By Jake Collins (@MelancholyFolly)
“Let the real fight begin!” tweeted everyone after pretending they didn’t pay for Mayweather-McGregor, but yes indeed let it begin. Aside from Saunders’ WBO belt, everything at 160 is on the line this Saturday as we FINALLY get to see GGG take on Mexico’s Canelo! It’s a huge fight in its own regard but even more so for both fighters. For Golovkin, this is his legacy defining fight. It’s unfortunate that he’s had to wait until he is 35 for it but here we are. For Canelo, this is his chance to announce himself as the premier middleweight in the world and beat a man who has largely looked very unbeatable. In this write up I want to compare aspects of both fighter’s arsenal and try to convince myself as much as anyone else as to what will happen.
I think come fight night the size difference between Canelo and Golovin will be more telling. Sure, Canelo may or may not weigh more on the night itself but he is still the smaller guy. He is very much used to being the bigger fighter and I think this will play a part in the fight, particularly if it reaches the later rounds. Canelo is in incredible shape no doubt, but he’s had issues with stamina in the past and I can’t help but think all that additional muscle is going to make the championship rounds a tad more complicated for him. Whereas there have been thoughts that Golovkin has looked more fleshy than usual, which I agree with. However, I think he is just trying to have as much weight as possible. My understanding is that the IBF weigh-in will not be in place for this fight and GGG has historically always been well under the required weight so I wouldn’t be surprised if his plan is to have as much weight and size advantage over Canelo as possible. It could even be more simple than that though; a fighter at 35 who is VADA enrolled should look like he’s struggling more than he used to when it comes to fighting shape. In terms of reach/height differences, there isn’t a great deal of difference going by listed lengths. Golovkin looks substantially taller when they stand alongside each other but Boxrec says there is only a minimal difference so take from that what you will.
Golovkin’s best weapon is his jab, no doubt. Not only is it frighteningly accurate but it’s a very solid punch too. He really steps in behind it which is exactly how he beat up Lemieux. It isn’t just a heavy shot though; it’s an educated one. Throwing that with his excellent balance and range enable him to pretty much always be in a position to throw a shot, allowing him to really dictate the fight. He struggled to do this against Jacobs, but Jacobs fought a very smart fight that night. Of course, we have to mention his power. Every shot he throws looks like it hurts and that’s mostly down to superb technique. This is the hardest Canelo will have ever been hit quite comfortably, I think that factor is being grossly overlooked. His other main asset which gets less attention is his chin. He’s shaken off big digs from Jacobs, Lemieux and Stevens – all of whom I would say carry more power than Canelo. Sure, the chin isn’t always that hard to find but he’s an offensive fighter willing to accept some licks if he can stay in range. I’ll also make the obligatory mention of his footwork here too. Whilst his hands aren’t fast, his feet are plenty quick enough to serve him well and he knows where to place them too.
Canelo’s obvious strength has to be his ability to counter. As we saw in the Cotto fight he is very adept at countering a jab or avoiding proceeding shots with his excellent upper-body movement. This combined with his fast combination throwing exemplify the requirement to land on Canelo when you throw, otherwise you’re going to have a lot coming back at you. He also works the body really well which is something he’ll have to do to win this fight. He isn’t going to hurt Golovkin by going for the chin but everyone can be hurt to the body – especially fighters toward the end of their career like Golovkin. He’s a pretty good inside fighter too and has shown to be a tough guy. The only time I’ve really seen Canelo hurt badly was – if I recall correctly – against Jose Cotto. He really rocked Canelo. But Canelo recovered and won the fight – which is a big learning curve. See AJ-Whyte as another example of that.
Golovkin’s main weakness here will be his ambivalence to being hit by someone who he doesn’t consider a puncher; it can lose him rounds. Against Jacobs he was actually very disciplined defensively. He parried a lot and even used some of that mythical head movement of his. With the style Canelo fights with and the fact he isn’t a ‘devastating’ puncher, I expect Golovkin to allow him to tee off at times which may well work but it just doesn’t look good to the judges. And if Canelo does that to the body then I think Golovkin will be in trouble. He has excellent timing when throwing a shot but his actual hand speed is pretty average. If he can’t time Canelo then he will get countered plenty. I also question how effective he is if Plan A doesn’t work, or even getting him to follow Plan A to begin with. After the Brook fight, Sanchez was saying he didn’t want Golovkin to just get involved in a war but he did because he wanted to. I found that to be pretty concerning really. Also, the Jacobs fight was too close for there to not be some kind of useful tactical advice in the corner from Sanchez and I certainly didn’t hear any. His inside fighting isn’t as solid as you’d expect ether, Monroe Jr had his success here.
Canelo has a couple of issues that I think Golovkin will look to exploit. Firstly, he likes to sit on the ropes a lot and this is often when he isn’t working for the full 3 minutes of the round. You HAVE to do work the whole time when fighting Golovkin and sitting on the ropes inviting shots from him is ridiculous. I doubt Canelo will purposely look to do that but it’s so normal to see him there. Sure, he can set counters from this but it’s a big risk. His other problem is his slow footwork. The Jacobs fight is pointed to as a blueprint for dealing with GGG, however Canelo cannot move like Jacobs does; he isn’t as fleet footed, large or styled in such a way. Golovkin has the better footwork and if used correctly this can negate Canelo’s ability to counter successfully or even lead himself. I also think Saul is capable of gassing a little too if he’s forced into fighting for the entirety of rounds.
Last 3 fights
Truth be told, outside of Jacobs neither of these guys have really had a proper test in their last few fights. The Brook and Khan fights were freakshows. Most seem to think Golovkin has been on the slide and Canelo is constantly improving but it’s difficult to make those points unequivocally when you consider their last few fights.
Jacobs – This was a real close fight, one not many of us expected to be. For what it’s worth, myself and most people I’ve spoken to scored it for Golovkin. His impressive jab won him the fight here. I don’t think he looked as terrible as people say, he just had a very competitive fight with the number 2 at his weight. And also, Jacobs was well within his rights to swerve the IBF weigh-in but please don’t pretend it didn’t impact the fight at all in his favour. If it wouldn’t have benefited then he wouldn’t have done it. He made Golovkin look ponderous at times but this should be more about Jacobs boxing excellently than Golovkin suddenly being shot looking.
Brook – Bit of a pointless fight really. I gave Brook 1 round and it was over by the 5th. Brook looked very game and acquitted himself really well but he was just overpowered by the much bigger man. Again, I don’t think Golovkin even looked that bad here. He just walked through the smaller man and caused him some serious damage. Brook’s speed certainly caused Golovkin trouble but you’ll always be second in that department when fighting the smaller guy. This was nothing more than a cash grab for both and shouldn’t ever be seen as anything else. The fight shouldn’t have happened.
Wade – “I’m a thug, I’m going to break his face” OK, Dominic. A mandatory but a predictably none event.
Chavez Jr – Really not a lot to say here. Chavez Jr looked awful, almost zombie like. He was never that great anyway but when he was comfortable at making these kind of weights he was at least an imposing fighter physically. Instead this time he was basically a Mexican heavybag. Canelo showed some nice combination punching, maybe he should have stopped Chavez Jr in all honesty but I’m not reading much into that. The whole catchweight thing was kind of weird in this fight, but again this was always just about the money really.
Smith – Liam Smith isn’t terrible. He’s OK, but he should never have held a world title. He simply isn’t good enough. He gave it a go but was badly outclassed by Canelo who finished Smith with a tremendous body shot. Again, not an awful lot to say about this fight really. He stopped Smith pretty handily as well he should. He looked very sharp, no signs of rust or anything. Another ‘brave’ effort from a Brit..
Khan – Another fight that should never have happened, but like GGG-Brook it was pretty entertaining (although less so). Canelo got a highlight reel KO here, it was an absolute peach. Khan caught absolutely clean by a big right from Canelo and he was completely iced. However, I had Khan winning the fight until that round (6th). Canelo had started to time Khan coming in and it was always inevitable what was going to happen, but I thought his slow feet were quite telling here. Khan actually caught him with a huge right himself early on but it hardly moved Canelo at all. Khan being the smaller and much faster guy meant he was always likely to start well though; that KO was inexorable in all honesty.
Well, we’ll find out how much nonsense I talk come Saturday. I think Canelo will take the early rounds; Golovkin can be a slow starter and – unless he sees reason to – generally doesn’t commit too much early doors. I do think fighting someone healthy at this weight (ignore the Chavez Jr farce, this is the first time Canelo is fighting at a proper weight above 154 without someone going up or down to suit him) will be more of a struggle for the Mexican than he realises. Golvokin is very strong as well, Murray and Jacobs were bigger guys but couldn’t impose on him physically and all this extra bulk is going to slow him down in the later rounds too, I think. Golovkin throws plenty in the later rounds, though does seem to slow midway for a period which is interesting. If Alvarez can slip and counter Golovkin’s jab then he could be in command for this fight but that is not an easy task at all. GGG’s jab is scary accurate and very difficult to read – owing to his superb timing. Canelo has decent pop but he isn’t that big a puncher in my eyes, certainly I’ve not seen him stop or really badly hurt someone I wouldn’t expect someone of his level to be able to. His key to victory will be to avoid letting Golovkin execute the jab and to try to work him on the inside; Golovkin isn’t a great inside fighter and if the body is damaged he WILL slow down. For GGG, he’ll want to back Canelo up behind the jab and gradually break him down. He’ll fancy himself
as the bigger, stronger and more powerful fighter which is new territory for Saul but not for Golovkin.
All I really want from this is no controversy. If it’s a decision then just make it the right one. We’ve seen suspect cards before and boxing doesn’t need that kind of attention right now. Let’s hope for a real big drama show.by