By Alden Chodash, 04/09/2017, first published on Boxing News 24.
On September 16th, undefeated unified middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin faces the lineal Ring Magazine middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. GGG is best known for his fearsome 23 fight knockout streak which was finally cut short in March against Danny Jacobs in a thrilling, closely competitive middleweight title fight.
Canelo’s biggest victory came in November 2015 against then lineal middleweight champion Miguel Cotto when the younger challenger delivered a brilliant technical performance to lift the middleweight crown from the future hall of famer. With the exception of Floyd Mayweather, who handed Canelo his first and only defeat, GGG presents the biggest and most unique challenge to Canelo with his un-relenting pressure and one-punch knockout power that GGG carries from round 1 to 12.
Like most boxing super-fights, it is not easy to pick a winner, and when really pressed to pick one, many possible outcomes come to mind. While the odds slightly favor the Kazakh hero GGG, all of the following outcomes should be considered when attempting to pick a winner.
Outcome 1: Canelo by KO/TKO
How it would play out: A Canelo KO/TKO victory would serve as a defining moment for the Mexican superstar and would certainly propel him towards the top of the pound for pound rankings. While Canelo has shown respectable power at 154, the fact remains that he is moving up in weight to face a fighter whose chin remains his most reliable asset. GGG has been known to let lesser fighters hit him at will to excite his fans, and has never been hurt on the big stage. Although some may argue that GGG’s opposition has been shaky, David Lemieux’s shocking one-punch KO over sturdy journeyman Curtis Stevens proves that, at the very least, GGG has been in against some world class punchers. The fact that GGG took Lemieux and Danny Jacobs’s best firepower without showing any worse for wear says volumes about the Kazakh’s chin, which should be more than sturdy enough to be able to handle the former 154 pound champion’s best punches.
Outcome 2: Canelo by decision in a clear cut victory
How it would play out: If Canelo has the endurance and the chin to stage off GGG’s hard hitting aggression through 12, his technical superiority should be enough to carry him to a clear-cut decision. The problem with this assumption is that it isn’t based on much. While we rarely see Canelo stunned by punches (with the exception of Jose Miguel Cotto in 2010), the fact of the matter is that Canelo hasn’t been in with enough punchers to allow us to fully evaluate how well he takes punches. Since Canelo made his debut to the spotlight in 2010, the biggest puncher he’s faced is Alfredo Angulo, who was far too overmatched and past his prime to really make his punching power a factor in their 2014 bout. Canelo has shown good endurance in his biggest fights, most notably against Miguel Cotto, but his opposition doesn’t apply nearly the same amount of pressure as GGG is expected to, with his size, aggression, and uncanny ability to cut off the ring.
It’s unfair to judge Canelo’s chin and endurance off of being staggered by Jose Miguel Cotto in 2010 and fatiguing down the stretch against Austin Trout in 2013. However, it is just as unfair to assume he has the chin and the endurance to not allow the constant aggression and fierce punching power of GGG to become a factor in their 2017 mega-fight, especially when you consider that GGG has staked his claim near the top of the pound for pound rankings largely on these two attributes. While a dominant decision for Canelo can happen, there are too many uncertainties to warrant it as a safe prediction.
Outcome 3: Canelo by decision in a close fight
How it would play out: While Canelo does carry significant technical advantages into the fight, there are several reasons why this fight might end up becoming a nail-biter. As mentioned above, Canelo’s endurance and chin are both largely untested against fighters that hit as hard and apply as much pressure as GGG (to which there are very few). All it takes is either Canelo’s chin or endurance to give way to significantly reduce his chances of victory. I believe it’s safe to assume that in order for Canelo to make it the distance, he has to show that he has a world class beard to be able to handle GGG’s punches. But for this outcome to play out, Canelo would likely have to use his brilliant counter punching and other technical advantages to win most of early to middle portions of the fight. If Canelo’s endurance is less than stellar against the constantly stalking GGG, the Kazakh champion would press his advantage late in the fight, eventually trapping Canelo against the ropes and would make up for many of his missed punches in the earlier rounds. This could become dangerous for Canelo as taking too many punches from GGG is enough to break most fighters, even if they have the chin to withstand his earlier onslaught. But if Canelo has the endurance to keep his distance at least through 9, I think the young Mexican superstar has enough ring intelligence and heart to hold on and eek out a close decision victory.
Outcome 4: GGG by decision in a close fight
How it would play out: It’s easy to overlook GGG’s technical prowess amidst his tremendous punching power, but it’s there. Although Danny Jacobs almost did enough to hand GGG his first loss in March, GGG partially neutralized Jacobs’s offense with his stiff jab, defense, and unorthodox style. Additionally, GGG used his underrated technical arsenal to render then IBF middleweight champion David Lemieux completely useless in their 2015 bout, although Lemieux offered far less dimension to the table than did Jacobs. GGG’s ability to do the same against Canelo might be a tougher matter considering Canelo’s ring intellect, head movement, and counter-punching ability, but it may be enough to buy the Kazakh champion a few rounds while Canelo presses his technical advantages early.
As stated in outcome 3, GGG would still have to rely in part that Canelo fades down the stretch, which is not out of the question. If GGG can snag a few early rounds and apply enough pressure to wear out Canelo by the later rounds, he can definitely pull out a close, hard-fought victory even if he doesn’t rally to score a late stoppage.
Outcome 5: GGG by KO/TKO
How it would play out: Fans predicting a GGG knockout are doing so because of the fearsome 23 fight KO streak he compiled between 2008 and 2016, coupled with the fact that he is facing a fighter who has spent most of his career at 154 and 147. GGG is the hardest puncher Canelo has ever faced, and perhaps Golden Boy Promotions took this into consideration when they deprived the fans of the fight for 18 months.
If GGG were to knock out Canelo, it would likely be due to an accumulation of punches down the stretch. As described in outcomes 3 and 4, Canelo’s endurance in the face of GGG-type pressure is largely un-tested, and could possibly spell problems for him in the late rounds. If GGG can break down Canelo by the late rounds, he might have a chance of getting him out of there, especially if he’s able to carry his power into the late rounds. This is an area of debate for GGG; how lethal is his Kazakh thunder in the latter portions of the fight. He’s 1-1 so far in this category, scoring a late stoppage against Martin Murray while holding on to a close decision victory over Danny Jacobs while scoring an early 4th round knockdown.
Predicted Outcome: Canelo by majority decision
How I see it playing out: One of the key aspects to this fight that I believe many GGG fans are in denial about is the possibility that GGG’s best days are behind him. After scoring a career best victory over David Lemieux in 2015, we have seen GGG unspectacular in victories over former welterweight champion Kell Brook and Danny Jacobs. And while it might be true that GGG had an off-night against Brook and simply gave up too much size for his punches to have the same impact against Jacobs, it is true that Canelo is the most complete fighter GGG has faced to date.
I see the first half of the fight being controlled in the center of the ring by Canelo, who uses his counter punching ability to keep GGG from being able to fully set up his offense. GGG will have his moments, especially when he works off his long left jab, and all the while will be applying steady pressure. By the second half of the fight, Canelo will likely slow down and allow GGG to press the fight. Expect GGG to push Canelo to the ropes and do some of his best work, particularly to the body. If Canelo allows GGG to gain too much momentum in the later rounds, particularly if he allows himself to be driven to the ropes (which fans have seen him do against Liam Smith and Chavez Jr.), his chances of victory may be severely jeopardized. However, I don’t see Canelo lathering on the ropes knowing how much he has to lose as a sitting duck for GGG’s power, nor do I see him giving in too easily when GGG makes a late run for it. Hence, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a war break out late. I see Canelo putting enough rounds in the bank early to be able to compensate for some tight spots down the stretch, and coming out with the biggest victory of his career in a close, majority decision.