GENNADIY GOLOVKIN seemed to have one eye on a more peaceful existence during the first two rounds of his fight with Ryota Murata. Though he didn’t look old in the same way that your grandparents used to, the great middleweight briefly gave the impression of a fighter who realised his time was up.
It didn’t last too long. By the middle rounds, Golovkin had rejected any notion of saying farewell as he rediscovered his passion for whacking people at full pelt and watching them crumble. In the end, for a 40-year-old with a long hiatus and even longer career behind him, he was impressive while thumping his way to victory in nine rounds.
The spectre of Canelo Alvarez loomed over the Kazakh’s every move, however. ‘Well, if Golovkin struggled against Murata, imagine what Canelo will do to him,’ was the widespread reaction. Like a bad dream that plagues a clear conscience, it’s the rivalry that might always haunt Golovkin. He will know that better than anyone.
In an ideal world, or even in a boxing world that doesn’t spend so long making the right fights that they’re nearly always too late, the longstanding Canelo-GGG rivalry would have long since run its course. The time to make the first fight was in 2015 or 2016 with any sequels following in quick succession. But here we are, five years after their first encounter ended so controversially, still waiting for the two of the best fighters of their era go at it one more time. Even though we know, deep down, that it simply can’t be the spectacle it should have been.
That’s not to say that a third fight won’t be a thriller. When rivalries are this intense, even the ageing process can’t stop the fighters from giving their absolute all. And this is a grudge that runs deep. For good reason, too.
Canelo, or rather his promoters at the time, can be accused of waiting until Golovkin was showing the first signs of decay before agreeing to fight him. As the Mexican took aim at middleweights so small (like Miguel Cotto and Amir Khan) and so undisciplined (like Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr) it was a stretch to even classify them as middleweights, Golovkin had long since proved his worth as the leading 160-pounder on the planet. Only after Gennadiy went nip and tuck with Daniel Jacobs in March 2017 was Team Canelo’s interest really pricked.
Even so, Golovkin fought majestically against Alvarez in September that year. Canelo was almost as good yet the consensus was that the Kazakh had done enough to triumph. But via one of the most atrocious scorecards in boxing history the bout ended in a draw. And via contaminated meat the immediate rematch was postponed by six months when Canelo failed a drug test. Golovkin, one year older, was pipped in the rematch by much fairer scorecards but by scorecards that nonetheless stirred debate again. It’s easy to portray Canelo as the villain, but he too will feel slighted by not getting the credit he should have done for his showings in those two battles.
If we’re to forgive the late kick-off for Part I and the subsequent delay to Part II, the time for Part III was 2019.
We’ll take it in 2022, of course. Presuming that Canelo beats Dmitry Bivol at light-heavyweight in May and, after again packing on muscle, is willing to meet Golovkin in the middle. Neither scenario is certain. We don’t know how much Alvarez has left, either. Go back and watch him against Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant then watch him again in the Golovkin return. Though he remains a beastly proposition, one can argue that his seek-and-destroy approach is more of a necessity than a choice.
Canelo-GGG III, while too late, remains too good to ignore. And as Golovkin realised in Japan, the lure of high octane combat and a last chance to settle an old score is the one thing that’s making him feel so alive.