A Trilogy for the Ages – Canelo vs. Golovkin III Preview


Millions of boxing fans worldwide witnessed the carnage that occurred throughout Canelo Álvarez and Gennady Golovkin’s first two fights, yet I’d assume only a small percentage could confidently state the winner of either.

A duo of closely-fought contests have resulted in a 1-0-1 Mexican lead, although the scoring of both has been heavily questioned by enthusiasts of the sport. Leading into this weekend’s clash, we look at how the bad blood has boiled to optimum temperature between the pairing.

The First Fight

It’s 16th September, 2017. A highly anticipated matchup between unified middleweight champion Golovkin and the exciting Canelo is set to take place that evening. Many top-tier fighters at 160 lbs had strayed clear of taking on the former, given his outstanding record and devastating power, but it was now time for the Kazakh’s toughest test yet.

Golovkin found out pretty early on in that fight what he was truly up against. Canelo made a strong start to the contest, hitting his opponent with pacey combinations while utilising excellent head movement. ‘Triple G‘ seemed slightly startled, and following several rounds it appeared the fight was headed in one direction.

Golovkin, however, was not going to give up easily, and began utilising his ever-present jab to control the pace of the bout. That is where he has always felt most comfortable, dictating the ring on his terms.

The once-aggressive Canelo was now on the back foot against a taller, stronger opponent. In the second half of that fight he repeatedly found himself with his back to the ropes, although it should be noted that the Mexican managed to maintain the majority of his speed and ferocity in combinations.

Both landed a number of destructive shots on their counterpart, but their chins held up equally well and the pair refused to go to the canvas at any opportunity. By the final bell it was an extremely difficult contest to judge.

Many pundits and fans alike still believe to this day that Golovkin was robbed of a win that night (as does the man himself), and it certainly didn’t help proceedings after judge Adalaide Byrd’s 118-110 scorecard was announced in favour of Canelo (she was eventually forced to stand down by the Nevada State Athletic Commission).

The two couldn’t be seperated and a draw was given. A rematch was announced shortly after, and the following period would mark where the growing tensions began to escalate.


Almost six months after their first encounter, and two months before the rematch, a crucial story hit the boxing world.

Canelo had tested positive for the banned substance ‘clenbuterol’, a decongestant drug used on sufferers of breathing disorders.

The Mexican’s camp put this result down to contaminated meat, in fairness a common occurence with athletes training in the South American country. Fights between Érik Morales, Danny Garcia and Francisco Vargas, Orlando Salido had previously had issues with the substance, but both were allowed to continue.

Canelo was not to be so lucky, and found himself banned from boxing for six months, preventing the original rematch date.

The rivalry was set to intensify, with Golovkin coming out and slating his opponent as a cheater.

At the time the Kazakh said:

“I told you, it’s not Mexican meat. This is Canelo. This is his team. This is his promotion … Canelo is cheating. They’re using these drugs, and everybody is just trying to pretend it’s not happening.”

Effectively branding all his achievements in the sport null and void, Canelo was outraged and refused to hide his anger at the re-arranged press conference in September that year.

He told reporters:

“I will knock him out to bring a great victory for myself, my family, my team and to my entire country on this Mexico Independence Day.”

The Second Fight

The scene was set. T-Mobile Arena, Nevada. September 25th, 2018.

Unsurprisingly, Canelo came out his corner like a steam train. The challenger looked completely different to what viewers had seen for the majority of the first fight. Now he was dictating the contest.

For the first time in ‘Triple G‘s’ career, he was certainly on the back foot with the situation not looking like it was changing anytime soon. The Kazakh had maintained his style from the first fight, and a lack of adaptation seemed to be making his movement more predictable.

Golovkin fought back in typical style, obviously, and again used his strong jab to establish himself back in the fight. The contest remained neck and neck, although the champion had a much higher mountain to climb.

Canelo’s early bodywork was paying off too, and he was repeatedly landing on the inside with those large liver shots. Golovkin returned staggering blows, following up on his jab set-ups with powerful hooks and overhands.

The bell rang, signalling an end to a 24-round endurance test which had left both men battered and bruised. After what is always a nail-biting wait, the judges’ scorecards read out 114-114, 115-113 and 115-113 in favour of Canelo by majority decision.

What’s happened since?

Two career paths seemingly in parallel unison have since altered their course.

Canelo has not only defended his Middleweight belts six times, beating the likes of Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders along the way, but also moved up in weight and won the WBO Light Heavyweight title against Sergey Kovalev back in 2019.

The 32-year-old did lose that belt earlier this year in a fairly one-sided contest against Dmitrii Bivol, although many count the fact he held a belt at 175 lbs as an impressive enough statistic anyway.

It does mean that Canelo is coming into this trilogy fight off the back of a loss, and it’s yet to be seen what effect that may have on his game. Compare this to ‘Triple G‘, who, since the second bout, has won four out of four contests.

Golovkin’s competition has undoubtedly been much easier than his rival’s, and his 2019 battle with Sergiy Derevyanchenko must have taken a lot out of the gas tank. The Ukrainian struck Golovkin with multiple damaging body shots which resulted in some grimaces from the usually ice cool Kazakh.

Going into the weekend’s bout, Canelo will surely be targeting this area again, and if he can execute a similar shift of bodywork throughout the opening rounds then we may see the contest over before the final bell.

The fight will very likely be decided by who lets their emotion slip first. Canelo is a strong, pressure fighter whose high level defensive techniques (slipping punches, bobbing and head rolling) complement his offense. His trainer, Eddy Reynoso, describes this as ‘classic Mexican style.’

As previously mentioned, ‘Triple G‘ is at his best when he’s able to dictate the fight’s pace. He’s struggled in recent years if this hasn’t been the case, and is certainly an ‘on top’ fighter, much like Conor McGregor in the UFC.

Another aspect to consider is the weight jump. The pairing will be coming in at 168 lbs, 8 lbs heavier than their two previous bouts. Some pundits are claiming this may suit Golovkin more (as it’s Canelo who’s having to cut), although he’s never fought at this weight before, and his opponent has won a WBO belt at 175 lbs.

This trilogy is now solely about legacy. Some are questioning why, after all the money he’s made in the past few years, Canelo would want to risk a Golovkin trilogy matchup.

It’s simple. The Mexican has constantly heard over the past four years that he didn’t win the first, with some even claiming the second either. A win, and a decisive one at that, should crush those murmurings surrounding scorecards and clenbuterol entirely.

Follow us on Twitter @ProstInt


Comments are closed.