It is boxing’s ultimate irony that in this most singular, deeply individual sporting quest, a fighter should rely so implicitly on the existence of a worthy rival to elevate him to greatness.
Very few combatants earned ultimate respect without a nemesis. Muhammad Ali had Joe Frazier; Sugar Ray Robinson had Jake LaMotta; Ray Leonard had Roberto Duran and Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez have each other.
Such is the heady anticipation for tonight’s world middleweight championship bout in Las Vegas that the optimistic among us are already hoping that we get to see it more than once. For that to happen it must be every bit as good as expected, and the probability is unusually high that it will be.
Boxing occasionally has an unwelcome tendency to fall flat when it has the world’s attention but this fight comes with as close to a guarantee of excitement as you can get.
Three weeks ago, in the very same venue, the combat sports world wallowed in fakery, on Saturday it will celebrate the skill and authenticity of a real fight between two supremely talented sportsmen.
In one corner you have Golovkin, a beastly pressure fighter with awesome knockout power who turned the lights out on 23 straight opponents before inconveniencing the judges last time out against Danny Jacobs.
In the other you have Alvarez, plenty aggressive in his own right, but more known for his brilliant counter-punching and success against those who come to him.
While the phrase ‘styles makes fights’ is one of boxing’s most wearying axioms, it is also one of its truest. This fight, it seems, is a marriage of two perfectly complementary styles and the result should be spectacular.
That’s not to say we will see a frenzied Hagler/Hearns style war – there is too much mutual respect – but what will likely start as an intense tactical battle will inevitably give way to brutal back and forth action down the stretch.
Added intrigue comes from a pre-fight narrative suggesting Golovkin, at 35, has lost a step, while Alvarez, eight years his junior, is peaking at just the right time. Whether you believe either statement, it means the bout is widely regarded as 50-50 ahead of the opening bell at the T-Mobile Arena.
The notion that Golovkin is in decline comes from the punishment he shipped on his way to a fifth round stoppage of Kell Brook, before seeing his KO streak ended by a resolute Jacobs in March.
However, logic would suggest that Brook, a quick-handed natural welterweight, was always going to land some eye-catching shots given his massive advantage in speed, and it shouldn’t be forgotten Golovkin walked right through them and then literally broke Brook’s face.
And to denigrate his last performance is to ignore Jacobs’ brilliant effort, not to mention the significant size and reach advantage the American enjoyed.
In contrast, the overwhelming belief is that the best ever version of Canelo will step into the ring tonight following impressive victories over Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Liam Smith and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
The counter to that of course is that none of those opponents could possibly prepare him for Golovkin. The Kazakh could probably beat Khan, Smith and Chavez on the same night. Conversely, how would Canelo fare against Brook and Jacobs?
The form book may not be entirely trustworthy, but it’s hard to imagine this being anything other than a tense, elite match-up between two men who boast immense ring generalship. Canelo ostensibly has the tools to win, but can he handle the pressure and power Golovkin invariably brings?
Perhaps the biggest concern for the Kazakh will be the presence of Dave Moretti and Adalaide Byrd among the three ringside judges. Moretti has form for leaning heavily in Canelo’s favour while Byrd has a reputation for erratic scoring.
Controversy would of course fuel interest in a second instalment but this match-up deserves better. A far more desirable outcome would be that it is so explosive the public simply demands to see it again.
Boxing’s most iconic moments have been forged in the struggles of familiar foes – tonight we could see the start of another truly special rivalry.
Gennady Golovkin is one of the most dedicated boxers in the world and even the birth of his daughter couldn’t pry him out of the gym.
The three-belt champion missed the birth on Friday because he was training for his upcoming world middleweight title fight.
Golovkin stayed in the gym for two hours after his wife, Alina, gave birth to the couple’s second child. They also have a son.
“He didn’t leave the gym until 6 pm,” Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez said. “The baby was born at 4 pm.
“His wife was in the hospital for one day. She came home next day so he was home with them.”
Golovkin, who holds the World boxing Council, World boxing Association and International boxing Federation middleweight belts, will face Canelo Alvarez in a 12-round mega title fight on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Sanchez said he was concerned during the long training camp about how Golovkin was doing with the baby on the way and the most important fight of his career around the corner.
“I started to voice my concern. ‘The baby’s not here’. He said ‘coach the baby is going to come whether I am there or not. I have already done my part.'”
Sanchez said Golovkin has been in high spirits as the fight preparation shifted this week from their training camp to Las Vegas.
“He is in a great mood. I don’t know if it is because of the baby being here or if because he finally got the fight he wanted,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez says Golovkin is a good father and just as dedicated to his family as he is to his work.
“Golovkin is a family man. He has always been very, very, very focused,” Sanchez said.
“He has never been the type of guy to go out at night. You are never going to lose him for a day.
“He just bought his first car six months ago. He didn’t have a car before because he said he spends all his time in the gym.”
Golovkin declined to speak about the birth at a news conference on Wednesday at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.
“Please don’t ask me about my family. I am just focused on boxing,” he said.
— Gennady Golovkin (@GGGBoxing) September 13, 2017
Manny Pacquiao said on Sunday he was still wanted a rematch with Jeff Horn after the Filipino boxing hero pulled out of their scheduled bout in Australia later his year.
Queensland’s premier, whose state government was the financial backer of a November 12 fight, announced on Friday that Pacquiao “cannot return to the ring” due to other commitments.
“It will not push through there in Australia. But we are bringing the fight here in the Philippines,” Pacquiao said on radio station DZBB, adding negotiations were ongoing.
“This will be good for our country’s tourism.”
Pacquiao, 38, had initially called for a rematch after losing his World Boxing Organization welterweight title to the 29-year-old on points Horn in a major upset in Brisbane on July 2.
Pacquiao, who has won world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, had demanded a review of the bout but the WBO declared Horn the clear winner after a panel of judges re-scored the fight.
Now in the twilight of a 22-year professional career, Pacquiao has not stopped an opponent in eight years and briefly quit boxing last year to pursue his long-held political ambitions and was elected senator.
But he quickly made a successful comeback against Jessie Vargas in November, saying he still felt like a youngster.
Pacquiao has defied calls to retire for good, including from his family and celebrated American trainer Freddie Roach.
Pacquiao dismissed funding concerns about hosting the multi-million dollar fight in the Philippines.
“We have lots of friends who are supporting us including our tourism (department). The president is giving his all-out support,” Pacquiao said referring to his political ally Rodrigo Duterte.