A rivalry riddled with controversy renews this weekend as bitter foes Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin complete their iconic trilogy in Las Vegas.
Two pound-for-pound greats of the past decade have already split the ring twice, both of which went all the way and finished in a very controversial way.
Canelo escaped with a split-decision draw in their first meeting in 2017, in a fight most believe he lost, before taking a majority victory in their highly anticipated rematch almost exactly a year later in the day in another result marred by controversy.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (left) and Gennady Golovkin (right) face each other for the third time on Saturday
The longtime rivals have fought at middleweight in both previous encounters, a division that a 40-year-old Golovkin now rules again after beating Ryota Murata in an intriguing unification fight earlier this year.
Four years later, however, they will be competing for Canelo’s complete set of super-middleweight belts, which the 32-year-old claimed with quick wins over Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant.
As they prepare to grace the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for a third and most likely last time, the win is paramount for both: For Canelo, to provide a much-needed reminder, he remains one of the boxing’s greatest assets after losing to Dmitry Bivol in May; for Golovkin, to correct the mistakes of the past with the approaching retirement.
Perhaps just as, if not more relevant to both is the chance to take a win over their great rival – in a match that is personal to both of them, for different reasons – and a fateful evening on September 17 will provide that.
The long-term rivals have fought twice before, ending a draw and winning a decision from Canelo
They came face to face in June for the first time since their last fight nearly four years ago
In contrast to next weekend’s still intriguing showdown, Canelo and Golovkin arguably stood as the world’s two best fighters when they first went toe-to-toe on September 16, 2017, on a night that left a bitter taste in the mouth of boxing fans around the world. globe.
Golovkin, then a 37-0 middleweight monster, once again showed his fearsome prowess as he proved to the vast majority of onlookers that he was arguably the greatest middleweight to ever step inside the square circle.
Sports post scored the match 118-111 in favor of the quintessentially battle-ready Kazakh, though that’s not to say Canelo didn’t have success of his own, with Golovkin needing every bit of that world-famous chin he’s become known for.
However, the judges saw it differently. One gave the criminal 118-110 to Canelo, one somehow scored a draw of 114-114 and one, perhaps still nice to the Mexican, saw it 115-113 in Golovkin’s favour.
A champion, Golovkin left the arena with the WBC, WBA and IBF belts still by his side, though that may have done little to soften the blow of a broad daylight robbery; even many of those who attended to support Canelo booed the announcement of the result.
The fans rightly demanded a rematch. And almost exactly a year later they would get one. But before the pair had a chance to share the ring again, a shadow was cast over the event.
Canelo and Golovkin shared a controversial draw during their first meeting in 2017
The majority of the spectators had Golovkin as the clear winner against his now bitter rival
Sports post scored it 118-110 to Golovkin, who inexplicably turned a judge in favor of Canelo. gave
That’s because the rematch, originally scheduled for May of the following year, was initially scrapped after Canelo failed two drug tests in February, with the banned substance clenbuterol, a prescription-only drug, in his system.
Canelo pleaded his innocence, blaming contaminated meat after failing a voluntary drug test. Golovkin believed otherwise and insisted, “I think he just can’t look into my eyes, and that’s all, because he knows I’m right about everything.”
The Mexican (49-1-2) at this point was given a six-month retroactive suspension, meaning he was free to fight from August 17. And on September 15 , the middleweights would once again be on the hunt for their legendary moment .
However, there was now something less on the table after GGG was stripped of his IBF belt for failing to hire mandatory challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko.
This time the battle was much closer. But again, Sports post gave Golovkin the nod and scored it 116-113. And again, Golovkin was left stunned and heartbroken because the jury saw otherwise.
As with their first meeting, one judge even saw it at 114-114, but this time the other two scored in favor of the Mexican, both sawing it 115-113 for Canelo.
Canelo was understandably emotional at the win, while a distraught Golovkin immediately left the ring and was unwilling to give an immediate interview. He did speak to reporters afterwards: ‘I thought I fought better than him. We’d like a third fight, we’ll negotiate that, that’s what we want.’
It may have taken four years, but that’s where we are now.
The highly anticipated trilogy fight finally takes place in Las Vegas, on September 17th
So, finally, round 25 is about to begin. 24 have come and gone, and few would be surprised if we get another 12 hard-fought three-minute stanzas on Saturday night.
Now 40 and having fought just four times since his defeat to Canelo in 2018, Golovkin is sure to come into the fray as the underdog – regardless of the Mexican’s one-sided defeat to Bivol.
And yet, despite falling to two highly contentious decisions, the all-time great remains confident he can pull off a trilogy win.
“On the one hand, I put the first two fights with Canelo behind me,” Golovkin said. “They are history to me, and I didn’t lose those battles.
“I would have been very happy to retire if I supported that. But I’m very happy to have the third fight with him.
“It’s hard for boxers to even get a rematch in certain situations, so it’s a historic moment for the third fight to take place. I think it is a good addition to the history of my career.
“I want to assure you that I felt confident for the first fight, the second fight and I still feel confident for the third fight. I feel no discomfort, no doubts and I am fully prepared for this as well.’
Golovkin, now 40 years old, remains confident he can achieve an iconic trilogy win
The motivations for Canelo are different. The Mexican still has the option of a rematch against Bivol next year, but the demand for another light-heavyweight showdown would certainly wane with a second straight defeat.
There’s also the small matter of keeping the four super-middleweight titles he’s worked so hard to claim, as well as the task of rebuilding his reputation after a damaging defeat.
And, certainly at the forefront of Canelo’s mind, is finally taming what has become a personal feud.
“He always pretends to be a nice guy, like in front of people,” Canelo said of Golovkin in their June press. “He’s an asshole, he is. He’s an asshole. It is what it is.
‘I don’t pretend to be nice. This is how I am. I don’t pretend to be another person. He always pretends to you and people, ‘Oh, I’m a nice guy’. He is not.’
“He always talks about I’m scared, I run away when I fight with the best guys out there and he fights with Class D fighters,” he added. “He talks a lot about me. That’s why it’s personal to me.’
To show how personal this feud is, Canelo has vowed to retire his longtime rival next weekend.
Whether that will prove to be the case remains to be seen, and how much Golovkin has left in the tank is also unknown.
But while it’s possible we won’t get a spectacle as captivating as the last two, we all hope this time there’s a definitive end – without controversy – to what’s left of a generation’s great rivalry.