THERE comes a time in every great fighter’s career when it is no longer enough to just fight for titles, or against top opposition, or for even more money. By that stage, if history is anything to go by, a great fighter needs more from a fight in order to generate the requisite motivation ahead of it and will often, in search of it, create some sort of needle with an opponent to spark a dormant part of them into life.

In the case of Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez, one gets the impression that is precisely what he is doing in 2022 against Gennadiy Golovkin, a man with whom he has been linked for some time. The two, it’s true, have history, one rooted in controversy, yet it seems a stretch nonetheless to call them bitter rivals, or sworn enemies, or any other take on the same theme. Both, historically, are respectful fighters, with Golovkin, in particular, never one to engage in trash talk with an opponent, nor raise his voice, speak out of turn, or offer anything remotely contentious before a fight.

Somehow, however, ahead of what will be the pair’s third encounter, Golovkin has been accused of being a fake by Álvarez, and for this, Álvarez says, he intends to teach the Kazakh a lesson on Saturday night (September 17) in Las Vegas.

“I just want to punish him really hard,” he said today (September 14) inside the MGM Grand. “That’s the only thing happening in my mind. And I’m very close to doing it.

“He pretends to be a nice person but he’s not. He talked a lot of s**t about me, and that’s why I don’t like him. He’s a good fighter, a great fighter, that’s for sure. But as a person, I don’t think so.”

Canelo’s need to make an enemy of an opponent is nothing new, of course, especially of late. Only last year, in fact, he found himself going back and forth with Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant, ahead of stopping them both inside the distance.

“I kind of like it,” he said of trash talking. “I train harder. I go into the fight feeling more dangerous.”

As well as a bit of needle bringing out Álvarez’s dangerous side, there is every chance a May defeat against Dmitry Bivol will have a similar kind of impact on the Mexican this Saturday night. He is, after all, in coming off a loss, now in an usual position and will presumably be keen against Golovkin, at super-middleweight, to repair any damage done to his reputation during his brief dalliance at light-heavyweight.

“Nobody wants to lose and I felt a lot of pain,” he admitted. “I love what I do and I didn’t want to lose. But it is what it is. You need to keep moving forward and keep fighting. That’s life. It’s made me more hungry and more dangerous now.

“If you think about the first time I fought at 160 (pounds), that was against him (Golovkin), with me moving up. I’m more experienced now and confident in what I’m doing.”

Alvarez and Golovkin fought for the first time in 2017 (JOHN GURZINSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

No doubt a lot has changed in the five years that have passed since Álvarez and Golovkin met for the first time in 2017. Since then, Canelo, 57-2-2 (39), has roamed the weights, moving up and down according to the challenge presented, whereas Golovkin, a career-long middleweight, has continued to campaign at 160 pounds, with Saturday night representing his first excursion north of that.

No matter the weight difference, though, and no matter how their earning potential has differed dramatically in recent times, the interest in Álvarez and Golovkin sharing a ring has never really abated.

“We had two really good fights and now we have this, the third fight,” said Álvarez. “It’s very important for me, my country, and my legacy. Everybody thinks different when a close fight happens. People think maybe I lost – or maybe I won. That means it is a close fight. It means I need to win this third fight convincingly.

“Out of the three fights, I believe this one will be the most important. Also, the fact that he is going into this fight thinking it might be his last makes him even more dangerous. But I’m going to leave everything inside the ring, too.”

Golovkin will deny he enters Saturday’s fight thinking it is his last, yet, clearly, at 40 years of age, he no longer has time on his side. Indeed, if there’s perhaps one knock against the 32-year-old Álvarez heading into this trilogy fight, it’s that he didn’t make a greater effort to get this one over the line while Golovkin was still in his thirties, surely an easy thing to do given Golovkin’s longstanding desire to get revenge and, apparently, Álvarez’s dislike of the middleweight champion.

“You don’t know, but in 2019, before Covid came, we almost closed the fight,” revealed Álvarez. “Then Covid came and I started fighting in other weight classes and winning titles in other weight classes. Now we made this deal with DAZN and Eddie Hearn and I’m happy.

“After the second fight, I thought it was over. But DAZN really wanted this fight. We made the fight in 2019 but Covid came and everything was cancelled. But I’m happy to have this fight because everybody wants to see this fight.”

So great are their respective talents and achievements, few will dispute that, even now. However, for Canelo Álvarez to truly separate himself from Golovkin, his number one rival, once and for all, he must defeat him in a way he has yet to defeat him. In other words, he must secure a conclusive victory against a man who, to date, has never been conclusively beaten as a pro.

“My goal is to end the fight before the end of 12 rounds,” Canelo stated. “Obviously I go into every fight with that objective and this is no exception. This has become personal, so I might go that extra, but I am 100 per cent ready for this fight and have prepared that way. From the first round I will be looking for the stoppage.”