ward at the top of their lists, which he deserves. Ward should remain pound-for-pound No. 1 no matter what happens in Canelo-GGG. His in-ring accomplishments are unparalleled.
McRae: Who knows? Listen, these things often take on a life of their own. Mythical and subjective as they are, they can never satisfy everyone. When Floyd Mayweather was an active fighter, there was no question he was the top guy. Andre Ward tops my list right now, but you could make cases for Crawford and even Lomachenko if you’d like. Personally, the winner here will likely slot in as my No. 2 behind Ward.
Snowden: If Canelo wins, he’ll assume the throne Floyd Mayweather recently abdicated as both the box office and pound-for-pound king. If Golovkin wins, it will be spun as a bigger man bullying a boxer coming up in weight.
Is that fair? Of course not. But no one who makes their living with their fists expects the world to be fair.
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Fitzsimmons: Canelo and Golovkin won’t have the cross-cultural draw that Floyd and Conor did, but this is a can’t-miss proposition with diehard fight fans. It won’t break records, but it’ll do well.
McCarson: I could see the promoters of the sport claim as much after the fight, but in reality, I think the buying pool of those interested in Canelo-GGG remained the same after Mayweather-McGregor. What made May-Mac such a huge box office success was that both fighters were household names. Neither Alvarez or Golovkin—as excellent as they are—can be considered such at this point. Who knows? After this bout, perhaps one of them will be.
McRae: If it does, that’ll be a real shame, but there probably will be some hangover effect. The MayGregor event exceeded expectations for a fight featuring one of the best boxers of all time and a novice, but the quality of the fight itself wasn’t very high and likely didn’t convert many new fans. Canelo-GGG is the kind of fight that you show to non-boxing fans and tell them to get a load of this. This is a real fight.
Snowden: I don’t think it will. If anything, the spectacle of that “fight” seemed to energize the combat sports community. It will be a good appetizer for people wanting to see some good old-fashioned fisticuffs. The people who don’t actually like fighting weren’t going to buy GGG vs. Canelo anyway.
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Fitzsimmons: Assuming Canelo loses respectably, he can easily call for a rematch. If not, he’s still a huge pay-per-view draw with plenty of willing dance partners. Don’t be surprised if he rings up McGregor or returns to his 154-pound neighborhood for a high-profile date with the likes of Manny Pacquiao.
McCarson: Alvarez will defend his middleweight titles against someone like Danny Jacobs or David Lemieux. Both are tough, solid professionals who could pose a legitimate challenge to Alvarez on any given Saturday night. Both are easy sells to HBO and would make for good, entertaining fights. Alvarez would be tremendously popular if he defeats Golovkin, so HBO would likely want to milk that cow for all it’s worth in an effort to turn him into the next Floyd Mayweather.
McRae: This is a tough question. If Canelo loses but doesn’t get wiped out, there should be little lasting impact on his star power. Mexican fight fans are the forgiving sort, especially when their guy wins or loses like a warrior. Assuming Canelo loses, he will get back into the ring early next year against stablemate David Lemieux before pursuing a GGG rematch to close out 2018.
Snowden: Canelo has a rematch clause in his contract. If the fight is respectable and the two men put on the show we think they will, they’ll run it back next May.
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Fitzsimmons: GGG has always wanted all of the belts, so there’s a chance he’ll call Billy Joe Saunders to get that WBO trinket under wraps. Hopefully, though, he’ll feel the urge to push himself to another weight… perhaps Gilberto Ramirez at 168 or—gasp!—Ward at 175.
McCarson: I think Golovkin retires after this fight. He’s 35 years old and had a great run as one of the better middleweights in recent history. He’s made money fighting on HBO, and he seems like the kind of guy who would walk away with his body and mind still intact rather than slumming the contender ranks after falling out of his prime years.
McRae: A lot less hate. Much of the boxing community has adored GGG since he burst on the scene, but a large segment still can’t wait to see him get exposed. This win will solidify his position with those last holdouts, even if it’s done grudgingly. GGG will try his best to get Saunders off Twitter and into the ring for a complete middleweight unification early next year.
Snowden: What’s next for GGG? Validity. A victory over Canelo will mean everything we’ve been sold on HBO for five years was true, and he’s one of the greatest middleweights ever to step into a boxing ring. The discussion turns to ranking him historically. This is a fight that means everything for him, which is why I expect him to win.