With all due respect to Floyd "Money" Mayweather and "The Notorious" Conor McGregor, their recent clash was never the most anticipated boxing match of 2017. Despite the hoopla, around-the-clock social media/mainstream coverage, and the record number of pay-per-view buys, it touched the masses as an odd, morbid curiosity more than anything else; a spectacle. In comparison, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KO’s) vs. Gennady "Triple G" Golovkin (37-0, 33 KO’s) has always been held in higher regard by hardcore fans. In fact, this has been on the radar as our sport's most important bout since 2015, when Mayweather faced Manny Paquiao. On Saturday night, September 16th, from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada (televised live by HBO PPV), pugilistic dreams finally come true, hands will be thrown, hurt will be inflicted and two of the game’s premier names battle for middleweight and pound for pound supremacy.
Since the day he was born, Saul Alvarez stood apart from the norm. Birthed in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, Alvarez was the only member of his family with red hair, fair skin and freckles. The youngest of eight, Saul has six brothers, all of whom boxed professionally, most notably his oldest brother, Rigoberto. Rigoberto retired with a record of 27-4, 20 KO’s, once held the interim WBA Super Welterweight title, and was young Saul’s inspiration to take up boxing. Big brother was also his very first trainer and the man who turned his sibling over to the chief second’s he’s with to this very day, Chepo and Eddie Reynoso. It was this father-son tandem that nicknamed Alvarez “Canelito”, for “Little Cinnamon”, which morphed into simply “Canelo” by his pro debut, at age 15.
The unconventional features were an immediate attention grabber, but soon enough, people got past that and realized this Irish looking Mexican could fight! Officially, “Canelo” knocked out 11 of his first 13 opponents, but his trainers are adamant there were 10 additional KO’s in that span, which can’t be documented. In June of 2008, all seven of the Alvarez brothers fought on the same show and by May 2010, “Canelo” was on the televised portion of the Mayweather - “Sugar” Shane Mosley pay-per-view undercard. Saul was now connected with the one and only “Golden Boy”, Oscar dela Hoya, who knows star quality when he sees it, and placed his protégé on the path towards achieving it.
Within three years, Alvarez unified the WBC and WBA super welterweight titles and added the likes of Mosley, Kermit Cintron, Austin Trout, Josesito Lopez and Alfonso Gomez to his resume. All the while, girls screamed in “Canelo’s” presence, as if attending a boy band concert, and his ring intelligence, poise, hand speed and even-handed power kept the interest of the hardcore sect. The first setback of Saul’s career occurred September 2013, a decision loss to Mayweather, which drew 2.2 million pay-per-view buys. The loss was clear, but it was also an invaluable learning experience for a 23-year-old, and the exposure only enhanced “Canelo’s” mainstream recognition. In Mayweather’s absence, Alvarez has become the clear A-list celebrity of prizefighting today, the millennial “Golden Boy”, pulling in 900,000 sells and the WBC middleweight title, in his bout with Miguel Cotto. Not to mention the 1.2 million buys generated for the glorified sparring session with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., May of this year. Pertaining to the business side of boxing; the biggest name in the sport fights in May, the weekend of Cinco de Mayo, and September, the weekend of Mexican Independence Day. Mayweather did just that from 2009 until two years ago, dela Hoya himself did likewise prior to Floyd, and Alvarez has assumed the throne. Interestingly, even when the promoters of Mayweather-McGregor sought a date, they didn’t dare try to take September 16th away from Canelo vs. Triple G.
That’s how big of a star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has become.
Ironically, Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin (also known as “Triple G” or “GGG”), also shared boxing with his brothers. His twin, Max, started with Gennady, when older brother, Sergey” took them to the local gym, as a way of maximizing their proficient street fighting talents. Born in Kazakhstan, formerly of the Soviet Russia, Golovkin was a natural. A highly decorated amateur, Gennady had a staggering record of 345-5 and a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games.
Golovkin signed with Europe based promoter, Universum and rattled off 18 wins, 15 by knockout. But despite the in-ring success, Gennady was unhappy with the promotions reluctance to pair him against their marquee names, Felix Sturm and Sebastian Zbik, both of whom fought at middleweight. In hindsight, Universum’s decision couldn’t have been more wrong; Golovkin would’ve disposed of Sturm and Zbik in the same night, he’s become a bigger name than both combined and Universum could be part of a bout of this magnitude, on American soil. A lose, lose scenario if ever there was one, for them.
Nonetheless, Golovkin signed with a new outfit, K2, and hooked up with trainer, Abel Sanchez, both of whom he maintains relationships with to this very day. “Triple G” had Sanchez at “hello”, as Abel immediately fell in love with his composure, skillset and punching power. By his own admission, Sanchez added some aggressive, Mexican fight characteristics to the mix, which spawned a level of fear and knockouts not seen since Mike Tyson’s early pro days. 23 consecutive stoppages, to be exact, spanning nearly a decade. “GGG” won the WBA Middleweight belt, made his United States debut, added the IBF and WBC straps from the same division and has been the most avoided and destructive pugilist on the planet over the last five years.
Even “Canelo” and Golden Boy Promotions haven’t necessarily jumped at the chance to face “Triple G”. After defeating Cotto in 2015, Alvarez was the lineal middleweight champion and a Golovkin fight skyrocketed to the top of must-see lists. Regardless, “Canelo” vacated the title he’d just won, moved back down in weight and fought lesser names Amir Khan, Liam Smith and Chavez, Jr. In the interim, “Triple G” stayed busy, turned 34, then 35 years of age, and showed signs of slippage in consecutive bouts against Kell Brook and Daniel Jacobs. Sanchez will tell you Alvarez’s camp gained confidence, “a glimmer of hope” by the Jacobs fight, where Golovkin took more shots than ever seen and won a very close decision. Conversely, Golden Boy Promotions point to “Canelo’s” youth, having only recently turned 27, and the level of growth and maturation he’s acquired in the last couple years.
Good news is, none this matters anymore. Contracts have been signed, training camps are completing and it’ll boil down to who establishes the jab first, who does the better bodywork, who lands first, who lands last, who makes the better adjustments and who can most withstand the punishment dished out by the other; the stuff that actually matters.
Can’t wait for Saturday night!