This story appears in ESPN The Magazine’s August 21 Fighting Issue. Subscribe today!
Sure, the spectacle last month made headlines. But 2017’s real mega-fight features the two biggest active stars in the sport, with everything — the lineal middleweight crown, pound-for-pound bragging rights, and genuine crossover superstardom — at stake.
Golovkin’s idea of defense is generating so much offensive pressure that his opponent becomes gun-shy. Alvarez has consistently improved his feints, slips and movement, presenting a much more elusive target. Advantage: Alvarez
Golovkin’s biggest strength — power — becomes a weakness: With 33 of his 37 professional wins coming via knockout, Golovkin has gone 12 rounds just once, in his most recent fight. Alvarez has gone the 12-round distance 10 times. Advantage: Alvarez
At 27, the younger, more athletic Alvarez holds the advantage in hand and foot speed over the 35-year-old Golovkin. And he’ll need both, in addition to a jab and sharp counterpunching, to keep the ultra-aggressive Golovkin at bay. Advantage: Alvarez
Golovkin’s ability to take a punch is undeniable: no knockdowns in almost 400 amateur and pro bouts, and he’s been hit with bigger, cleaner shots. But we know Golovkin has a chin because it’s been hit often. Alvarez knows it too. Advantage: Golovkin
Numbers don’t lie. Golovkin had a 23-fight KO streak until winning a unanimous decision in March against Daniel Jacobs. His 89.2 percent KO rate is the best ever for a middleweight champ. This will be Alvarez’s debut at middleweight. Advantage: Golovkin
Alvarez is eight years younger but has 51 pro fights to Golovkin’s 37 and faced far better foes: Mayweather, Mosley, Cotto and Lara. He turned pro at age 15, which both hardens and weathers a boxer in ways the amateur game does not. Advantage: Alvarez
AND THE WINNER IS….
“This fight is close to a genuine toss-up, and there are so many questions to unpack about these two: Has Golovkin actually begun to slip? With the level of sheer violence and physicality he brings into the ring, does it matter? Is Canelo the pampered, protected face of Golden Boy Promotions or is he the real thing? Do people underestimate Golovkin’s skill and nous because he’s been a knockout artist?
I think the edge here goes to Alvarez’s youth and deeper skill set. He’s at the peak of his powers and he knows, if he is to fulfill the expectations that have followed him since he was a teenager, now is the time. Alvarez wins a brutal, memorable, and close-fought unanimous decision.”