The fight that really matters anywhere between 160 and 168 lbs now stands alone.
Excellent legacy victories by Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on successive nights over the weekend have reinforced that they remain realistically the only fighters who can beat each other in this current era.
Fans and experts may argue that other sanctioning belt holders have the style and youth to provide an effective challenge but these two have shown they will ultimately find a way to emerge victorious.
Both future Hall of Famer’s are tied by their class and experience, equally combative styles and, punches and chins to die for.
Boxing history will forever draw the Kazak and Mexican together by virtue of their dominance, but more importantly, the drama of their two contests to date. The first in September 2017 deemed a draw, despite Golovkin appearing to many a clear winner, and the rematch 364 days later that saw Canelo win a wafer thin majority decision 115-113, 115-113, 114-114. Both these contests were millennial classics, on par with Zale-Graziano in the 1940’s, or Morales-Barrera in the modern era, and a third meeting has to happen.
Given their COVID enforced layoffs for over a year both were quite frankly brilliant over the weekend. ‘GGG’ (41-1-1, 35 KO’s) scoring a seventh round stoppage of his mandatory IBF world middleweight title challenger Kamil Szeremeta, dropping him four times in the process, and looking as menacing as ever. ‘Canelo’ (54-1-2, 36 KO’s) ripping the WBA world super-middleweight title from Callum Smith by a unanimous 119-109, 119-109, 117-111 decision, and in doing so capturing the vacant WBC title and Ring magazine 168lb/12st championship.
Golovkin, the man from Karaganda, Kazakhstan, made boxing history by completing twenty one successful defences of a version of the world middleweight title, a record eclipsing Bernard ‘The Executioner’ Hopkins.
Canelo, the pride of Guadalajara, won The Ring world title in a third weight class becoming only the fifth man to achieve that feat. He joins the illustrious company of Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Leonard, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. He also became only the fourth Mexican to win titles in four weight divisions and only Julio Cesar Chavez stands alongside him in national admiration in the modern era.
Both fighters are surefire first time inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on their retirement. But, what is more important to boxing fans is a settlement of the ongoing argument as to who is the greatest fighter.
There are many intangibles to factor in :- dominance in one weight class, ability to move through divisions and win multiple weight classes, quality of opposition, stoppage percentage. Add to that entertainment value and marketability.
In the latter case Canelo is the king and as a consequence is the man calling the shots, much to the frustration of Golovkin. The Kazak is 38 years old and reaching the twilight of his career, but all greats have one great fight left in them. The eponymous ‘Last Hurrah’. Evidence from Friday night in Florida shows GGG has a lot left in the tank still, but fighting Canelo is a different matter.
The Mexican post-fight on Saturday, following a performance in which he walked down a man for 36 minutes who was seven inches taller than him with a greater reach, undefeated record and respectable power, talked of fighting anyone, but the name of the Kazak never left his lips. He was prompted by his interviewer but it would appear GGG is not in his crosshairs. He believes he convincingly beat him in the second contest and has no desire for a third fight.
Boxing fans and media, whether they are Canelo or GGG converts, will demand that fight happens. The weekend’s happenings only showed that both fighters are dominant in their respective weight classes and the third defining fight must happen.
Whether the 30 year old Mexican holds out for another twelve months, collecting other sanctioning body belts and waiting for Golovkin to ‘get old’ remains to be seen, but for the sake of the sport and their ultimate legacies this fight needs to be made. And now.