One week from today, we will see arguably the best match-up of the year, which is saying something considering how 2017 has already been a truly excellent one for boxing. It’s a huge showdown that everyone in the fight game has been waiting for, a clash for the undisputed middleweight crown: Gennady Golovkin vs Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
Not too long ago, some questioned whether we would ever see this battle, a fight between the two best middleweights in the world. Now it’s here, and what better way to kick off our pre-fight coverage and get everyone stoked for what should be a tremendous battle than with the insight and acumen of boxing analyst Lee Wylie. Here Wylie offers his pick for what could be the Fight Of The Year, plus we get to watch again his brilliant “Beyond a Punch” video for this monumental match-up. Check it out:
I don’t believe Canelo has the mobility or stamina to box “GGG” effectively off the back foot, and I’d be surprised if he is strong or powerful enough moving forward to consistently back up Golovkin. So, for my money, Canelo’s best chance of winning lies in controlling the pocket and counter-punching. It’s there where he can make his speed and precision count the most.
Golovkin might be the harder puncher, but Canelo is sharper, more accurate, and better defensively. Also, along with his blocking skills and evasive movement from the waist, Canelo’s underrated, more compact footwork (consisting of pivots and half-steps back) lends itself to creating and exploiting openings in the pocket. Considering this, I can see Canelo having success by catching, riding, or weaving under Golovkin’s punches and then countering hard to the body (think Roberto Duran against Davey Moore), and also via well-timed uppercuts up the middle as “GGG” is leaning in or overextending.
The Mexican is a more complete boxer inside the pocket, but Golovkin is so damn strong and powerful, and his jab heavy and long, that it’s going to be difficult for Canelo to set himself and not give ground. Alvarez is masterful at parrying or slipping jabs and then countering, but “GGG” throws his jab offbeat, and with very little telegraphic motion. Put simply, it’s difficult to time.
Golovkin’s pace and pressure could also prove problematic for Canelo, who can’t fight hard and fast every round. This is mainly why Canelo goes to the ropes so often: to preserve energy. Needless to say, Canelo would be playing a very dangerous game laying on the ropes against a puncher like “GGG,” whose unpredictable, two-fisted attacks — specifically those long, palm-down looping hooks — tend to bypass even the tightest of guards. Canelo can take a punch, but you can only take so many from the powerful Kazakh. And that includes punches caught on the arms and shoulders, which wear you down gradually.
Styles, as they say, make fights. And this style clash probably favors Canelo who is likely the better technician and may even have the edge in ring IQ. But, more importantly, Alvarez is not a full-fledged middleweight like “GGG.” Make no mistake, Canelo might be more muscular and heavier on the night, but Golovkin will be physically stronger, perhaps significantly so, and I believe this will ultimately prove the decisive factor. For me, it was telling that Canelo couldn’t finish a clearly depleted Chavez Jr. Granted, Golovkin will open up and take more chances than Jr. did, but I still can’t envision Canelo punching with enough authority or frequency to prevent the ultra-strong and durable Golovkin from applying pressure and outworking him.
So long as Golovkin stays behind his jab and avoids coming forward recklessly or smothering himself, which would accommodate Canelo’s defensive skills and short counters in close, he should do enough — particularly down the stretch — to earn himself a decision win. Here’s hoping the judges remain impartial. — Lee Wylie