Posted September 16, 2017 14:12:28
If you don't follow boxing, there's every chance you've never heard of Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and Gennady 'GGG' Golovkin.
The sweet science has had some big moments in 2017 — the circus that was Floyd Mayweather's victory over Conor McGregor being the biggest of all — but that hasn't been enough to fix the attention of mainstream sports fans on Canelo and Golovkin's middleweight championship fight on Sunday.
So I'm here to tell you: it will leave Mayweather v McGregor for dead.
Don't get me wrong, I had fun watching that fight, but it was never anything more than a moneymaking exercise.
By contrast, Canelo and Golovkin are meeting to decide who is the king of one of boxing's most glamorous divisions (forget the meaningless alphabet soup of world titles, we're talking about the real champion here).
While half the interest in last month's fight was based on boorish, manufactured press conference trash talk, Canelo and Golovkin prefer to let their fists do the talking.
And where Mayweather v McGregor was a mismatch between an old master and a rank amateur, Canelo v Golovkin is a dream combination of two exciting fighters at their peak.
Golovkin is simultaneously one of the most endearing and most terrifying people on the planet.
A native of Kazakhstan now living in California, his charm is sourced in equal parts from his cheerful demeanour, good sportsmanship and nonconformist approach to English.
It's hard not to love a guy who refers to his fallen opponents as "good boys" and promises a "big drama show".
But for all Golovkin's cheerfulness, you wouldn't want to be across the ring from him. He's an unstoppable force, a bone crunching knockout artist who has stopped 33 of his 37 opponents.
If anything, 'GGG' has been a little too devastating. Since moving to America to further his career in 2012, he's had trouble finding top level fighters who want to get in the ring with him.
Then, in his last two fights, Golovkin showed signs of vulnerability.
He took a lot of punches before knocking out the much smaller Kell Brook, and won a close decision over Danny Jacobs, a big, skilful, fast fighter who showed that with concentration and bravery, it is possible to outbox 'GGG', at least for sections of a fight.
That average performance turned out to be better for Golovkin's career than a spectacular victory, because Alvarez, the sport's biggest star after Mayweather and the holder of the middleweight championship, agreed to fight him soon after. Boxing's funny like that.
It doesn't matter how tough you are, if you've got red hair, people will call you names. "Canelo", which means cinnamon, is roughly the Mexican equivalent of "Bluey".
Canelo is famous for more than his striking looks, though.
Born outside the city of Guadalajara in Mexico, the youngest of seven brothers — all boxers — Alvarez turned professional at 15 and rose through the ranks at welterweight and junior middleweight.
While he's scored some spectacular knockouts, Canelo is not a knock-down-drag-out guy like Golovkin. His style is more patient; he allows his opponents to come to him and despatches them with blazing counterpunches.
His boxing skills meant Canelo was pegged early as a possible future star. In his rise to the top of the sport he gained a bit of a reputation for fighting in mismatches in non-official weight divisions, even when going for world titles.
He fought Mayweather in 2013, but his inexperience showed and he lost virtually every round.
Since then he's convinced some doubters with a series wins over contenders, and he snatched the middleweight crown from Miguel Cotto in 2015.
Of course, Golovkin was knocking out every man and his dog in the meantime, so demand for a fight between the two reached fever pitch. For the last two years Canelo has been unable to post anything on social media without hundreds of disgruntled boxing fans commenting "GGG".
Canelo and his team said he needed time to grow into the middleweight division before taking on a challenge like Golovkin.
I wasn't the biggest fan of that excuse (he is the middleweight champion, after all), but at least in April, after handily defeating the much larger Julio Cesar Chavez, Canelo and co finally came good on their promise and agreed to fight Golovkin.
The fight should start about 2:00pm AEST. It's only available on pay TV, and there's an extra charge to watch, but it will be available at many pubs.
It's hard to say — which is exactly what makes this fight so good.
Golovkin is going to come out of the blocks looking to take Canelo's head off, and that's going to suit Alvarez just fine. He'll try to lay back, make Golovkin miss and then make him pay.
But there's a key difference between GGG and many of the brawlers Alvarez's has faced to date: his jab.
Golovkin doesn't rush in face first, he uses his left hand to find space for his other punches. And his jab isn't a pawing rangefinder, either, it's a weapon in its own right.
I think Canelo is going to have some good moments early on, and will catch GGG with uppercuts and straight rights as he comes forward. But the Mexican is going to be shocked by the power and accuracy of Golovkin's jab, and that's going to tell by the fight's midpoint.
By round six, Golovkin is going to be landing much more than the jab, and once that starts happening, it's only a matter of time until Canelo becomes another good boy.