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Gennadiy Golovkin badly needs to beat Canelo Alvarez as his legacy hangs in the balance

·Combat columnist
·5 min read
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Gennadiy Golovkin made life-changing money for each of his two bouts with Canelo Alvarez, earning an eight-figure paycheck in each, but his career took a decided turn in the wrong direction even though most neutral observers felt he’d won both of the fights.

Golovkin and Alvarez fought to a split draw in their first fight, on Sept. 16, 2017, with Golovkin retaining the WBA-WBC middleweight belts.

Alvarez won a majority decision in the next outing, on Sept. 15, 2018, and took the titles from Golovkin. Of the reporters polled who scored that fight, 34 went for Golovkin, 15 had it a draw and two had Alvarez.

Of the six scores turned in by the judges in the two fights, three had Alvarez winning, two had draws and one had Golovkin winning. Those fights were as close as could be.

On Monday, news broke that Alvarez-Golovkin III will be held on Sept. 17 at a venue to be determined for Alvarez’s super middleweight titles. But even with Alvarez coming off a loss, he’s the star of the show, the betting favorite and the man of the hour.

Golovkin’s career took a sharp downward turn after the second Alvarez fight and the public perception of him now is vastly different than it was heading into their first fight.

Gennadiy Golovkin after defeating Sergiy Derevyanchenko in a unanimous decision in their IBF middleweight championship title bout at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
Gennadiy Golovkin after defeating Sergiy Derevyanchenko in a unanimous decision in their IBF middleweight championship title bout at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

Golovkin no longer appears in the many mythical pound-for-pound lists, where up until the second fight with Alvarez he was a staple. Alvarez became No. 1 and only dropped out of the top spot after losing to Dmitry Bivol in a bid for the WBA light heavyweight title earlier this month.

Since that second fight, Alvarez went on to unify the super middleweight titles and bid for the light heavyweight belt. Golovkin fought a woefully overmatched Steve Rolls, a bout that did more harm than good and one that shouldn’t have occurred.

He went on to face Sergiy Derevyanchenko in a bout that was much closer than expected. He fought mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta after that in a fight that had none of the massive interest that had been the hallmark of Golovkin’s run as middleweight champion.

And then he unified the belts in April by stopping Ryota Murata in a fight that did little to stir the passions of boxing fans.

He’s now 40 and who knows if he’ll be able to summon the passion and the skills that once defined him one last time. There is a boxing cliche that suggests every champion has one good fight left in him, but the reality is much different, especially for those on the wrong side of 40.

The one advantage Golovkin may have is that he’ll be moving up in weight from 160 and will add muscle, while Alvarez will have to drop down from 175 and cut muscle. That’s usually a difficult thing for a boxer to do.

The outcome of this fight will go a long way in determining how Golovkin is remembered. It’s all but a foregone conclusion that he’ll make the International Boxing Hall of Fame upon his retirement, and most likely on the first ballot.

But the biggest win of his career now is his March 18, 2017, victory in New York over Daniel Jacobs. Golovkin won a unanimous decision in that fight but it was a lot closer and a lot more difficult than expected.

Beyond that, he doesn’t have any hugely significant wins. The biggest wins after that were over David Lemieux and Matthew Macklin, but none of them were career-defining victories.

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 15:  Gennady Golovkin punches Canelo Alvarez during their WBC/WBA middleweight title fight at T-Mobile Arena on September 15, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Gennady Golovkin punches Canelo Alvarez during their WBC/WBA middleweight title fight at T-Mobile Arena on Sept. 15, 2018 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Golovkin switched bases from Europe to North America in 2010, and he spent most of the first of those years chasing a major fight, without success. He earned the tag as boxing’s most avoided man for a while, and spent his time battering no-hopers likes Grzegorz Proksa, Adama Osumanu, Willie Monroe and Dominic Wade.

If he beats Alvarez in September, it will be the biggest win of his career by miles. That will change the entire outlook of his career, because he’ll have beaten one of the elite fighters in the world even at the advanced age of 40.

Lose, though, and Alvarez will have gone 2-0-1 against him and the perception of Golovkin will be that of a good but not great fighter who didn’t have a lot of elite challenges to establish himself.

Golovkin is known for his power, but he’s a skillful boxer, too. I felt he clearly won the first fight against Alvarez and had the second a draw. He boxed superbly in those two fights, but that’s not remembered much in light of the decisions.

Some may see the fight as a victory lap of sorts for the two rivals, and for Alvarez, it clearly is. His place in history is secure.

Despite a 42-1-1 record, all those title wins in a row and 37 crushing knockouts, Golovkin’s is not. He needs this fight and he needs it badly.