CANELO ÁLVAREZ VS. GGG
CANELO ÁLVAREZ VS. GENNADY “GGG” GOLOVKIN IS BOXING’S REAL FIGHT OF THE YEAR (CANELO ÁLVAREZ VS. GGG)
Here’s a little lesson for you gringos and those unfamiliar with Latin American History. ( CANELO ÁLVAREZ VS. GGG )
On the morning on September 16, 1810, Roman Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla had finally had enough of Spanish-born Europeans and their bullshit. You see, Mexico was once under Spanish rule, and Hidalgo, an advocate for the poor, was a wanted man for teaching farmers how to sidestep the government and grow their own agriculture. This act of defiance was a violation of import laws and made the rebellious priest a marked man. On that fateful morning, Miguel Hidalgo rang the bells of his church, stood before his beloved congregation and proudly proclaimed, “Fuck the Spaniards and their god damn ham sandwiches, I’m willing to die for this freedom shit.” His call to arms became known as the Grito de Dolores (“Cry of Dolores”) and officially jump-started Mexico’s decade-long battle for independence.
Now, you may ask yourself, What in the hell does this have to do with boxing? The answer is absolutely nothing. But thanks in part to Oscar De La Hoya’s mainstream crossover appeal in the ’90s and his then promoter Bob Arum’s knack for exploiting the Latinx demographic and their spending power, us fans have the sweet science have been treated to decades of extravagant sporting spectacles marketed as Mexican Independance Day superfights. Tomorrow, from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, current Mexican idol Canelo Álvarez takes on pound-for-pound contemporary Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in a winner take all middleweight showdown for supremacy. Tell Tio Beto to get the grill and ice chest of Cerveza Victoria ready, because I’m ready to blackout on violence and carne asada.
The journey to the Canelo-GGG showdown has been a long, if not frustrating, one filled with diversions, political posturing and delays. As is often the case with boxing, fans rarely get to see two fighters in their athletic primes battle it out. Though only 27 years old, Canelo made his professional debut when he was 15 because Latin fighters are batshit crazy and do things like fight grown-ass men for money while still in their teens. The superstar of Jalisco has accumulated a truly throwback fighter’s record of 49-1-1 while headlining PPVs and earning so much money for promoter Oscar De La Hoya that the Golden Boy will never run out of cocaine.
Much like the Golden Boy during his prime, a bulk of Canelo’s criticism is that he doesn’t “fight like a Mexican.” Sure, there were the sensational knockouts of human crash test dummies Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland, but those men were one-dimensional, come forward brawlers who were there to be devastated and provide viral timeline-worthy highlights. The one punch nuke he landed that almost killed Amir Khan was spectacular visually, but left more to be desired considering Amir was ahead on the scorecards, has a chin like a Fabergé egg and was fighting for the first time at middleweight (three weight classes above his natural 140 best). But where the fuck is the sense of urgency?!?!
The fireworks Canelo has provided have been fun no doubt, however the handful of victories he scored over the distance and his lone loss are more telling. When squared up against future hall of famers Sugar Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto, two greats both well past their prime and best weights at the time of the fights, the young gun couldn’t seem to find the punch output needed to close the show. In his 2013 loss against Floyd Mayweather, Canelo, then 23, looked foolishly out of his depth while being easily outboxed, outclassed, counterpunched and embarrassed by the much smaller Mayweather who he outweighed by 16 pounds on fight night. Sure of a victory and thirsty for the PPV megafight payday, Canelo took a sucker’s bet at the negotiating table and agreed to a catchweight of 152 pounds. The weight drain must have been a factor as the redhead from Guadalajara looked and fought like a slow-footed dried out freckled sponge. The golden lesson he learned in his defeat? Know your worth as a superstar and know exactly when to take a fight.
GENNADY “GGG” GOLOVKIN
At the ripe age of 35, the death machine from Kazakhstan has been one of boxing’s most dynamic and fun fighters to watch. Since his 2012 HBO debut against Grzegorz Proksa, GGG has left a trail of broken bodies and broken English interviews while endearing himself to the boxing public. The fighter who describes himself as “Mexican style” has had to settle for middleweight seat fillers and warm bodies because his perceived lack of star power and potential risk. Former super middleweight champion Carl Froch was once famously quoted saying he’d go nowhere near Golovkin despite fighting in the weight class above the bomber. Over the last five years, GGG has chased down and called out (to no avail) then reigning middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather and Canelo. None of these men seemed too eager to bite at the bait and instead chose to cash out against each other in a round robin of big money fights in the 154-160 range. Much like 1980s middleweight kingpin “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, Golovkin has been strategically avoided like Usher at a kissing booth as he patiently awaited for his big money payoff. Lost in the pageantry of the superfight, pile of B-list opposition and best available contenders is the fact GGG is also chasing history. Tomorrow’s matchup will be Golovkin’s twentieth defense of the WBA title, which he won in 2010. The record for middleweight title defenses is 21, currently held by living legend Bernard Hopkins. During his rampage of destruction, GGG has managed to collect the IBF and WBC titles as well, yet despite owning all the hardware he’s not seen as the historical lineal champion, as that distinction is held by Canelo… who beat Cotto.. who beat Martinez… who all avoided GGG because boxing politics is dumb as fuck.
The parallels between Hagler and GGG couldn’t be more evident. Both fighters grinded their way to the top of division all while calling out their era’s biggest names. Only when the Marvelous one went life or death with John “The Beast” Mugabi did Sugar Ray Leonard realize that Hagler had slipped just enough out of his athletic prime to be beatable. The same can be said for Canelo’s sudden decision to take up arms against Golovkin who’s looked vulnerable in recent outings. English welterweight standout, Kell “Special K” Brook had no problem hitting GGG with every punch in the book until the hands of Kazak fury smashed his orbital bone to bits. In GGG’s next contest, Daniel Jacobs was able to land flush power shots and at times out maneuver Golovkin. Jacobs beat spinal cancer and survived 12 grueling rounds with GGG; God must really be holding him down. The fight was close, but GGG walked away with the victory after being extended the 12-round distance and having his consecutive knockouts streak broken at 23.
The anticipation for the fight has reached a Tecate-fueled fever pitch as both men are ranked among the world’s top pound-for-pound best. Ring Magazine currently has GGG ranked as the world’s second best; Canelo clocks in at seventh. The true intrigue of the bout comes in the form of questions. Has Golovkin slipped enough to face losing his undefeated record and collection of belts to the younger Canelo? Does Canelo have the firepower to dent GGG’s granite chin? How drunk will Oscar De La Hoya be on fight night and where is holding the freaky-hooker-filled after party? While both men have cemented their place atop boxing’s highest mountain, they’ve done so by laying to waste outmatched opposition and looking vulnerable when stepping up in class. That’s where the fun and unpredictability come in and that’s what makes this fight so special. Nothing is given, and there is a lot riding on the line. Golovkin has the chance to finally stamp his place in history with a victory over one of boxing’s biggest attractions. Canelo has the opportunity to lift the spirits of a Mexican nation in turmoil and erase the scrutiny he received by falling short against Floyd Mayweather. There is no precedent for Eastern European fighters to attain mainstream success in the United States, and GGG is the first of his kind. Canelo, however is chasing the ghost of Mexico’s rich storied past all while trying to fill a recent void left by the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez. Álvarez and Golovkin need each other just as bad as the fans need them. It’s going to be a hell of a bout
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