Stylistically, the matchup is a dream come true. Golovkin, ever the plodding come-forward fighter, will see his seek-and-destroy style butt heads with Canelo’s burgeoning counter-punching ability. It’s a yin-yang scenario that comes along once every few years, and these types of fights are always entertaining.
Underneath all the hype are two men training for supremacy. Either GGG really is what we’ve all built him up to be, or Canelo is just that special. Oddly enough, it’s still hard to tell.
Come fight night, both will have their hands full. Golovkin has stealthy, pure boxing skill backed by raw power. Despite his reputation, GGG doesn’t utilize world-beating one-punch knockout power, but the consistency and accuracy of his harder shots makes it seem that way. The last time he put someone to sleep with a single punch was in 2013 when he faced Nobuhiro Ishida.
The last time Canelo separated a man from his senses was just last year when he floored Amir Khan. The knockout will be a highlight reel mainstay for years, but what got him there is more interesting. Early on, Canelo used a stiff right hook, plugging Khan in the ribs; a visible red mark showed up in round three. As the rounds wore on, Khan began to alter his approach to Canelo in an attempt to avoid the right hand to the body. In textbook fashion, Canelo feinted low and went high in round six, catching Khan on the chin. The result was epic.
GGG has a mastery of linear distance, and rarely puts himself in a position to be caught with a punch he isn’t prepared for. He also subscribes to the tutelage his trainer, Abel Sanchez, provided early on: keep your feet wide and you shoulders on a level plane, and you’ll never be knocked down.
Oh, and GGG’s chin is always tucked. He’s a monolith in the ring.
Where Golovkin remains untested is his body. None of his opponents have made a significant investment in attacking GGG’s liver, though it’s likely Canelo will do just that. He’s forced Khan and Miguel Cotto to alter their approach to a fight by going low, and Liam Smith found out the hard way what happens when you don’t change your plans once Canelo decides to attack the body.
Canelo says he’s going to knock Golovkin out. Most laugh that off because GGG has yet to truly flinch in a fight, much less be knocked down. You could argue Canelo is saying that to sell the fight, and there’s clearly a bit of truth to that, but it’s more likely he’s got a plan to attack GGG’s liver as nobody else has.
The problem with that plan is how Canelo attacks. When he decides to unleash power, he has a tendency to drop his guard. It’s how he generates power, but it leaves him wide open. If GGG times him correctly, Canelo’s flashy combinations will be interrupted by stiff jabs and overhand right hooks. At times, Canelo also fails to return fire when being attacked, which can be dangerous if GGG slips into a rhythm. Canelo has a high guard, too. If Golovkin is able to get to his body, that’s a big problem both Matthew Macklin and David Lemieux can attest to.
If there was a pick ‘em fight, GGG-Canelo is it. Both fighters have enough positive and negative attributes to make this interesting, and their styles seem tailored for one another. Golovkin’s body has yet to see a truly great body puncher like Canelo, and Canelo has yet to face a proper middleweight with a deep skillset.
If you lean on betting odds, Golovkin is the favorite. His -170 is almost diametrically opposed by Canelo’s +150. Even in Vegas, where a sure thing is the only thing that matters, GGG-Canelo is a toss-up.
By Nate Swanner