LAS VEGAS – The roars of 20,000-plus shook T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, and from his seat in the lower bowl Gennady Golovkin let all of it wash over him. For all of Golovkin’s accomplishments — the championship fights, the headlined pay per views, the millions in career earnings — he had never had this. More than a decade into his professional career, a super fight had eluded him.
No longer. An anticipated showdown between Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez was made official on Saturday, announced with a WWE-style production designed to make the audience forget the $70 Golden Boy just swiped from them. Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was unwatchable, a 36-minute sparring session that took the momentum boxing built with Anthony Joshua’s spectacular knockout win over Wladimir Klitschko last month and ground it to a halt. Yet the sight of Golovkin and Alvarez in the ring together was enough to ramp it back up again.
Golovkin wanted this. Asked for this. Craved this. Canelo was anointed from an early age. Golovkin? He had to earn it. His first promoter, Universum, ignored him. U.S. promoters showed little interest in him. Opponents ran from him. Had HBO not invested in Golovkin, anonymity might have defined him.
That isn’t meant to slight Canelo. His good looks, Mexican heritage and raw power gave him early advantages. His fearlessness and success in the ring let him keep them. He fought Austin Trout when he didn’t need to and Erislandy Lara when his promoter begged him not to. He didn’t duck Golovkin last year. He doesn’t duck anyone.
His promoter? That’s a different story. Oscar De La Hoya talked tough on Saturday — “I’ve always stated that Triple-G would happen in 2017,” De La Hoya said — but this fight was hardly inevitable. De La Hoya reneged on a promise to negotiate a Golovkin-Alvarez fight a year ago, and he never seemed fully committed to making it now. Lawsuits have publicly exposed Golden Boy’s financials. Canelo doesn’t represent a large chunk of the company profits — it’s virtually all of it, leading many to believe De La Hoya would be unwilling to risk his cash cow in a dangerous fight.
What changed? Golovkin’s win over Daniel Jacobs, probably. Golovkin won, but a decisive decision is far from the carnage he had left against previous opponents. Asked if the outcome of the Jacobs fight kick-started negotiations, Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler, told Yahoo Sports, “It didn’t hurt.”
Indeed, there is fresh perception of Golovkin now. A great fighter is still there. The destroyer, though, is gone. “Let them think that,” Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, told Yahoo Sports. “Everyone has an opinion. I imagine that fight gives [Golden Boy] confidence. Have it. I know what I have in the gym. And it’s not what they just faced [Chavez] in the ring.”
No one holds more confidence in Golovkin than Sanchez. In 2011, Sanchez was semi-retired, content that years spent training Terry Norris would be his career high point. Then Golovkin came into his gym. Then everything changed. A month into training, Sanchez scribbled the names of his top 10 fighters onto a white board. At No. 1 was Muhammad Ali. At No. 3 was Floyd Mayweather. No. 2 was left blank. There, Sanchez said, was where Golovkin’s name would be.
Golovkin will open camp in mid-July, Sanchez said, and he knows what he is facing. “Canelo can crack,” Sanchez said. “He has fast hands. He’s more relaxed in the ring than he was a year ago. He looks better mentally, too.” Still, compared to Jacobs, Sanchez sees Canelo as an easier opponent to prepare for. “With Jacobs, we had to bring bigger guys into the gym,” Sanchez said. “There was more wear and tear. Canelo is smaller. There won’t be as much.”
Golovkin has had to make sacrifices to get opponents in the ring, and this was no different. He’s the unified middleweight champion — and the unquestioned B-side of this deal. Golden Boy will pick the venue, likely T-Mobile Arena again, where Alvarez has fought two of his last three fights. Canelo is the headliner and he will receive the lion’s share of the pot. Golovkin will make millions but, according to an industry insider briefed on the deal, when it comes to the promotion, Golovkin and his team “are along for the ride.”
No matter. Golovkin and Alvarez stood nose-to-nose on Saturday, and the hype will only build from there. De La Hoya is right: Not since Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao has there been a more anticipated fight, and this one certainly won’t disappoint. It’s boxing’s prince against its workmanlike plumber, and come September both will step in the ring with something to prove.
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