On a day when tennis legend Roger Federer called time at age 41 can middleweight champion Gennadiy Golovkin go to the well one last time to write his name indelibly in boxing history ?
That’s the million dollar question on the Las Vegas strip as we countdown to his colossal trilogy fight with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena. The oddsmakers say “No” with Golovkin +400 (4 to 1 against) and in The Ring magazine ’experts’ turned in a 20-0 poll in favour of the 32 year old Mexican.
‘GGG’ turned 40 earlier in the year and their substance of opinion is a combination of age, his recent attritional fights and the talent and toughness of his opponent. Add to this the matter of weight with Golovkin coming up to the 168lbs fight limit from 160 (middleweight) and Canelo dropping down from recently fighting at 175lbs (light-heavyweight). Golovkin is not known to be a ‘big’ middleweight.
The main viewpoint centres around Canelo choosing his time wisely to finally agree to a third fight and basically waiting for Golovkin to age. The Kazakh in a comment this week sarcastically pointed to being thankful that Canelo hadn’t waited until GGG turned 50 !
Fighters do tend to age overnight; invariably in the ring and sometimes with difficult consequences. Think of the exceptional Oscar De La Hoya as a recent example in his loss to Manny Pacquiao, or Sugar Ray Leonard versus Terry Norris of yesteryear. Both legends who took a fight too many. The list is endless.
Kazakhstan’s Golovkin could join this unenviable list, but on the flip side to all this is the legendary performances of legendary fighters in the twilight of their careers. Robert Duran trading blows with Iran Barkley to win his fourth-weight division title, admittedly a few years shy of 40. George Foreman winning back the world heavyweight title at 45. Bernard Hopkins fighting and winning close to his 50’s. It can be done.
Golovkin will have both sides of the argument in the back of his mind. True, he’s been in ageing fights in recent years. Firstly, the twenty four rounds he’s already shared with Saturday’s opponent will have taken their toll, but so too on Canelo. The Kazakh won, in our view, the balance of the rounds across two fights, albeit not the decisions.
The main point of reference for the naysayers is the toe-to-toe exchanges with Sergiy Derevyanchenko three years ago. Golovkin came through that but with considerable combat experience. They point to him looking slower fight by fight, and yet he went to Japan this April and took the WBA middleweight title off Ryota Murata inside eight rounds, outboxing and outworking him along the way.
Golovkin has boxed at the elite level for over two decades, winning a silver medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics. He’s fought thousands of rounds against all comers from the steppes of Kazakhstan to the rings of New York and Vegas. Over that time he’s acquired and honed the skills of a battle-hardened and elite fighter. Add to that his power in registering a 42-1-1 (37 KO’s) record. Age will catch up with him, but whether that happens in this fight is not a forgone conclusion, like the polls and oddsmakers would indicate.
GGG finished his preparation in Big Bear, California and will be having his fifth fight under the tutelage of Johnathan Banks, a disciple of the legendary Kronk gym in Detroit. He will have added that toughness and ring savvy to his already elite skillset. Power could though be the key. Many point to Canelo’s granite chin, in predicting the outcome of this fight, however, those of a more mature disposition will recall a poleaxed Roberto Duran at the feet of Thomas Hearns in the 1980’s.
Our view is Saturday is a genuine 50-50 fight and Golovkin has a score to settle, don’t bet against the ‘unthinkable’ happening.
The final press conference is today with weigh-in on Friday.