Canelo vs. Golovkin: Breaking Down a Superfight

By Christian Giudice on September 14, 2017
Canelo vs. Golovkin: Breaking Down a Superfight
Since his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2013, no fighter has grown like Canelo Alvarez.

Canelo has been hit by Angulo, Kirkland, Lara and Cotto, but they pale in comparison to what Golovkin will do to him…

Round I: Canelo vs. GGG: A Power Struggle: Why Golovkin Has the Edge

When you think of power punchers, Canelo and Gennady are right at the top of the list of the best in the sport. Of course, Gennady, with a near 90 percent knockout rate, represents the devastating one-punch power that goes unequaled in his division and is only surpassed in consistency by heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder. His opponent, Canelo Alvarez, has transformed himself from a feared puncher to a destructive one. Instead of trying to showcase his boxing skills, Canelo positions himself to throw combinations and sit on his power punches like few fighters in any division. He didn’t always do that. Since his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., Canelo has progressed in every facet. No fighter has grown like he has. Unfortunately, people still are unwilling to give him the respect he deserves, mostly because he has dictated a path of least resistance in his last three fights that (a) Did little to prepare him for GGG at 160; (b) Rarely put him in harm’s way; and (c) Made GGG and the fans wait for a year for a fight that was a natural fit.

What Canelo didn’t factor in was that while he was toiling with smaller and lesser fighters such as Amir Khan, Liam Smith, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Golovkin was testing himself against strong middleweights like Daniel Jacobs. Some believe that Jacobs exposed the chinks in Golovkin’s armor, but I saw it as more of a necessary opponent for GGG to measure himself against before the super fight in two weeks.

Power Struggle

First, Golovkin’s right hand is easily the most dangerous in boxing. The way he turns his body into it makes it absolutely devastating. Second, in addition to that right hand, Golovkin’s left hook to the body is just as debilitating. (Note: Canelo throws one too, but not always with same result.)

What’s impressive is that Golovkin can throw it perfectly standing in an upright position, whereas Canelo shifts his whole body in order to get the maximum impact. Lastly, Golovkin’s strongest combination might just be his left hook to the body followed by a left uppercut. Wow!  It’s rare that a power puncher is so confident that he throws such a rarely used combination. Well, Golovkin pulls it off in style.

Similarly, Canelo also likes to apply a vicious uppercut. He also has power in both hands, but relies on that straight right. Ironically, the biggest punch Canelo has landed in his career against Amir Khan was also the one that evoked the most resentment because few thought that was a fair matchup. When he commits to the body, Canelo can easily become unstoppable. Unlike Golovkin, Canelo’s power is a byproduct of his speed, which will be on display on September 16.

As we approach the fight, one thing is clear regarding punching power: Canelo lands hard punches that wear down an opponent, but Golovkin punishes fighters with his power and sometimes derails their careers. Canelo wears opponents down; Golovkin walks through offensive attacks and hurts opponents to the point they are never the same fighter. In addition, opponents have shown they can tolerate Canelo’s power, while Golovkin’s opponents don’t fare as well. They both use the jab, but would rather lead with a right hand or in Canelo’s case a check left hook. Golovkin’s jab can be devastating, but Canelo uses too much head movement to allow it to land cleanly. On the other hand, Canelo has a quicker jab and his sole purpose is to get inside to do his damage, whereas Golovkin likes to stay on the outside and benefit from his reach. He’s more comfortable with space; Canelo doesn’t need much.

In this category, Golovkin earns the slight edge.

Speed Kills: Round II Canelo vs. GGG

Gennady Golovkin has an edge in power; history shows that engaging with him is dangerous. The way he punishes fighters differentiates him from other offensive-minded fighters. However, when it comes to speed, Canelo has not lost his speed moving up in weight. In fact, his speed is displayed in his combination punching. Relying on being a fluid fighter who uses head movement and feints, Canelo has no problem throwing 4-5 punch combinations. When Canelo is landing those combinations, Golovkin has no recourse except to move backwards. Make no mistake about it, Golovkin’s defensive skills won’t be of much help in these intense collisions. He fights his way out of problems.

Unlike Canelo, Golovkin can’t rely on that type of speed, but his body shots are so precise that he doesn’t lose much from not reeling off the quick-hitting punches. Golovkin’s style isn’t reliant on speed, but he’s not slow either. First, no one views him as a guy with fast hands. He’s defined by his heavy hands. Additionally, Golovkin is constantly attacking and much more methodical in his approach. He can beat you by merely standing in front of you and pounding away. Second, Golovkin smothers you and throws more punches than Canelo. Therefore, he might not have the speed advantage, but he doesn’t allow his opponent space to maneuver. If the opponent attempts to escape, GGG deftly cuts off the ring.

All his career, Canelo has showcased his speed. He throws a quick jab and can land a check hook. Aware that he often has a clear advantage with his fast hands, Canelo, now in shape to fight 12 rounds, can throw and land unorthodox combinations that he rarely executed in the past. What should concern Golovkin is how quickly Canelo throws and lands his straight right and left hook to the body. It is a devastating combination. In addition, Canelo no longer takes two rounds to warm up. He has no choice; he must come out quickly against Golovkin. Every Golovkin opponent has to be ready to fight a fast-paced fight. Canelo’s speed will shine through when Golovkin has one of his defensive lapses and—as he did against Kell Brook—shows how vulnerable he can be.

Round I: Power Edge: Golovkin

Round II: Speed Edge: Canelo

Round III Canelo vs. GGG: This is the Fight! What performances against Daniel Jacobs and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. translate to on Saturday.

Sometimes a matchup that leads into a championship fight means nothing. Other matchups can provide a necessary barometer to see where that fighter stands leading into a superfight. When Gennady Golovkin faced Daniel Jacobs for the world middleweight crown, he took on a very good fighter who would be an ideal candidate to prepare him for the magnitude of a Canelo matchup. Still, the expectation was that Golovkin would win by knockout. Conversely, Canelo settled for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., a fighter so far removed from his prime that it was nearly impossible to identify the last fight he had actually taken seriously. “Settled” is the optimal word because his team framed this as the ultimate Mexican rivalry, trying its best to blind the real and casual fight fans to the impending slaughter. There was no reason to take that fight; Canelo didn’t gain the experience he wanted of fighting a true 160+ fighter because Chavez Jr. was so drained that he provided little resistance. From the outset the fight lacked any competitive edge; on the contrary, Golovkin took on a guy in Jacobs who came into the fight 2-3 weight classes above the middleweight limit.

Most fight fans would study those fights and pinpoint Canelo’s performance as the superior one. But superior in what sense? Sure, Canelo dictated the movement, and looked fabulous offensively, but Chavez Jr. was so hesitant and frightened of his power that he became cautious and reluctant to engage. Against Golovkin, Jacobs gained momentum and strength throughout the fight. Tactically, Jacobs offered different looks from the southpaw stance, and also utilized his athleticism. Critics missed the point if they downgraded Golovkin’s performance because he went the distance and eked out a victory. What they were seeing wasn’t a vulnerable Golovkin, but one forced (against a 180-pound fighter) to dip into his tool box and pull out what was necessary.

In his one-sided performance, Canelo didn’t have to do that. And I love everything about him, but the litany of hand-picked opponents will leave him at a disadvantage come Saturday. Golovkin will play the anti-Chavez role and capitalize on any Canelo mistakes. No opponent in the last couple fights made Canelo pay for such transgressions.

In the same way that Kell Brook seized the first 5-6 rounds of his bout with Golovkin, Jacobs exerted his influence in the second half of the fight. Letting Jacobs stick around for 12 rounds is a slight cause for concern, but it doesn’t warrant a complete makeover. Golovkin will go in against Canelo and do the same things that have gotten him this far; he may tweak some things—focus on more head movement or focus on a specific punch—but he will be the same Golovkin. And Canelo will be bigger and stronger, but will also rely on the same tactics that have gotten him to where he is.

Round III: Readiness: Edge Golovkin

Round IV: Chin/Toughness

Toughness is measured by the way a fighter responds to a potent offensive attack where he gets hit cleanly; how he maintains composure in the face of adversity; and how he copes with physical or psychological stress. Using those parameters, Canelo and Golovkin deserve mention as the toughest fighters in the sport. Regarding clean shots, Canelo takes far fewer direct punches than Golovkin. Attribute that ability to increased head movement and an improved defense.

For a while, Canelo was experiencing an identity crisis where he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be a pure boxer, a stylist, or a power puncher. Struggling to establish a definite identity, Canelo settled for somewhere in between those styles. Against GGG, Canelo has to be his assertive self; he can’t sit back and wait to counterpunch Golovkin. He’ll take too much abuse in the process. One thing about Canelo’s toughness that hasn’t changed is that he walks through big punchers. I have never seen him hurt or even flustered by a big punch. And he’s gotten hit cleanly by Erislandy Lara, James Kirkland, Austin Trout, and Miguel Cotto. Some big punchers are willing to take big punches in order to land them, but Canelo doesn’t fit that mold. If anything, after Canelo is hit with a clean shot, he uses it as motivation.

His opponent, GGG, is just as tough. Unlike Canelo, GGG wages war in each fight, and never backs down. Although GGG’s style as an attacking, lead fighter dictates constant engagement, he is not characterized as an inside fighter. Despite his ability to fight in the trenches, Golovkin would prefer to stay on the outside, take advantage of his reach and bang to the body and head. His bout with Kell Brook was certainly not a great performance, but showcased how tough he is. The fight represented the perfect example of him using his toughness and great chin to outlast a fighter who had reasonable success against him. Brook battered him early and often, but Golovkin returned to form and left Brook a damaged fighter. In fact, because of the extent to which he injured Brook’s eye, he may never be the same fighter again. Of course, Golovkin never should’ve had such difficulty with a smaller fighter, but it shows the fight fan that even when GGG appears vulnerable, he can turn the fight around in a second. Few fighters have that ability.

Mentally, Canelo never gets discouraged in the ring. Sure, Mayweather played with him and made it an easy fight, but that was a different Canelo. The changes are evident in everything he does in the ring. Fans will see how tough Canelo is when he doesn’t have the time to step aside and avoid a Golovkin attack. Then, he will be forced to brawl with a guy who is familiar with this terrain. Golovkin might be on the back end of his career, but he exists in an entirely different spectrum than former Canelo opponents. In the past, Canelo has been hit by Angulo, Kirkland, Lara and Cotto, but they pale in comparison to what Golovkin will do to him. I give the slightest edge to Golovkin merely because his career has been predicated on constant pressure and an attacking style. Canelo’s hasn’t.

Edge: A slight one for Golovkin

Christian Giudice
Author: A Fire Burns Within: The Miraculous Journey of Wilfredo Gomez
Author: The Rise and Fall of Alexis Argüello
Author: Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran


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  1. Koolz 08:50pm, 09/16/2017

    Canelo was better then I thought he would be I gave him four rounds.
    GGG should have knocked him out or TKO’d him on the ropes.

  2. Kid Blast 12:22pm, 09/16/2017

    Not since the old days of Hagler-Hearns, SRL-Duran, SRL-Hearns, have I felt like his. Two men—like ancient Gladiators- going to war for a lasting legacy. One is young enough to bounce back. The other is not. Time is running short. No more posturing. No more talk. No more 24-7. No mope Max. No more promises of Big Drama Show. No more Able Sanchez. Time is running out. Time is NOW. Let’s get it on.

  3. Lucas McCain 02:58pm, 09/15/2017

    When I was a young guy I waited and hoped for a Gene Fullmer-Paul Pender middleweight unification bout.  Never got it, but it looks like, after 57 years, something better is coming!

  4. David 12:43pm, 09/15/2017

    I think Canelo is going to try to out box GGG or knock him out to win. I doubt if he can do either one, but we’ll see. It should be a good one. Non stop fighting until someone drops.

  5. buddhabob 06:50am, 09/15/2017

    Promoters are trying to make this fight sound equally matched. It’s not. They tried to do that with the Chavez Canelo thing. That was a joke. Got the Mexican fans all hot and bothered, then where was the fight. Canelo is properly over managed and over protected. He is NOT one of the great middleweights at all. But he is hugely popular, thus all the publicity.

    GGG is read for business. He will wear down the red head. I promise you Canelo has never been in the ring with this level of power. All the cute bobbing and weaving will come to an end and fear and loathing will set in . Golovkin will lose the early rounds and be hit in the head quite a number of times. THis is also his game plan. To demonstrate that Canelo is fighting in the wrong weight class and needs more power. Jacobs was up around 190 and didn’t make a dent in the Russian tank. Curtis and the other black guy were very fast, very quick, UNTIL… they were hit, then you could see the intense fear and surprise in their eyes, Brook was his name. You could see the surrender and the surprise. THey were both in the wrong weight class just like Canelo. GGG trains by sparring with lightweights. He has knocked down Kovalev with a body shot while sparring. The red head will learn this tomorrow night IMO

  6. Koolz 05:54am, 09/15/2017

    arrg I am posting here again silly pro Canelo wackos.

    I said I wouldn’t post here but I keep seeing all this Canelo hype I wonder if anyone has even sparred been in a fight.

    Look no matter how fast you are no matter how good you counter, if you get hit in the face with guy like GGG the plan is gone.

    Golovkin is going to be like a train, he is going to be all over Canelo every round and beat him to a pulp.

    I am wondering what Canelo’s face is going to look like maybe his corner stops the fight.

    How many times does Canelo get off the Canvas.

    Canelo looks flat footed, poor balance, weak movement, and his power shots are horrible!  I was watching his open workout and it was just horrible.  His shots are slow and unfocused.

    Golovkin is bouncing around fast, perfect balance, his power shots are insane…I have never seen GGG move so well.

    He is going to show the world why is the best at 160 he is going to use Canelo as a an example for that show. 

    There are Mice and Men and Canelo is a Mouse.

  7. fan 05:41am, 09/15/2017

    We need the Glove-In Ceremony in every fights.

  8. victor 02:37am, 09/15/2017

    fair article..I suspect though that Canelo’s confidence stems from having a good camp and being in top condition.I suspect he might edge Golovkin in a competitive affair.

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