Boxing

Is the Canelo vs GGG Trilogy Too Late?

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The rivalry between Mexican great Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Kazakh KO artist Gennady “GGG” Golovkin is one for the history books. Containing all the action, drama, and controversy, one would expect when greats collide. While the first two battles proved to be action-packed wars of attrition, there has always been an asterisk over their two high-stakes clashes. Many believe that Golovkin not only won the first bout but the second also. However, after Canelo’s daring campaign into the light heavyweight division this year, the trilogy was announced for the 17th of September, 2022. Is the Canelo vs GGG trilogy too late, and will the rivalry be settled once and for all?

Canelo vs GGG 1 & 2

It was the 16th of September 2017, and the highly anticipated showdown between Mexico’s biggest current star Canelo Alvarez and the iron man from Kazakhstan, Gennady Golovkin, was to take place. The jampacked T-Mobile Arena was ready for a boxing masterclass between the slick boxer-puncher in Canelo and the thunderous power puncher in GGG.

The fight was everything the fans expected, with Canelo landing fast hard-hitting combos to counter the slower methodical GGG. Golovkin in return landed his stiff power jab and KO potent hooks, to stun his hardy opponent. Both men had their moments across all 12 rounds, with neither man having a dramatically significant lead over the other, however many believed that GGG had done enough to secure victory. Unsurprisingly, the fight resulted in a draw, to the disagreement of fans the world over. Many believed that the result was another example of boxing politics and that the rightful winner was robbed that night. This heated controversy along with the inconclusive nature of the decision lead to a rematch.

The second fight rolled around a whole year later due to Canelo failing a drug test, cancelling the original date in May. What was once a contest amongst the elite was now a suspenseful grudge match left to simmer over for a year. Canelo looked sharper than in their previous fight, snapping GGG’s head back often throughout the fight, while GGG maintained his educated pressure and dynamite power. The fight maintained a high pace, largely mirroring the first bout with each man having a lot of success, proving once again that these were the best of their division.

When the dust settled after their 12-round war, the judges ruled in favour of the Mexican, earning him the WBA (Super), WBC, IBF, and The Ring middleweight titles. Despite the 24 rounds shared between both warriors, it was still uncertain as to who was the definitive best, as most spectators agreed that GGG won the first, and Canelo won the second; despite the suspect judging.

Fast-forward to 2022 and both men are at different stages of their careers, with one taking on mountainous tasks in a search for worthy competition and the other winding down into talks of retirement. So is the Canelo vs GGG trilogy too late?

Canelo Alvarez – Hunting for Glory

Since their first fight, Canelo had been on an absolute tear up until he seemingly bit off more than he could chew against the fundamental master Dmitry Bivol. Canelo has mostly dominated his competition since their last encounter, beating down Britain’s Rocky Fielding, out-boxing the talented Daniel Jacobs, and winning the WBO light heavyweight title via KO against an ageing albeit dangerous Sergey Kovalev. 

The great Canelo moved back down to completely out-class Scouser Callum Smith, winning the WBA (Super), The Ring, and WBC super-middleweight titles. He retained his belts against Avni Yıldırım in the lead up to one of his most intriguing matchups to date, the slick undefeated technician Billy Joe Saunders. Saunders was for a long time deemed to be the man to beat the seemingly invincible Canelo Alvarez. This hype was further stoked by the unwavering support of the British boxing fanbase and the Traveller’s confident persona. On the night Saunders had some success, peeling rounds off in his favour with his blistering hand speed and educated combinations. However, Saunders’s offense was dampened by Canelo’s tight guard. Canelo invested well to the body, and by round 8 the Guardalajaran-born powerhouse was able to land at will, with a literal bone-crushing uppercut to seal the deal as Saunders’s eye socket was visibly broken leading to a retirement on his stool. This victory earned Canelo Alvarez the WBO super-middleweight title.

Canelo got another finish over the flashy American Caleb Plant, a fight where Plant caused some issues but ultimately succumbed to Canelo’s power in round 11, again adding to his hardware with the IBF super-middleweight title. With seemingly little to do at super-middleweight, Canelo looked to the underrated Russian technician Dmitry Bivol for a challenge.

Although an underdog, Bivol out-boxed and out-worked the Mexican across all 12 rounds, winning the fight via unanimous decision. Surprisingly it was not necessarily his size that brought Bivol the victory, although Bivol was able to take the punches well. It was his work rate and ability to implement the fundamentals that got his hand raised. This hiccup in Canelo’s career may have shown his limits, but the boxing superstar still has plenty of great performances left in the tank.

Gennady Golovkin – The Kazakh Crusher’s Last Days in the Sport

Now aged 40, nine years older than Canelo, the awe-inspiring powerhouse is seemingly on his last legs. Still dangerous due to his ferocious punching capabilities, the aging warhorse has slowed since their last encounter, a huge factor in determining whether the Canelo vs GGG trilogy is too late.

Whereas Canelo has gone from strength to strength, Golovkin’s career has cruised along against lesser names, with his activity within the sport waning. Still fighting within the middleweight division, Golovkin has finished three out of four opponents, with his most recent outing against the tough Ryota Murata at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan.

Murata proved his metal, going blow for blow with one of boxings scariest punchers. It took a while for Golovkin to find his grove in this back and forth, tit-for-tat affair. This combination of age and ring rust was overcome by the 9th round, with the Kazakh beating down his durable opponent to earn a TKO victory.

This victory over Murata proved that Golovkin could still compete with high-level opposition, but it is yet to be seen how competitive he will be against Canelo on September 17th, 2022.

Is the Canelo vs GGG Trilogy Too Late?

There are many factors to consider with their final fight. First, the fight looks to be taking place at super-middleweight, a weight class that Canelo is accustomed to, but GGG is not. This incremental change in weight may not seem like much but may pull the Kazakh from his comfort zone.

Weight aside, Canelo has been the much more active fighter, taking out the whose-who of the super-middleweight division and diving head first into the light heavyweight division. This contrasts with GGG’s less active, less ambitious wind down of his career. Canelo was also able to handle GGG’s power the first two fights, alongside his stints at higher weight classes have given Canelo a taste of heavier punchers, adding more confidence in his chin.

Age is the biggest factor in this fight, GGG has not lost his power but has noticeably slowed over the past few years. Golovkin was never particularly quick to begin with, but the 9 year age gap with Golovkin at 40-years old will heavily favour Canelo.

This trilogy still has merit, but overall favors the younger Canelo Alvarez. GGG is a throw-back to the old-school power punchers of yesteryear, and it is definitely possible for GGG to rewind the clock and beat his younger rival with sheer grit and dogged determination. Regardless of the outcome, this will be a fight for the ages, with two of boxing’s best settling their rivalry once and for all.

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Life long martial artist and fan of combat sports, currently competing as an amateur Muay Thai fighter. Besides fighting, I love travelling the world and writing.

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