Monday, June 18, 2018  |


Canelo Alvarez facing do-or-die moment in Golovkin fight

Photo by Tom Hogan - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions

No matter how Canelo Alvarez tries to downplay it, Saturday’s showdown at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with Gennady Golovkin is the most important fight of his boxing career.

“I’ve been in big fights before,” Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 knockouts) said during the grand arrivals on Tuesday. “Obviously this is very important and I’ve prepared like I’ve never prepared to look for the knockout. I’m prepared to answer a lot of questions on Saturday night.”

Although he is correct that he has been in big fights, there is a weight on this particular fight unlike any other. This isn’t Floyd Mayweather and it won’t be considered a “learning experience” if he doesn’t have his hand raised in victory. And considering the time it took for this fight to come together, the burden to be victorious has become greater than ever before.

Simply put, Canelo Alvarez cannot afford to lose to Gennady Golovkin.

Every fighter will tell you that their next fight is the most important. That’s what they are supposed to do in order to not pile on the pressure that already comes with the fight. That’s the media’s job.

“Every fight I risk everything,” Canelo said when asked if this was a do-or-die situation. But this is unlike any other fight.

Of course, there was Mayweather. But nobody really expected him to win considering that he was relatively inexperienced against elite competition. That loss was forgivable. But it taught Canelo everything that he needed to know about the business of boxing. And, in this case, the business of becoming boxing’s next superstar. Canelo would proceed to win his next seven fights with Golden Boy deploying a very specific strategy that balanced recognizable names with solid (but not overly dangerous) competition.

He outskilled James Kirkland and Liam Smith, outsized Miguel Cotto and Amir Khan, gutted it out against Erislandy Lara and bookended those fights with a pair of national-pride bouts against Alfredo Angulo and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. where he entrenched himself as the Mexican superstar who is worthy of carrying his country on his broad shoulders.

The fight with the unbeaten Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) was looming, and although he desperately wanted to silence the critics, Oscar De La Hoya had a plan that his red-headed fighter needed to adhere to. Yes, his machismo would be called into question as Golovkin dispatched of opponent after opponent, but Canelo needed to mature as a fighter against a series of opponents that gave him different looks.

Say what you want about the idea that De La Hoya waited for Golovkin to age and show cracks in his armor, but this was as much about building Canelo for this moment as it was waiting for GGG to slow down. But the risk only has a payoff if there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The past few years have been full of fight fans labeling Canelo as “scared” to face Golovkin. And the pressure to make the fight surely was a factor in finalizing the date because there was nobody left for Canelo that would satisfy fight fans. This wasn’t as painstakingly long as Mayweather-Pacquiao but it certainly struck a nerve with fans as each fight went by with nothing more than a tease.

But, we’re here now.

“I can assure you that I will do my part and I will do my best to give you all a beautiful fight,” Canelo said. “The most important thing for me is victory. I always prepare myself to give the best. I want this for my people, my team, for my country. And that’s what I’m going to do this Saturday. I’m going to go in there and win the fight. I prepared myself for the knockout. Look, anything can happen in this fight. But that’s what I’ve prepared for — to knock him out.”

Oscar De La Hoya told that the winner of this fight should undoubtedly be considered the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. While he may be right, what they are really fighting for is the right to become the sport’s biggest star. And there is more pressure on Canelo than there is on GGG. Not to say that Golovkin can afford to lose, but he’s on the back end of his career and doesn’t have many years left. With Canelo being only 27, he has the potential to carry the sport for many years. And with that comes the possibility of being the sport’s biggest money fighter for many years. That also is accompanied by the responsibility of carrying the sport into the mainstream.

Everything goes up in smoke if Canelo loses to GGG in devastating fashion. Granted, losing a close fight wouldn’t completely ruin that opportunity. But being stopped by a fighter that many said he was scared to challenge would deal a mighty blow to his future.

For the hardcore boxing fan, a loss is forgivable. But casual fans are the ones who decide the difference between a blockbuster film or one that is critically acclaimed but a box office failure. In order for them to keep spending money, that fighter needs to win and possess qualities that are appealing to the masses. And losing a fight is simply not appealing to the casual fan.

It’s an unfortunate reality that is the difference between stars and superstars. With Floyd Mayweather gone, Canelo can become the sport’s next superstar.

This is do or die. This is the most important fight of his boxing career. Everything is on the line.

Canelo said that all of the questions will be answered on Saturday night. But the most important one is whether or not Saul “Canelo” Alvarez will be the one to carry boxing into the new era.