LAS VEGAS – A few days before he fought Jose Luis Castillo for the first time, Diego Corrales strolled from the bowels of the Mandalay Bay Events Center onto the floor, where workers were erecting the ring in which the two men would meet for the lightweight title.
Corrales, who was not only a fearsome fighter but a longtime boxing fan, stopped a few steps onto the floor and glanced around at the empty seats and at the banners hanging from the rafters of major fights the events center had hosted.
“What are you thinking?” he was asked.
He paused, searching for precisely the right words, before he slowly broke into a grin.
“Just how much I’d love to be one of those fans in those seats on Saturday night,” Corrales said. “Me and Castillo, we’re going to go to the fires of hell if we have to in order to win that fight.”
To the fires of hell and back they went in one of the fiercest and greatest bouts in recent boxing history. Corrales won the match with a dramatic 10th-round finish that ranks among the best in boxing history.
Corrales died tragically in a motorcycle accident near his Las Vegas home only two years after that epic match. His words, though, are important to remember as Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin prepare to battle each other Saturday at the sold-out T-Mobile Arena for the middleweight championship.
Their styles, their attitudes and their demeanors suggest that in order to win, in order to become, as Golovkin says, “the new face of boxing,” each would go to hell and back to accomplish it.
Expectations are enormous for the bout. At the least, fans are prepared to see a bloodbath. At worst … well, let’s hope it’s not that.
It’s a battle between a Kazakh killer, a guy who has won by knockout 33 times in 37 fights and is one of the hardest hitters in the division’s history, and a redheaded Mexican who is the quintessential boxer-puncher.
At Wednesday’s final news conference, nothing of consequence was said, certainly not by those who matter.
“I don’t want to talk too much,” Golovkin said. “I am ready. I respect Canelo’s team. This is a big day, not only for us but for boxing and this era. This will be a huge, historic fight at T-Mobile Arena. I feel comfortable. I see that Canelo is ready. He is ready for serious business, a serious fight. This fight will be the biggest gift to the people.”
Alvarez, who did next to no media from the time training camp began until fight week, struck a similar tone.
“I don’t like to talk too much,” Alvarez said. “I just want to say that I’m prepared. I know it will be a tough fight. I just want you all to enjoy it like I’m going to enjoy it. I’m really, really excited to get in and fight. The excitement is there. The adrenaline is there. I have nothing to say to him. They know what kind of fighter I am. I’m prepared. I’m ready. All I want to tell him is, ‘Look, let’s give the fans a great fight.’ ”
That was it.
And that’s been it. Alvarez’s camp was largely closed, and few media were brought in. Similarly, Golovkin did not do much media and has been unusually short and curt. He refused to even tell reporters his newly born daughter’s name, as if doing so would impact his performance.
The fight has frequently been compared to the 1985 classic middleweight title bout between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns, which occurred in an outdoor ring at Caesars Palace a few steps from where Golovkin and Alvarez will engage on Saturday.
The enduring memory of that bout was of a semi-conscious Hearns slumped in referee Richard Steele’s arms following eight minutes of the greatest back-and-forth in boxing’s history.
One has to be able to blank out the potential consequences in order to get into the ring with a man that can do that to you.
Alvarez has been in the ring with far better opposition than Golovkin has faced. He’s been challenged by the brilliant boxing skills of guys as diverse as Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Erislandy Lara as well as by skilled offensive fighters such as Alfredo Angulo and Miguel Cotto.
And while Golovkin’s destructive capability is far better than any of those men, Alvarez said Golovkin’s is the style he prefers to face.
“This style, obviously,” Alvarez said. “This style, because this [is the kind of fight where] I can show my attributes, my talents and we can give the fans a beautiful fight, a fight that they want to see.”
It has been more than a decade since Corrales and Castillo thrilled fans at the Mandalay Bay Events Center by putting on not only the best fight of the 21st century but one of the most dramatic ever.
After nine scintillating rounds, Castillo dropped Corrales twice in the 10th and was on the verge of victory. Suddenly, Corrales struck with a massive right hand and quickly finished the bout, sending the small crowd into delirium.
That is what the Golovkin-Alvarez fight on Saturday can be. It can be a display of violence rarely seen in this most violent of sports.
It can create memories that will last a lifetime, but if it does, like in Hagler-Hearns and Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier III and countless others, it will steal a chunk of the fighters’ souls.
The fans want that kind of fight. The promoters and the media want that kind of fight.
Alvarez and Golovkin say they do.
Are they willing to walk through the fires of hell and back in order to win?
That won’t be known until late Saturday night. But for boxing fans who have been eager to see this potential symphony of violence for nearly three years, they’re going to get the chance.
More GGG-Canelo coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Why GGG-Canelo will go down in the history books
• Canelo Alvarez faces make-or-break moment
• Gennady Golovkin is ready to seize the biggest moment of his life
• Predicting the Golovkin-Alvarez fight