Canelo vs Golovkin III: chronicle of a meaningless match

Still the great boxing on DAZN on Saturday night, yet another eagerly awaited match after the double challenge between Usyk and Joshua in the Maximums. This time it was a question of closing a trilogy that has divided and enthralled the world of noble art, the one between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. They challenged each other for the third time, the first in the Super Middleweight category, after the two matches in 2017 and 2018 which had instead decided who should go to the Middleweight belts. A very pushy match, heavily sponsored by DAZN and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom, and it ended as everyone thought it would end: with a fairly easy victory by the Mexican, the 32-year-old from Guadalajara. He took it against his old rival, clearly struggling against an enemy that no one in the sport has ever really been able to defeat: time. Triple G (this is Golovkin’s battle name) collects a clear defeat for the first time in his career, due to his 40 years, far too many even for an athlete of 2022, even for him. Five years ago for many he had easily won the first match, created the basis for a draw in the second. But last night a simple question finally emerged: did this match really have to be played?

Boxing is full of trilogies, the backbone of those rivalries that are the soul of boxing, a contrast between styles and souls. Muhammad Ali and Frazier is still considered the most important today, and then Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran, Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe or Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward. Other times, another boxing different from the current one, made up of calculations and managerial strategy, no more than boxers broken at every pitfall and eager to put themselves to the test. No sir, not Saul Canelo Alvarez, the goose that lays the golden eggs of a boxing that is experiencing a moment of very serious crisis, precisely because the best are often avoided, there are too many federations and too many belts, too many weight categories. MMA has now reached and surpassed boxing in popularity, because there the best are forced to face each other, there is competition, continuous improvement, and above all only one master called Dana White. Boxing, on the other hand, has too many who can boast the title of champion, managers and promoters who try to preserve the unbeaten run of their protégés. Of all this, good or bad, Canelo was also a symbol without fault, even more so after last night.

Etienne Laurent EPA-EFE Shutterstock

Before the match which is worth the WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF super middleweight belts, Gabriel Rosado, Jesse Rodriguez, Diego Pacheco, Marc Castro, Austin Williams clash in the ring… small courses that precede the big pot. And the big pot speaks of a sincere and authentic rivalry, between a boxer of enormous success and popularity but also discussed and controversial, and another often avoided but able to revive the boxing of the gladiators of the past. Canelo enters with mariachis, Mexican flags, especially with the need to regain prestige. Triple G looking for the last glory. Canelo has won belts in welterweight, super welterweight, middleweight, super middleweight, and even light heavyweight. He had been caught for doping but had paid with a three-month disqualification, to then return to cherish the fame of invincible, phenomenon, the Tyson or Chavez of our times. Only Floyd Mayweather Jr had beaten him soundly, at the same age in which Triple G tried to undermine his reign as unified super middleweight champion: 40 years. But it was another Canelo, the one of today is a boxer who paradoxically took from Floyd Mayweather Jr. in part boxing style but above all accuracy in deciding who to fight against and why. He’s never wrong… well almost never.

In 2015 he had given up the belt in order not to face Triple G, at the time essentially a tank that no one could stop, he had waited two years and then he had been saved by a generous equal in the first challenge. In the second he had improved his boxing, offered a top-level performance which however perhaps wasn’t enough, at least in the eyes of the observers, but not in those of the judges who had awarded him a narrow victory. From that moment Canelo won against Jacobs, Fielding, Smith, Plant, Saunders, Yildrim, Kovalev, he became the symbol of boxing, strengthened by an agreement with DAZN he was able to restore enthusiasm in the public. Triple G, on the other hand, had gone towards an inevitable decline, he had won by the skin of his teeth with Derevyanchenko, then in April of this year he had defeated the valiant Japanese Murata in a spectacular battle. But just in that match it had become clear that time had caught up with him, he no longer had the speed, the resistance, the reflexes to beat someone like Canelo. The Mexican proved it in this third match by making use of his speed, mobility, freshness, his jab and left hook right from the first round.

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Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

The Golovkin of five years ago would have pushed him to the limits, he never suffered this but tactically he didn’t have the weapons to respond. Only in the final did the old warrior roar again but it was too late. If he retired now it would be better for him and his legacy, that of an extraordinary boxer who in his best years was avoided by half the world, the best pure middleweight since the times of the great Hagler. Now he is the sacrificial victim to save Canelo’s career and marketability, in a match that actually didn’t make the slightest sense competitively speaking. On 7 May, the myth of the Mexican’s invincibility had been totally shattered by another gladiator who came from the East, Dimitry Bivol, together with the Dagestani Beterbiev, the king of light heavyweights. Mike Tyson, who adores Canelo, predicted an easy victory like everyone else against Bivol. Instead, Canelo had been substantially dominated by it in a shocking way. Too smaller, too limited in footwork, too slow. A soliloquy in spite of the always generous cards against the Mexican: defeat by 7 to 5, instead of the real 9 to 3. But the myth had been shattered, he had lost the bet, his storytelling had been reduced.

Canelo has been accused of avoiding opponents like Charlo, Andrade, and first of all another Mexican, another big man like Jose Benavidez. “A cherry picking gone bad” commented the great Roy Jones Jr speaking of the defeat against Bivol “he thought it was less dangerous than Red flag”. Canelo had not admitted the defeat with Bivol, he had spoken of a bad state of form, of bad luck. A few hours before going against the perfect prey, he effectively gave up on the rematch with the Russian, to collect another fortune against his old rival, now the proud shadow of what he was. Triple G systematically used his armored jab but only occasionally managed to double with his famous right, to make his power count. Time defeated him even before the Mexican’s class, despite everything a great boxer, not very great, that’s how he’s sold. The ending is marked by mutual respect. The reality is that the two have always respected each other, it couldn’t have been otherwise after three high-level matches, especially the first two. Yesterday evening, however, the match was blocked, often monotonous and without history.

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DAZN

However, Canelo now has to deal with what to do in his future. Who will he fight against? But above all, will he fight? Or will he retire before time and wear get the better of him too? Going to the light heavyweight maybe against a beast like Beterbiev would be suicide and he could never win against Bivol. In super middleweight he has faced and beaten almost everyone, but the previously mentioned names offer him more trouble than advantages. Certainly last night however, he didn’t bring the opponent into the ring that was needed to renew his myth of him, he sought the more profitable but also easier path. However, boxing cannot ask only Canelo Alvarez to carry on the movement, not a boxer who for better or worse takes calculated risks and thrives on a clear excessive power that always makes him start with a clear advantage in terms of bookings. From this point of view, the match between the two English children of the same family, Eubank Jr and Benn Jr, but above all between Crawford and Spence, two other boxing kings, could be the right occasion to find other cornerstones, other protagonists for the mainstream storytelling. In all of this, Triple G came out to applause yesterday, he lost, he knew he couldn’t win but he never took a step back, he never did in his life. Honor to him.

Canelo vs Golovkin III: chronicle of a meaningless match