Canelo Alvarez’s Unfinished Business With Gennadiy Golovkin

Canelo Alvarez


Like it or not, Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin have unfinished business, and right now that business has way more to do with what Alvarez hasn’t done yet than what Golovkin might.

When The Athletic’s Lance Pugmire reported the two biggest middleweight stars in the world would likely tangle for the third time on September 12, all that really came to my mind was how important it was for Alvarez to definitively defeat Golovkin this time around. 

Well, that, but also that devoting at least a portion of my mental energy away from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic issue and toward a big fight in boxing would make for a nice distraction.

Alvarez’s Hasn’t Cleaned out Middleweight Division Yet

Heading into the third fight, it seems as if Alvarez could have already laid waste to boxing’s entire middleweight division by now to become just the third undisputed champion in any weight class since 2004.

From there, the 29-year-old Mexican could have systematically moved up one division at a time so he could do the same thing at 168 and 175 pounds.

But instead, since scoring his majority decision win over Golovkin in September 2018 in the second fight, Alvarez has moved up and down weigh to chase prizes of varying importance.

Canelo’s Last 3 Fights Came In 3 Different Divisions

In December 2018, Alvarez stopped Rocky Fielding in just three rounds for a secondary world title at super middleweight. It was the perfect way for the fighter to kick off his five-year, 11-fight, $365 million deal with global sports streaming service DAZN because it netted him a shiny gold belt in a new weight class against a promotable opponent who probably wasn’t going to pose any real danger.

In May 2019, Alvarez unified middleweight titles by scoring a unanimous decision win over IBF champion Daniel Jacobs. Jacobs was a tough and accomplished opponent who for sure deserved a crack at Alvarez’s lineal middleweight championship as well as all the other belts Alvarez had accumulated by then. Alvarez was too much for Jacobs.

In November 2019, Alvarez moved all the way up to light heavyweight to forcefully snag Sergey Kovalev’s 175-pound title belt via Round 8 knockout. It was a fantastic performance. Not too long ago, Kovalev was one of the scariest knockout artists on the entire planet. But this time around, it was Alvarez who was the stalking predator and Kovalev who seemed more like one of those Russian dolls that keeps revealing itself to be smaller and smaller in every iteration.

Alvarez’s Star Remains Slightly Dimmer Than Expected

Alvarez has been on a very solid run. It’s why he’s ranked No. 1 according to The Ring magazine, and there’s hardly any way to dispute his deservedness of that honor. Alvarez’s name also adorns the top of The Athletic’s pound-for-pound list as well as the Transnational Boxing Ranking Board’s list.

But despite all those things, Alvarez still hasn’t yet ascended to the superstar status reserved for boxing’s biggest cash cows. Oh sure, he’s getting paid by DAZN like he’s Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, but he can’t quite seem to draw the same number of eyeballs to his fights just yet.

A case in point would be his last fight against Golovkin. Fewer people purchased the rematch than the first fight. Sure, part of that story was because rematches always trend toward underselling their predecessors. But part of it might also have been that Alvarez just doesn’t quite move the needle enough among mainstream sports fans.

Did DAZN’s Subscription Gambit Make Sense?

Another example of how Alvarez’s less than stellar track record with everyday sports fans has revealed itself in recent years is the long, drawn-out intermission fight fans had to endure when Alvarez took on Kovalev.

Despite DAZN having handed Alvarez a contract worth more money than UFC welterweights Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz will probably ever make in their entire lives combined, the brain trust over at DAZN knew the score when it found Canelo vs. Kovalev was running head-to-head that night against UFC 244: Masvidal vs. Diaz.

They delayed Canelo’s attempt at history so Masvidal and Diaz could have center stage instead.

Why? Many speculated it was so DAZN, a newly formed streaming service, could gather all the new subscriptions it could get, and if that meant holding a big boxing event a little late so people could finish watching a UFC card, so be it.

But you’ll never convince me in a million years that anything like would have ever happened to Mayweather. Heck, I’m not even sure Alvarez’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, would have had to deal with something like 20 years ago.

There just seems to be something missing in Alvarez.

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Judges Always Give Alvarez Benefit of the Doubt?

And to add fuel to the fire, some people perceive Alvarez as a fighter who has way too frequently received the benefit of the doubt from the judges at ringside.

Case in point, when Alvarez and Golovkin fought to their split draw in September 2017, there was an angry and vocal contingent of fans and media who were livid over the result, particularly with judge Adalaide Byrd’s 118-110 in favor of Alvarez.

Then, when Alvarez and Golovkin fought the rematch a year later, it seemed as if Alvarez might finally be on his way to showing the whole world that boxing’s biggest superstar this side of Mayweather and Pacquiao was absolutely going to seize his shining moment by standing in the center of the ring and trading with the menacing middleweight monster Golovkin until somebody hit the deck.

But Alvarez tired as the fight progressed, and again, many in the sport were left wondering whether Golovkin had deserved the nod.

Alvarez ‘s Unfinished Business

So what does all of this add up to?

It’s plain and simple: Alvarez has unfinished business with Golovkin, whether it happens later this year as suggested by Pugmire or sometime in 2012.

Primarily, it would do Alvarez some good to finish Golovkin’s career, and the faster and more violently he does it, the better.

Alvarez is already a big star. But something has kept boxing’s best fighter from becoming as huge a superstar as he could be.

He can start to change that in September against Golovkin.

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Twitter: @Kelsey_McCarson

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