Three world middleweight titles are at stake in long-awaited meeting between the 35-year-old Kazakh and the 27-year-old Mexican
Oscar De La Hoya is not the most impartial party involved in the middleweight super-fight between his compatriot and client, Saul Canelo lvarez, and the unbeaten Gennady Golovkin, but the promoter struck a note of authenticity when he predicted unprecedented suffering for both fighters here on Saturday night.
Im going to call this fight eight to nine rounds of hell for both guys, the six-weight former world champion said. Its going to be difficult for both guys.
No argument there. Even the fighters, who have won most of their contests easily, agree. They admit they are preparing for the worst night of their careers.
Nor did De La Hoya stray from the widely accepted view when he said that the contest for the three major world belts held by Golovkin (the IBO also recognises him, alongside the WBA, WBC and IBF, while Britains Billy Joe Saunders defends the WBO version in London on Saturday night) represents a priceless chance for boxing to claw back some integrity.
He dismissed Floyd Mayweathers 10-round stoppage of the UFC fighter Conor McGregor in the same T-Mobile Arena three weeks ago as a financial stunt, adding: That is not what boxing is all about. Boxing is all about the fight. Its not all about the business and the money. That will come. Every time there is talk about the money, the gate and this and that what happens? The fight is terrible. You know who Im talking about.
Yet it is about the money. Its always about the money whatever the pride on the line for both fighters, whatever the belts. A belt in boxing is a piece of leather that holds up the trousers of a plump executive and it is a bright, shiny bauble used to inflate the asking price for the next major event.
This contest will, indeed, bring three-quarters of the division together (although there is, as ever, a minor glitch in that lvarez has declined to pay the WBC or IBO sanction fees) and, if Saunders can turn back the challenge of Willie Monroe Jr, a total unification is there for the making.
Saunderss promoter, Frank Warren, is showing both cards on BoxNation and he has even got Nicola Adams on the Vegas bill. So they are talking to each other, which is something.
But it took three years of talking to get lvarez, 27, and the 35-year-old Kazakh into the same ring. For a worryingly long time, it seemed brinksmanship would wreck the deal, as it nearly did in the five years of haggling that preceded Mayweathers past-the-sell-by-date mega showdown with Manny Pacquiao.
Nevertheless, De La Hoya insists: This is perfect timing because boxing needs it. What I visualise in my head is a great fight that is only going to help boxing. Somebody asked me why this fight wasnt made three years ago. Canelo was fighting at welterweight three years ago.
Not quite: lvarez last fought at 147lb seven years and 20 fights ago. Indeed his last fight, against Julio Csar Chvez Jr in May, was at super-middleweight, even though both of them clocked in at 164lb, four pounds inside the limit. De La Hoya is indisputably on the money, however, when he says: Golovkin has been fighting at middleweight all his life.
While the Golden Boy knows more about fighting up and down the weight categories than nearly anyone in the business, he puts a favourable shine on it. A fighter like myself, who has experienced six weight divisions, you have to grow into the weight and let your body naturally grow into it. Just last year, Canelo was fighting at light-middleweight against Liam Smith. It is actually surprising it got made this fast. Now that Canelo has moved up to 160lb, he is fighting the very best guy instead of taking someone else like [David] Lemieux or Saunders. He is taking on Golovkin.
And, if Golovkin proves to be too big for the Mexican, as some insiders here suspect? If he is, then so be it. This is what Canelo wanted. This is what boxing needs and if Golovkin is the bigger man, then guess what? Then Canelo better step up his game and fight even harder. That is good for us as fans.
De La Hoya remembers the rigours and pain of making weight, but he revelled in the struggle. Oh yeah, it was fun because I always went inside the ring with a mentality that Im going to get hit anyway, so I might as well go out on my shield. There are several that stand out. When I fought [Fernando] Vargas [at light-middleweight], I fought the bigger guy, the stronger guy [and stopped him in the 11th round].
Youre going to get hit anyways so you might as well go out there and try to put on a great show. They say youre as good as your last fight and whoever wins this fight and in a spectacular fashion will be considered the best pound-for-pound fighter.
Tom Loeffler, Golovkins promoter who is sharing those duties with Golden Boy Promotions, said: There is no question that the winner whether it is Canelo or GGG is going to be more marketable. Its not only the two best fighters in the division, and the two best pound-for-pound fighters, its two of the most marketable fighters in the sport.
If Gennady wins, his career is at a whole different level. At that point, he can start picking and choosing instead of having to chase people. He always wanted to fight the other champions to prove he was the best. If he beats Canelo, hes clearly going to be the best and they are going to have to come to him when hes at the top.
Thats the talk out of the way. As for the fighting, Golovkin does not agree that lvarez might be the perfect match for his attacking style, as most respected commentators have agreed. Surprisingly, he demurred: Maybe not for me, maybe for people, the fans. Will I enjoy it? Maybe not: too much moving, no close distance, more power.
Golovkins trainer, Abel Sanchez, agrees it will be a wretched experience for both of them but insists the styles favour his man. Were looking for a difficult fight, a dramatic fight, explosive. These guys two styles match up perfectly to give us the kind of fight we will remember for a long time.
It would be ideal if it were for all the right reasons. I suspect Golovkin will remember it more favourably, bringing a hectic nights action to a bloody conclusion in the later rounds.
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