By John J. Raspanti
They were friends once. Sparred with each other. The older fighter tried to help the younger. From all the reports, they got along well.
That was seven years ago. Now they’re like a couple going through a nasty divorce. Insults and accusations are bandied back and forth.
Canelo Alvarez, who fights Gennady Golovkin for the second time Sept. 15, at the T-Mobile Arena on Las Vegas, NV, recently said this about his opponent in an email blog presented by HBO Championship Boxing.
“It’s definitely more personal now. “Álvarez said. I really don’t like him [Golovkin]. It’s personal, and I take it that way. It will make me train harder and give it the extra push to knock him out on September 15.”
Oh, the knockout. Alvarez has been talking about ‘that’ a lot lately. Reminds me of a few years ago when Manny Pacquiao was preparing to fight Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time. Pacquiao had edged Marquez twice on the scorecards. Their other fight had been ruled a draw. Marquez complained loudly about the decisions. I could see his point, but to me, some of it sounded like sour grapes. Everyone and his brother were talking knockout, including Pacquiao, and trainer Freddie Roach.
“We’re going to take it out of the judges’ hands,” they said.
Problem was it was Marquez who knocked out Pacquiao.
All this knockout talk has to be music to Gennady Golovkin’s ears. Alvarez can punch, but Golovkin packs dynamite. Just ask any of his 34 knockout victims. His hands are heavy. Alvarez is more boxer-puncher. He uses the ring. Golovkin says he runs. Not true. Alvarez is quick. He’s improved greatly since the two sparred seven years ago.
Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs) has never lost a professional fight, been knocked down, or tasted his own blood. He fights like a calculating assassin. He’s been matched brilliantly during his long career. He captured the WBA middleweight championship in 2010 by defeating Nilson Julio Tapia.
In 2013, he brutalized Gabriel Rosado, knocked the stuffing out of Nobuhiro Ishida, and stopped Matthew Macklin with a wicked body shot. Pretty good fighters for sure, but not in the top five in the world.
After beating Curtis Stevens, Golovkin faced his toughest test to date, former champion Daniel Geale. It took Golovkin eight minutes to put him away.
The Golovkin train rolled through Marco Antonio Rubio, Martin Murray, Willie Monroe Jr., David Lemieux, and Domnic Wade. Golokin appeared bored at times, dicing up his victims like a chef in a sushi restaurant.
Two years ago, he traveled to England to face then-welterweight champion, Kell Brook. He took some shots, appeared sluggish, but still managed to stop Brook in five rounds.
Next up was WBA champion Daniel Jacobs. The fight was a tight one. Golovkin floored Jacobs but was outboxed at times and ate punches. Golovkin won the fight by unanimous decision though many thought Jacobs deserved the nod.
His last two fights raised some questions. Was he overrated? Did he struggle because Brook and Jacobs were more talented fighters? Was the then 35-year-old Golovkin getting old?
No matter. His next fight would be against Mexican superstar Alvarez, whose lone loss was to the best fighter of his generation, Floyd “Money” Mayweather. He’s been boxing since he was 15. Alvarez won a world title in 2011 by defeating Matthew Hatton. The red-haired golden boy’s biggest victories were over then-undefeated Austin Trout, and talented Erisnady Lara.
His promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, likely chewed off all his fingernails during the Lara match. Still, Alvarez got the win, though some felt he was given an early Christmas present. Twenty-fifteen was a good year for Alvarez. In May, he met the hard-punching James Kirkland in Texas. No one expected a dance. They expected a fight, and got it.
Kirkland came out swinging--pushing the favored Alvarez into the ropes. A minute later, Alvarez staggered the onrushing Kirkland with a stinging right hand. A right hook sent Kirkland toppling to the canvas. Kirkland beat the count and fought back.
As Kirkland regrouped, Alvarez unleashed a full arsenal of shots. By rounds end, Kirkland was woozy, wandering back to his corner like a patron at a bar who needed some air.
Kirkland, showing guts, was back in Alvarez’s grill in round three, but his punches weren’t bothering the champion. As Kirkland marched toward him, a short Alvarez uppercut sent him to his knees. Kirkland beat the count again, but the end was near. Kirkland seemed to sense it.
As he languished on the ropes, Alvarez feinted a right to the gut but aimed his punch at Kirkland’s chin. The blow landed perfectly--spinning Kirkland like a top and depositing him on his back. The referee took one look at the prone Kirkland and waved off the contest.
Alvarez used the same move to knock out former welterweight champion Amir Khan a year later. Khan toppled to the floor like a corpse. Alvarez next stopped Liam Smith with a pretty body shot, and decisioned Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a ridiculous fight.
Ridiculous or not, it set up a showdown with undisputed champion Golovkin to go down last year in Las Vegas.
Some have complained about the first fight, but to me, it was intense, competitive, and close.
Alvarez started fast, boxing his way to an early lead. He was obviously the quicker fighter. Surprisingly, Golovkin, the aggressor the entire evening, looked nervous and tentative in the early going. He didn’t find himself until near the end of the third round. Alvarez found success to the body, while Golovkin stuck out his jab on a consistent basis.
Golovkin was in full stalk mode in the middle rounds. He pressured Alvarez relentlessly. Golovkin landed a big right in round six, but ate a counter hook. He popped Alvarez with jabs and hooks. Golovkin appeared to be in control until Alvarez dug deep and found his second wind. He rattled Golovkin with a solid right hook in round 10. He was fighting like a man who sensed he was behind on the scorecards. Alvarez connected with a sweet lead right to the head and left hook to the gut in round 11. Golovkin stopped him in his tracks with his own hook.
Round 12 featured more pugilistic intensity. Alvarez tagged Golovkin with a sharp uppercut. He scored with a combination. Golovkin fired back, landing a number of shots.
Judge Don Trella scored the fight 114-114, and Dave Moretti had it 115-113 for Golovkin - the same as maxboxing.com
Even a 115-113 tally for Alvarez seems somewhat reasonable, based on how close some of the rounds were.
The 118-110 score for Alvarez, submitted by veteran Las Vegas judge Adailade Byrd, drew catcalls and howls from the fans in attendance and watching around the world. How she could “see” Alvarez winning 10 out of the 12 rounds is unfathomable.
The fight was just another example of boxing shooting itself in the foot. Let’s take the most anticipated fight in the last couple of years and spoil it. A sequel had to happen, even if Byrd’s hideous judging had ruined it.
Terms for rematch were agreed upon last January. Both fighters were deep into to their training camps. “Sin City,” site of the first fight, would host the rematch.
Then, two months before the second fight, came the announcement heard around the boxing world. Alvarez had tested positive for the banned drug clenbuterol, which builds stamina and performance. Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions blamed meat contamination for the dirty test. A few weeks later(,) Alvarez was suspended for six months. By then he had already pulled out of the fight.
Golovkin ridiculed him.
"Again with Mexican meat? Come on," Golovkin said in an article by Dan Rafael of ESPN. "I told you, it’s not Mexican meat. This is Canelo. This is his team. This is his promotion. Canelo is cheating.”
Alvarez’s six-month suspension gave both sides enough time to secure a new date. Alvarez would be free by August—hence Sept.15 was chosen.
It has been said that money is the root of all evil. Or greed. Or both. Golovkin had originally agreed to a 65-35 split, but changed his mind. 50-50 was what he wanted. Golden Boy head honcho Oscar De La Hoya openly scoffed at Golovkin’s demand. I mean, the nerve. Your fighter, (Alvarez), causes the delay, and you want more money.
De la Hoya said the fight was off. Which of course, it wasn’t. Golden Boy issued a take it or leave offer to Golovkin: 57 ½ percent for Alvarez and 42 ½ for Golovkin. Golovkin said ’see ’ya.’
De La Hoya was growing frustrated.
"We want the fight, Tom Loeffler wants the fight," said De La Hoya. "Clearly the only person here who doesn’t want the fight is GGG. The fans want the fight. We bent over backward. We’ve come up and there’s no budge from him so there’s no fight."
Not true. Both sides were still talking. A few hours later, Golden Boy blinked. Golovkin would receive a split he could live with.
So after all the posturing, name-calling, and stalling, the rematch was on. Golovkin went ahead and fought on May 5, dispatching Vanes Martirosyan, a blown-up welterweight, in two rounds.
On the other hand, Alvarez was seething. He was tired of the insults and accusations being thrown at him by Golovkin and his trainer, Abel Sanchez.
"The little respect I had for [Golovkin] was lost,” said Alvarez. “He crossed the line with so much of what they said, this will help me get everything out in the fight.”
Golovkin has continued to be contemptuous of Alvarez.
“Canelo, he is not a champion,” said Golovkin after an open workout last week. “He is a liar who has no respect for the sport of boxing or its fans. I want to stay world champion and bring all my belts home.”
Will he bring his belts home? Some things appear pretty certain. Alvarez is in his physical prime, while Golovkin is a year older. Alvarez is the faster fighter--while Golovkin was able to control the middle rounds of the first fight with his jab. Golovkin has to get aggressive sooner in the rematch. He can’t let Alvarez get off to a lead. Alvarez will need to stay active more consistently to win in a clearer way. Motivation won’t be a problem for the redhead. But stamina might be.
I’m expecting more combustion in the second fight. I can even see a knockdown. In my mind, Golovkin won the first fight. Will it be Alvarez this time?
It’s a toss-up. Let’s just hope the outcome is without doubt, which can happen, if that word “knockout” occurs. It seems that’s what both fighters want.