By Donavan Leonard, first uploaded on Boxing News 24.
The marinating is truly almost over. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) are only days away from facing off in the ring. It will not be a dog-and-pony show to talk about a future fight. It will not be a wrestling-type promo to introduce the fight.
It will not be for filming a commercial in “good-old-days” garb. On September 16th, they will finally meet head-to-head in a boxing match, where their respective styles promise to result in intense pugilistic action–perhaps even a “big drama show”. Neither has shown a propensity to engage in “stick and move” or “negating” styles of fights, so there is a true feeling that this battle will be special. The classic stalker, Golovkin, versus the slick yet powerful counterpuncher, Alvarez. The winner could very well stake a claim as the face of boxing in the United States, the best fighter pound-for-pound in the world, and even gain a multitude of belts and titles (lineal included). When the fight is concluded and the winner’s hand is raised, there are plenty of reasons to expect GGG to be that man.
Golovkin is the bigger man. The adage goes “a good big man beats a good little man”, and that is more often true than not. Going back to the reign of Bernard Hopkins, “good little men” repeatedly failed to take his crown. Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, John David Jackson, Simon Brown among others were skillful smaller fighters who could not climb the mountain of size. Meldrick Taylor, talented as he was, proved too small for Terry Norris in his attempt to add a super welterweight title to his collection. Donald Curry and Marlon Starling vs Michael Nunn (middleweight), Ike Quartey vs Fernando Vargas (junior middleweight), and Shane Mosley vs. Winky Wright (junior middleweight) are a few more examples of good fighters who were not better than their good, bigger counterparts. It is probably true that Canelo will weigh a couple of pounds more than Golovkin on fight night, but Golovkin is taller, (5’10” vs 5’9″), and although they both have 70″ listed as their reach, Golovkin appears to have longer arms. He holds the advantage in distance from the armpit to the end of the fist (24″ to 23″). Canelo has a massive chest, which would equate to slightly shorter arms.
Golovkin has the better jab. This is a perfect complement to his longer arm reach. Golovkin has shown a thumping jab in the past versus David Lemieux and Daniel Jacobs, perhaps his best two opponents to date. The Lemieux fight showed that he can control the distance against a short, squat, strong opponent (who happens to be the same size as Alvarez), with the result being a late knockout. The jab not only kept Lemieux off-balance, the damaging effects enabled GGG to set up even harder power punches later in the bout. Against Jacobs, the strength of his jab enabled Golovkin to “touch” an opponent who was trying to stay out of range, fight off his back foot, and looking to counter. Though his claim to fame was his power, the jab was the tool that won the bout versus Jacobs. He out-landed him 105 to 31 with that destructive, eye-catching punch, while Jacobs held the slight edge in power shots, 144 to 126. The huge disparity in the clearer-to-see and crisp jabs gave him the edge in a closer than expected bout. The swelling over Jacobs’ left eye was a testament that Golovkin’s jab is much more than a range finder. It is a viable weapon that can be used to weaken the opponent. GGG’s jab will enable him to either control the distance against Alvarez, or touch him up if he stays out of range.
Golovkin has more power than Alvarez has felt in the paid ranks. Alvarez is a very good fighter who has shown both exceptional defense and a sturdy chin. He has not been visibly shaken since his bout with Jose Cotto in 2010. He has also not faced a fighter with the sheer brute power of Golovkin. His most difficult bouts have been against Mayweather, Lara, Austin Trout, and Miguel Cotto. This is an excellent group of fighters, but they have only displayed serviceable power at junior middleweight. The impact of their punches cannot be seriously measured versus what Golovkin can administer. Canelo will not be an easy target, but he will be hit. When it happens, not only will it inflict more damage than Canelo has previously felt, but it will also force him to make one of two decisions going forward. He will have to decide whether he wants to continue to stay in range and risk incurring punishment from incoming fire, or to try his hand at keeping in the middle of the ring, using movement to keep GGG from landing on him squarely. Either scenario seems to lead to a loss for Canelo. If he stays in range, his fate could mirror that of Edwin Rosario at the hands of Julio Cesar Chavez…a merciless pounding. If he tries to stay away, he risks the same fate as Miguel Cotto versus Antonio Margarito. Cotto was not born to stick, move, and box for twelve rounds. Neither is Alvarez. As the jab continues to inflict damage upon him and his lack of foot-speed betrays him, Canelo will once again be in GGG’s wheelhouse, but minus the energy he expended trying to stay away from Golovkin. For Canelo, the choice is clearly the frying pan…or the fire.
Golovkin has already defeated a better opponent than Alvarez. The win over Jacobs represented a win over an opponent widely considered to be the second-best in the division. Jacobs had the physical tools required to beat GGG. He is taller (6’0″), with a longer reach (73″, 24.5″). He is quicker with better foot-speed. He also seemed to have a weight advantage, as although he skipped the official IBF second-day weigh-in (when Golovkin weighed 169.6), Jacobs estimated that he weighed about 178 on fight night. However, Golovkin controlled him with the jab on the way to his decision victory. Canelo may have more famous names on his resume, but it is doubtful that any of them would have been competitive with Jacobs, let alone defeat him. Floyd Mayweather, Austin Trout, Erislandy Lara, Shane Mosley, Cotto, Amir Khan….not even one would be favored over the much larger Jacobs.
That does not mean this will not be a competitive fight. If Alvarez is a step down from Jacobs, it is only slightly. His skill, speed, counter-punching and upper body movement will give GGG fits. He will even have his moments. However, based on the physical matchup and regardless of the fight strategy that Canelo will employ, this is a fight that Golovkin should win convincingly. The boxer from Kazakhstan who felt he was largely ignored by his first promoter Universum, will finally get the acknowledgement that he belongs among the top tier of fighters today.