Saturday, September 17, will see two future hall of famers, Saul Canelo Álvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin, return to the ring to face each other for the third time. The long-awaited trilogy fight will take place in the Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena during Mexican Independence Day weekend, a date traditionally reserved for big fights involving Mexican fighters.
The fight will take place at super-middleweight (168lbs), as opposed to middleweight (160lbs) like the other two meetings. As a result, Canelo, the undisputed champion in this division, will be putting his IBF, WBC, WBA (Super), WBO, and Ring Magazine belts on the line.
Leading up to the fight, there have been some concerns raised over the age difference between the two fighters. It is widely considered that the 32-year-old Canelo is still in his prime, while Golovkin, at age 40, is undoubtedly in the twilight of his career. There are concerns over whether GGG can still compete at the very elite level, and rumours are circulating that this will be his final fight. However, despite the age gap, anticipation remains high, with tickets for the fight starting at around $650.
The Previous Two Fights
The previous two fights between the pair were both competitive, controversial affairs that divided fans and experts. The first time the two faced each other in the ring was back in September 2017 in Las Vegas. This was a close-fought middleweight contest, with fighters exchanging brutal shots throughout tight rounds that were difficult to score.
In the end, the fight was ruled a split draw. The three judges scored the contest 113–115 to Golovkin, 114–114 each, and 118–110 to Canelo. This 118-110 scorecard submitted by judge Adalaide Byrd was very controversial as it meant Canelo had won 10 of the 12 rounds while GGG only clinched two. After the fight, this scorecard caused outrage among the boxing community, with The Ring’s Michael Rosenthal stating that the scorecard “marred an otherwise special fight.”
The wave of controversy led to calls for an immediate rematch between the pair. In December, it was announced that the pair would face off again in Vegas on Cinco de Mayo weekend. Further drama ensued when a couple of months before the rematch, it was announced that Canelo failed two random urine tests collected in February for the banned substance clenbuterol. This led to the Mexican receiving a six-month suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which dashed any hopes of the two fighting in May.
During Canelo’s suspension, Golovkin fought on the original date in May, with the Kazakhstani knocking out Armenian-American Vanes Martirosyan in two rounds in California. After making light work of the replacement opponent, negotiations resumed for the rematch between Álvarez and Golovkin. With Álvarez’s suspension set to finish on August 17, the fight was fixed for September 15 at the T-Mobile Arena.
The second fight was in front of a sell-out crowd and was another great contest. Both fighters were less cautious than in the first contest when they were attempting to figure out each other’s styles. In another back-and-forth fight, it was difficult to separate the pair. Canelo opted to focus on power punches while GGG spent time establishing his jab in a series of competitive rounds.
Once again, the fight went the distance. There were many disputes over who had emerged on top with plausible arguments for both fighters. In the end, Canelo Álvarez was awarded a majority decision victory. Two judges scored the bout 115-113 in his favour, while Glenn Fieldman scored it a 114-114 draw.
Since the Rematch: Canelo
Since the second fight with Golovkin almost four years ago, Canelo has remained active and challenged himself by stepping up in weight multiple times. Only months after defeating Golovkin, the Mexican stepped up in weight and made his debut at super-middleweight against Liverpudlian Rocky Fielding. Álvarez won via a third-round technical knockout after dropping Fielding numerous times with body shots. In the process, he picked up the WBA (Regular title).
Following Fielding, Canelo returned to middleweight to defend WBA (Super), WBC, The Ring, and lineal middleweight titles against IBF champion Danny Jacobs. Canelo defeated the hardened New Yorker via unanimous decision in a tough fight where he displayed exceptional defensive skills.
In September 2019, Álvarez stunned the boxing world by announcing he would move up to light heavyweight (175lbs) to fight WBO champion Sergey Kovalev in November. Although a veteran, the Russian remained a dangerous fighter who had only lost to top opposition such as Andre Ward and Eleider Álvarez in the past.
The fight was competitive for the first 10 rounds. Kovalev, the taller man, utilised his jab, while Canelo blocked shots with his guard and focused on returning fire with power punches. The Mexican fighter broke through in the 11th, landing a left hook, straight right combination, which knocked out Kovalev. This victory meant Canelo was now a four-division world champion.
Following this one-off campaign at light heavyweight, Canelo returned to the super-middleweight division, where he set his sights on becoming undisputed champion. This began with a contest against another WBA (Super) and The Ring champion Liverpudlian, Callum Smith, in December 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. The vacant WBC belt was also on the line. Canelo comfortably defeated Smith, cruising to an unanimous decision victory and leaving Smith with a detached left bicep.
After a brief turnaround following Smith, Canelo took care of his WBC mandatory challenger, Avni Yıldırım, in February 2021 in Miami. The Mexican quickly dispatched of Yildirim, whose corner threw the towel in at the end of the 3rd.
Next, after another short break, Canelo returned to Texas in May to take on another Brit. This time the slick southpaw Billy Joe Saunders, the WBO champion, would step up to face the Mexican. There was an intense build-up, with Saunders threatening to pull out only days before a dispute over the size of the ring. In the end, the fight was a major event, with 73,126 fans attending to make it the most-attended boxing event at an indoor venue in US history.
The fight was a close affair for eight rounds, with Canelo edging the first few and Saunders claiming the middle rounds. However, this all changed in the eighth after a devastating Canelo uppercut caused what was later revealed to be an orbital bone fracture to Saunders’ right eye. As a result, Saunders could not come out of his corner for the ninth round. This gave the Canelo another TKO victory and left only the scalp of IBF champion Caleb Plant to claim before the Mexican would be undisputed.
Canelo faced Plant in November 2021 in Las Vegas. The contest was party to another explosive build-up that even involved a scuffle between the fighters at a press conference a couple of months before the fight date. Although the American Plant put up a valiant effort, he was made to be another victim of Canelo’s viscous punches, as Canelo scored another TKO stoppage in the 11th round. This win crowned Canelo as the undisputed super middleweight champion, holding each belt from the four major sanctioning bodies and The Ring title.
Most recently, Canelo set his eyes on pushing boundaries even further by returning to the light heavyweight division. This time he faced the Russian Dmitry Bivol, who, unlike the veteran Kovalev, was a very dangerous fighter in his prime. This contest took place in May this year, once again in Vegas, and Bivol’s WBA (Super) belt was on the line. However, things did not go as planned for Canelo on this occasion. Bivol’s size and resistance to shots frustrated Canelo, and the Russian controlled the distance and used straight punch combinations to cruise to a shock unanimous decision victory. This handed Canelo the second loss of his career, reminding him that weight classes are there for a reason and perhaps he should stick to super middleweight.
Since the Rematch: Golovkin
Golovkin has failed to maintain the same activity as Canelo since their rematch. There have been long gaps between some of his fights, and he has only faced a couple of notable opponents since the second Canelo fight.
Golovkin returned to the ring after losing to Canelo in June 2019 to face the relatively unknown Canadian Steve Rolls at a catchweight of 164 lbs. In the lead-up to this fight, GGG split with his long-time trainer Abel Sanchez over monetary disagreements. Despite this, as expected, Golovkin made light work of Steve Rolls, stopping him in the fourth round.
The Kazakh’s next contest would be against much tougher opposition. In October 2019, he faced off against the Ukranian Sergiy Derevyanchenko for the vacant IBF middleweight title at Madison Square Garden in New York City. After Golovkin dropped Derevyanchenko in the first round, the Ukrainian was spurred to action and began to look livelier. They began to trade throughout the fight, with Derevyanchenko aiming to get off combinations while Golovkin focused on single punches. In the end, Golovkin edged a close tight unanimous decision victory. Post-fight there were questions over why Golovkin was not on top form and whether time was beginning to catch up to the fighter now in his late thirties. However, it was later revealed by promoter Eddie Hearn that Golovkin had been ill all week leading up to the fight.
Golovkin then took a 14-month hiatus from the ring, partly caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, not returning until December 2020. He faced IBF mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta. Golovkin delivered a beating, putting down the challenger four times before the ref stopped the fight at the end of the seventh round.
The last fight for Golovkin took place five months ago, in April 2022 in Japan, after a delay due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Golovkin traveled to Saitama, Japan, for a unification match against WBA (Super) champion Ryōta Murata. Golovkin, who turned 40 the day before the fight, started off slow and was vulnerable to attacks to the body from Murata. However, he soon settled into the fight and began hurting Murata. In the ninth round he knocked down Murata. Post knockdown, the Japanese fighter continued to absorb damage, prompting his corner to throw in the towel and making Golovkin a unified middleweight champion again.
Soon after the fight with Murata, Golovkin announced he would move up to super middleweight, paving the way for this month’s trilogy fight with Canelo.
Betting Odds, The Undercard and Where to Watch
Despite coming off a loss, the younger and more active Canelo is the betting favourite heading into the trilogy. Most bookmakers have odds of a Canelo victory at 1/5, while the veteran Golovkin is the underdog at 7/2.
The card features other compelling fights. The chief support involves WBC super flyweight champion 22-year-old Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez defending his title against Mexican Israel Gonzalez. Another Khazak super middleweight, Ali Akhmedov, faces hardened Gatekeeper Gabriel Rosado. Furthemore, prospect Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams faces English boxer, Kieron Conway, in a middleweight clash.
The event will be available for those with a DAZN subscription in the UK which costs £7.99 a month. However, in the US, DAZN has opted to put the fight on PPV for $59.99 in addition to the usual subscription cost.
Be sure to tune in on the 17th, or the early hours of the 18th in the UK, to see how Canelo reacts after his first loss in years, and whether Golovkin has enough left to a long-awaited win over his bitter rival.