Canelo Alvarez Has Boxing at His Feet Again After Settling Feud vs. Gennadiy Golovkin

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured Columnist IIISeptember 18, 2022

Saul Alvarez is a one-namer.

In fact, thanks to winning performances in championship-level fights since age 20, the cinnamon-haired Mexican had become the boxing equivalent of Prince, Madonna and Sting.

But after a desultory loss to Dmitry Bivol in May, Canelo was one more off-key evening away from being redubbed as the ring's version of Nickelback.

So, it's no surprise that the conqueror of four weight classes—and reigning kingpin at 168 pounds—was determined to put on a memorable show Saturday night against Gennadiy Golovkin.

The early reviews suggest he did just that. And then some.

Now 32, Alvarez sang a razor line at his two-time rival's expense, beating the older man to the punch early and maintaining the pace late on the way to a clear unanimous decision. It instantly became the least-debated result in a trilogy spanning exactly five years and two days.

The two men fought to a split-decision draw in their first go-round in September 2017, then returned a year later to engage in 12 more nip-and-tuck rounds that ended with a majority nod for Alvarez.

Many boxing observers, not to mention Golovkin himself, insisted it could just as easily have been 2-0 in the Kazakh's direction. This only added fuel to the fire for a third encounter in which pre-fight handshakes and pleasant greetings were eschewed for cold stares and promises of violent mayhem.

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And while it wasn't exactly Gatti-Ward by the latter measure, Rounds 25-36 were still every bit as compelling as Rounds 1-24 had been for the pound-for-pound stalwarts whose power boxing skill sets, thirsts for aggression and wills to win were as complementary as any trilogy of recent vintage.

Where Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran in the 1980s—and Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier a decade before—were studies in contrast, Alvarez and Golovkin were so perfectly suited because they were so perfectly similar, rendering their trilogy most reminiscent of Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield.

Those heavyweights exchanged close decision wins in 1992 and 1993 before Bowe capped the series two years later with a come-from-behind TKO win in which both fighters were dropped.

Though Duran was a four-division titleholder and Frazier an Olympic and professional champion, each walks a step behind their two-time conqueror when it comes to historical discussions. Golovkin, though still an incumbent at 160 pounds, seems destined to the same fate when it comes to Alvarez.

The winner, meanwhile, will surely climb back toward the undisputed claim as the "face of the sport" title he'd held before the springtime loss to Bivol, which came when Alvarez decided to return to light heavyweight to renew a title claim he'd staked against Sergey Kovalev back in 2019.

Instead, the unbeaten but largely unheralded Bivol stylistically schooled him over 12 rounds, prompting a precipitous drop all the way to fifth on The Ring's pre-fight pound-for-pound list this week.

"The victory in their trilogy fight was impressive and came against an unquestionable future Hall of Famer," Randy Gordon, former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission, told Bleacher Report. "That Hall of Famer was 40 years old. While the victory keeps him high on the pound-for-pound list, he will still be looking up at others on that list.

"However, the victory over GGG still keeps Canelo as boxing's Fort Knox."

AP Photo/John Locher

And while a clear defeat of an aging foe may not warrant supplanting the four men now in front of him, it certainly puts Alvarez back in the matchmaking driver's seat.

He will have lucrative opportunities to either avenge the Bivol loss, pursue another belt-toting quarry at 175 or deal with an emerging set of new suitors at 168, where he's a pristine 7-0 in stops between middleweight and light heavyweight.

Out there in the distance, too, is a would-be catchweight battle between him and three-belt heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who certified his claim with a second straight decision over Anthony Joshua last month in Saudi Arabia.

The 35-year-old Ukrainian was an Olympic champ at 200 pounds in 2012 and swept up all the professional belts at cruiserweight before a full-time move up the ladder in 2019.

Alvarez initially floated the idea days before the loss to Bivol, and both he and Usyk still professed interest in the prospect, presuming a defeat of Golovkin, heading into the weekend.

It might not be the right competitive path given Usyk's mammoth edges in height (6'3" to 5'8") and reach (78" to 70.5") and obvious technical acumen, but it's precisely the sort of chatter the prodigal son can engage in now that he's returned to the behind-the-rope status reserved for his superstar ilk.

"I don't think he ever really lost that position, other than to [Tyson] Fury," ex-HBO blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley told Bleacher Report.

"I'm sure most of his fan base regards the loss to Bivol as some kind of aberration. And it's the size of that base that makes him who he is. They won't relinquish him until he takes a real beating.

"The real money is in the Usyk fight. But I think Canelo prefers winning to money."

Welcome back to the penthouse, champ. Eminem will take your coat.


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