In their first fight, in 2017, the judges scored a draw despite most observers seeing a clear Golovkin victory. The second a year later was a much closer affair, but the announced Canelo win was still seen by many as extremely fortunate for the Mexican. After that fight, Golovkin went on to win the one middleweight belt he hadn’t previously held, the IBF, in a close fight against Sergey Derevyanchenko, framed by two wins against overmatched opponents either side. After that he went on a 16-month hiatus before returning against Ryota Murata earlier this year.
Canelo in the meantime went on a triumphant tour of the super-middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions. There’s been some criticism about the level of his opponents in that stretch, but almost all of them were challenges for legitimate belt-holders of one order or another, and he showed an increasing polish and control of his skills as he went on. Then he took on Dmitry Bivol back in May, and that polish tarnished somewhat as he found himself outboxed and on the end of a shock loss.
So no, this wasn’t meant to be a comeback fight. One could call it arrogant that Canelo had already agreed to this fight before getting into the ring with Bivol, apparently anticipating a cruise to victory before rounding the year off with a victory lap against an opponent he thinks he’s beaten twice already. Even if that wasn’t the case, it blew up on him, and he’ll be determined not to hit a two-fight skid. Golovkin, meanwhile, will be looking to roll back the years for perhaps one last time as his career winds towards its inevitable close.
It is, in large part, those years on Golovkin that make it hard to really nail down how both fighters are going to approach this. Under normal circumstances- as in their first two fights- a portion of the battle would be about him pushing the pace and Canelo using all the tricks in his toolkit to slow down and manage that tempo. The problem with adopting that plan this time around is that, in his last fight in April, Golovkin took his time to get going against Ryota Murata (a man nowhere near in Canelo’s class and coming off a three-year layoff). In his prime, the Kazakh’s game was all about working behind one of the best jabs in the sport, using it to set up the rest of his game. Last time, the jab was still world class, but in the early rounds he really struggled to connect that with his follow-up punches. That left a pause for Murata to step in and get to work with his own combos, and while he broke his opponent down eventually on that occasion… well, Canelo is not Murata.
The Mexican star is not going to sit in the pocket and let Golovkin unload counters to the body without defending them. Nor is he going to over-commit and blow his gas tank chasing an early knockout, being one of the most patient boxers in the sport today in that regard. He’s quite happy to spot an opening to finish the fight and then spend three more rounds just making sure he can be absolutely sure it’ll get the job done, so he isn’t going to be baited into over-extending himself by Golovkin. Instead, if the older man does struggle to make that connection between his jab and the rest, he’ll work in that pause, but briefly, and then escape. And Canelo is still probably the best current fighter at getting work done behind his opponent’s jab, so GGG can’t step off and rely on just that punch to win the fight.
Is there some hope in lessons taken from Canelo’s shock loss to Bivol? Well, maybe, but it’s hard to get too excited about that as a template for this fight. Not even because of the size difference involved, but because most of Bivol’s success was built around a flowing, feint-filled sort of movement that confused and pressured Canelo out of his usually-perfect fighting stance. Golovkin’s footwork has historically been superb, but even on his best day he never had that kind of bounce in his step. And he’s unlikely to be able to suddenly find it now. Where he might find some ideas is in the knowledge that Canelo’s seemingly flawless facade can be cracked if you occupy his attention with enough distraction, but he’ll have to find a different way to do that than Bivol did.
The other main potential positive is the weightclass. Yes, usually a fighter coming up to fight, with no tune-up, at a weight he’s never been at before isn’t a great sign, but as fighters age it’s not unheard of for the less-strenuous weight cut to suddenly put a spring back back into aging legs. It could be a concern for Canelo, too, that he’s cutting back down to super-middle after a fight at light-heavy, but he fought at super middleweight less than a year ago so that shouldn’t be a huge concern. Still, he’s unlikely to have more endurance and stamina than he did against Bivol, so if Golovkin can push a consistent tempo from the start, he may stuggle to keep up there.
All in all though, the signs favour Canelo in this one. Golovkin isn’t without chance, and he’ll certainly be there to give it his all, but this isn’t the fight it was four years ago. And even if Canelo can’t find the stoppage he should be able to work the gaps in his opponent’s creaking armour for a decision win.
Who Else is Fighting?
The main attraction on the rest of the card is Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez, who’s taken the boxing world by storm this year. First he jumped up two weight-classes to super-fly at short notice to absolutely dominate Carlos Cuadras, a tough opponent for multiple p4p greats in that division previously. He followed that up by stepping in with one of those greats themselves, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and laid a complete schooling on him too. His opponent tonight, Israel Gonzalez, isn’t in that sort of class, but he’s a live opponent and Rodriguez will be looking to dazzle on the biggest stage of his career so far. Definitely worth tuning in for, and if you’re a boxing fan who hasn’t seen Bam fight yet, you owe it to yourself.
Beyond that it’s a little shallow. Austin Williams has caught some attention for a bizarre performance in the head-to-heads at the final press conference, attention that is tinged with concern because he’s had issues with his mental health before. If he’s switched on he should beat Kieron Conway though, and the rest of the card is similarly made up mostly of fights where the intent is for one of the fighters to impress on the big show.
The event will be available in the US and around the world on DAZN, with prelims starting at 4.45pm ET and the main card on PPV at 8PM ET.