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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: CANELO-GGG 3, THE POSTMORTEM

By Paul Magno | September 19, 2022
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: CANELO-GGG 3, THE POSTMORTEM

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez ended his dalliance with Gennadiy “GGG” Golovkin with a clear, decisive, borderline dominant unanimous decision victory Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. 

It was a few notches below “masterful,” but it was a really good showing by the Guadalajara native and one that should put him back up on his pedestal after a tough loss to light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol back in May. 

It's a shame that more people are going to be talking about Golovkin "getting old" rather than the solid work Alvarez was doing for much of the fight, timing Triple G, keeping him reacting and moving backwards. For the first eight rounds, anyway, Alvarez proved conventional boxing wisdom absolutely correct in the idea that most offense-minded fighters can’t do their thing while in reverse. Golovkin, specifically, was a neutered beast when unable to plant his feet and launch a proper forward-minded attack.

And leave that “Golovkin is old” silliness in the Wordpress boxing blogs and to the hack media voices. In the ninth round, when Alvarez lost some steam, wasn’t getting off first and keeping Golovkin from comfortably moving forward, POOF, the old Kazakh looked young again! 

I wrote about this last week, but Golovkin is one of the freshest 40-year-olds in boxing history and, while some slowdown is unavoidable, age was not a factor in this fight. Alvarez won this fight because of skill, ability, and because he executed the right strategy.

By the way, how awful were those two 115-113 scores from judges David Sutherland and Steve Weisfeld? These were, by far, the worst judges scores of the three fights. 

What’s next for both fighters? Canelo will keep Caneloing. I doubt that he’s serious about revisiting the challenge of Bivol, but if he is...kudos to him. Golovkin, meanwhile, will probably go back down to 160, where he still holds two belts, and curb stomp a harmless schlub or two before retiring to his castle-mansion in Kazakhstan.

So, thus closes the Canelo-GGG trilogy, a suitably lifeless, canned, inorganic rivalry for the social media generation, a generation where how you feel about something trumps how something truly is. 

This isn’t to say that the Canelo-GGG rivalry didn’t have its moments. Although few and far between-- and mostly relegated to before and after the actual fights-- there was some intrigue. But how much juice could we got from a rivalry built through slack-jawed media reports and big-money publicity efforts? And how much juice could there be in a rivalry between fighters who owed their stardom much more to public relations than in-ring wars? 

Alvarez-Golovkin was no “classic” rivalry in the tradition of Ali-Frazier, Leonard-Duran, Morales-Barrera, or even Pacquiao-Marquez. This new age rivalry was of the boardroom variety, initiated by an HBO Boxing desperate for something to jump start its flat-lining product. 

Golovkin was yet another of their make-a-star projects, albeit a more successful one than, say, Andre Berto. Alvarez was a more organic-type draw whose star power began on Mexican soil, earnestly and honestly, but then got significantly more cynical-tinged-with-calculation when he started making dollars instead of pesos.

Alvarez would eventually right his ship to an extent and earn a degree of legit respectability-- but not after a PEDs scandal, a hefty load of soft touches, and a pair of Golovkin fights that were somewhat tame and controversially scored. Golovkin followed his usual path of least resistance-- because, ahem, everyone was SCARED of him-- until HBO Boxing closed its doors, but not after bagging two big-money Canelo fights where he did absolutely nothing to establish himself as the all-time-level monster he was hyped to be. Then, to his benefit as a man and to his detriment as a competitor, a star-desperate DAZN dumped a truck load of billionaire’s money at his feet in the hope of re-manufacturing the manufactured Canelo-GGG rivalry.

Eventually-- after about three years of wrangling, misfires, and legal tussles-- DAZN got their wish and Canelo-GGG 3 went through. It remains to be seen whether the event will be of benefit to the streaming service’s true bottom line. 

Maybe the Canelo-GGG rivalry is as close as we’re going to get to a true boxing rivalry in this new era. Look up and down the list of boxing’s biggest, best and you’ll see stunningly few true defining in-ring battles on resumes. 50-50 fights among the sport’s top stars rarely happen these days and when they do, like in the case of Alvarez vs. Golovkin, neither fighter seems all too eager to throw caution to the wind and risk destruction for glory. 

And, really, why the hell should they? 

The big money’s there whether they meet their greatest natural rival or not. Mostly, the present tense stars circulate in their own pocket universes, fighting “best availables” unless and until something unusually large happens to fall into their lap.  

Those befuddled by why Golovkin didn’t let his hands go, should look at his first two fights with Canelo. He didn’t really let his hands go in those contests either. Canelo also didn’t truly let his hands go in any of the three bouts, even though there was the distinct vibe brewing that he could’ve maybe stopped Golovkin this time out if he pushed hard enough.

But neither fighter is built like old school fighters. Risk is less and less part of the career plan these days. And even when put in a risky bout, the fall-back attitude is to preserve rather than push forward. This is a smart human instinct, but it doesn’t make for an all that compelling boxing product.

Alvarez and Golovkin are outstanding boxers. Alvarez has worked his way into becoming a pound-for-pound fighter despite not being a pound-for-pound natural talent. He remains the undisputed, unified super middleweight champ. Golovkin may still be the best middleweight in the world and will go down as one of the best offensive fighters of this era. 

But neither has defined their greatness in the ring, in the traditional boxing sense, overcoming life-and-death peril against an opponent not only willing to go to war, but also ABLE to push them to the brink. 

And after Saturday’s third bout against one another, they still haven’t. 

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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