Canelo Alvarez is in a no-win situation if you put a guaranteed windfall aside.
If the Mexican star defeats Gennadiy Golovkin in their third fight Saturday, critics will say he took down a 40-year-old who is past his prime and moving up in weight for the fight. If he loses, it will come against that old man and be his second consecutive setback after a one-sided loss to Dmitry Bivol in May.
In other words, a victory wouldn’t have much of an impact on Alvarez’s legacy given Golovkin’s current limitations; a loss could damage it significantly.
What’s the upside for Alvarez?
Of course, he probably doesn’t have much to worry about. He’s a significant favorite to win the third fight against his rival – about 4½-1 – after a controversial draw in 2017and a majority decision victory the following year.
If he has his hand raised on Saturday, he will have bounced back from the loss to Bivol and can finally put his bumpy history with Golovkin behind him. He could then focus on starting new rivalries, which is what he’d like.
However, potential disaster lurks ominously around the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue in Las Vegas, the site of T-Mobile Arena.
Golovkin isn’t what he used to be but he can’t be written off entirely, as some seem to be doing. He has only lost once in his 16-year professional career, after all. And he remains an elite fighter if you put stock in his middleweight titles and four victories following the second fight with Alvarez.
If Triple-G can pull off the upset, he would leave the 32-year-old Alvarez in a horrible – and unfamiliar – position.
Only four months ago he was No. 1 on most pound-for-pound lists, No. 2 on Boxing Junkie’s. And he hadn’t experienced defeat since a far superior Floyd Mayweather gave him a thorough boxing lesson in 2013, when Alvarez was a tender 23.
He had seemed to be all but unbeatable after that, reeling off a series of impressive victories over elite opponents to build a Hall of Fame career and climb to the pinnacle of the sport. And he was hot as ever as recently as last year, when he knocked out Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant to become undisputed 168-pound champion.
Then came a dose of reality that demonstrated Alvarez was human after all.
No one was surprised that he made the decision to challenge the talented Bivol, a light heavyweight titleholder. Alvarez had already beaten an elite 175-pounder, Sergey Kovalev. And, obviously, a fighter in his prime who had floated the idea of fighting Oleksandr Usyk had begun to think he was invincible.
Bivol proved otherwise, outboxing Alvarez to win a unanimous decision that was more one-sided than the official scores (115-113 on all three cards) indicated.
Canelo Alvarez (pink trunks) and Dimitry Bivol (black trunks) box during their light heavyweight championship bout at T-Mobile Arena (Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports)
To be sure, Alvarez was humbled. And there was fallout. He tumbled down all credible pound-for-pound lists and lost at least a degree of respect from those who had come to revere him as the best of his generation.
So what if he loses again on Saturday?
We might have to look at him differently. This wouldn’t be an older fighter losing fights to all-time greats, like Manny Pacquiao against Juan Manuel Marquez and Mayweather. Alvarez is supposed to be near the peak of his abilities. And he will have lost to a good, but unheralded 175-pounder and his faded rival.
Imagine Alvarez off the pound-for-pound lists entirely. That’s what we could be looking at if Triple-G pulls off a miracle.
Again, that probably won’t happen. Alvarez has every advantage going into the fight, which could result in the beatdown of Golvokin many expect to see.
You never know, though. Crazy things happen in boxing all the time.