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Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin: A dozen questions

15
Sep

Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin is intriguing in part because there are so many questions going into the fight, which takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.

Here are a dozen of them.

 1. What did the Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs fight tell us?

Those who are picking Canelo to win seem to point to the GGG-Jacobs fight to support their opinion. They say Golovkin, taken 12 rounds for the first time, showed significant vulnerability for the first time. Jacobs lost a decision but took Golovkin’s power and was able to land his own punches. GGG, they declared, must be slipping or was never as good as billed. The other camp suggests that Golovkin simply was up against a very good fighter who was much bigger than him at fight time, meaning a tough fight should’ve been no surprise. And, remember, Golovkin won. He also could benefit from the experience of going 12 rounds; now he knows what it feels like. And, cynics suggest, GGG’s performance against Jacobs might’ve convinced Canelo and Co. that the time was right to fight the Kazakhstani.

2. What role will size play in the fight?

Conventional wisdom says that Canelo walks around at a heavier weight than Golovkin, one reason Canelo was criticized for waiting to fight GGG. Many will say that neither fighter has a size advantage. Others will say “hogwash.” Golovkin has fought as a full-fledged middleweight his entire 11-year career, which means he is accustomed to fighting 160-pounders. Canelo isn’t, which some will argue is a distinct disadvantage. The only fight he has had against a bigger man was his most-recent bout, in which he shut out a walking-dead opponent in Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at 164.5-pound catchweight. How Canelo handles Golovkin’s strength – and his power – could play a significant role in how the fight plays out.

3. Will Golovkin’s age be a factor?

One perception from the GGG-Jacobs fight is that Golovkin might be feeling his age, 35. He hasn’t taken much punishment in a career in which he has dominated one opponent after another; he seems to be as fresh as any 30-something boxer. At the same time, he has been boxing for almost three decades. He had a reported 350 amateur bouts. He has had 37 professional bouts. And, of course, there is the countless hours he has spent in the gym – including taxing sparring sessions – over the years. That has to have taken some sort of toll on Golovkin. If he isn’t beginning the inevitable decline, logic says, that probably will happen soon.

4. Will Golovkin have to hurt Canelo to win?

More and more observers seem to think that Canelo has become a better boxer than Golovkin, particularly in terms of his defense. The Mexican isn’t easy to hit cleanly. If that’s accurate – and it’s a big IF given GGG’s abilities – Canelo will be difficult to outpoint if he can avoid Golovkin’s biggest punches. Thus, it’s reasonable to wonder whether Golovkin will have to hurt Canelo to gain the advantage he needs to win. And, obviously, that could happen. Golovkin stopped 23 consecutive opponents for a reason; he’s able to land hard punches and they do significant damage. Whether Canelo can take them could determine the winner.

5. Can Canelo take GGG’s best shot?

An image that sticks in the mind is a left hook from Jose Cotto (Miguel’s older brother) that rocked a 19-year-old Canelo in the opening round of their 2010 fight. We’ve seen Canelo hurt, which makes us wonder what will happen if Golovkin – one of the biggest punchers in recent years – lands flush. Canelo was a relative baby when he fought Cotto as a small junior middleweight, still developing physically. And remember: He survived the punch, stayed on his feet and went on to knock out Cotto. That said a lot about Canelo at the time. And now he’s bigger, stronger, more mature, more experienced and better defensively.

6. Can Canelo hurt Golovkin?

Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, said any fighter can be hurt if he is hit with the right punch. At the same time, he pointed to Canelo’s victory over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at a catchweight of 164.5 pounds as evidence that Canelo might not have exceptional punching power at 160 pounds. Canelo landed dozens of hard, accurate punches of all sorts but couldn’t hurt the bigger man. Sanchez might have a point. Or perhaps there were other factors. The one thing Chavez seems to have inherited from his father is a great chin. And a fighter bent on surviving rather than fighing, as Chavez was, is difficult to hit with the big shots necessary to take him out. We’ll probably get a better idea of how hard Canelo punches on Saturday night.

7. How much has Canelo progressed as a boxer?

The experts seem to think that Canelo has improved significantly in terms of his boxing skills. He doesn’t have quick feet but he’s good at positioning, times his counters well and is an elusive target. That was evident against Miguel Cotto in November 2015, when Canelo won a clear decision. And his development seemed to be on display in his fights since Cotto, against Amir Khan, Liam Smith and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. The key word is “seemed.” Canelo looked sharp in those fights but can we draw a conclusion based on the opposition? Khan was too small, Smith was too limited and Chavez was akin to zombie. Canelo looked good against them. How he looks against Golovkin will tell us a lot more about his growth as a technician.

8. What if Canelo wins?

If Canelo wins – particularly if it’s a clear victory – he solidifies his place as the biggest attraction in boxing and one of the very best in the sport. He silences critics who accused him of being afraid of Golovkin. And, in terms of his legacy, he’d join the ranks of Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales and other great Mexican fighters. And is immediate future looks brighter than ever. If the fight is entertaining, a rematch makes a lot of sense given the money it stands to generate. Canelo might not fight Golovkin again immediately, though. A big-money rematch with Miguel Cotto could happen in May. Then he could face Golovkin in a rematch in September 2018.

9. What if Canelo loses?

The impact of a loss would depend on how he loses. A close, entertaining fight wouldn’t damage Canelo a great deal. And because he has a rematch clause, he could demand a second shot at Golovkin. A one-sided loss – particularly if it’s a brutal knockout – would be damaging. The fans forgave him for losing badly to Floyd Mayweather Jr. because of the opponent. They probably wouldn’t be as forgiving if he lost another superfight, which would lead many to conclude: “Can’t win the big fights.” He’s Canelo, though. He has built a strong fan based that isn’t likely to abandon him even after a bad loss. He’d likely remain as marketable as any fighter.

10. What if Golovkin wins?

A victory would validate what so many have believed about Golovkin for so long, that he is one of the best fighters of his generation. Golovkin has had a remarkable career, punctuated with the 23 consecutive knockouts. He has beaten only one A-level opponent, though. And he barely got past Daniel Jacobs. That’s why a victory over Canelo would mean so much to his legacy. And because of the rematch clause, he’d probably fight Canelo a second time. A victory in that fight would make him a legend. This is why Golovkin has coveted this fight for so long; he knows exactly what a victory would do for both his image and bank account.

11 What if Golovkin loses?

That could be devastating. A close loss might not be crippling, especially if he gets a rematch and wins the second fight. A one-sided or knockout loss could mark the end of Golovkin as a marquee fighter. He has a strong resume – all the title fights, the 23 consecutive knockouts, the triumph over Jacobs. He’ll probably be a first-ballot hall of famer. But a bad loss to Canelo would be an enormous black mark, as he will have fallen short in his one and perhaps only superfight. Some would say that Canelo simply caught him at the right time, when he was beginning to decline. Others would suggest that he was overrated all along.

12 What if the fight is a dud?

Not going to happen.