How we got here: Canelo-GGG II has all the makings of an instant classic

Kevin IoleCombat columnist

LAS VEGAS – The middleweight title fight between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez set for Saturday at sold-out T-Mobile Arena has all the ingredients of an instant classic.

It pits men who are high-volume punchers with the power to end a bout with one shot. They are among the most talented men in the sport and they have a legitimate, ahem, beef with each other.

Fans should be on the edge of their seats waiting for it.

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What we’ve gotten so far has simply been bizarre.

The friendliness that existed between Canelo Alvarez (L) and Gennady Golovkin (R) before Alvarez failed two drug tests has eroded ahead of their much anticipated rematch Saturday. (Getty Images)
The friendliness that existed between Canelo Alvarez (L) and Gennady Golovkin (R) before Alvarez failed two drug tests has eroded ahead of their much anticipated rematch Saturday. (Getty Images)

Golovkin, the WBA-WBC champion, has complained about just about everything about Alvarez except whether he wears boxers or briefs. Golovkin has torn into Alvarez about his two failed drug tests in February that forced the cancellation of their planned May 5 rematch.

Golovkin called Alvarez a liar, sneering at Alvarez’s explanation that the positive tests came as a result of eating tainted beef.

Alvarez refused to appear at a kick-off news conference with Golovkin, instead forcing the promoters to put together a bizarre event that was streamed on Facebook and did next-to-nothing to sell a single ticket for the bout. He also refused to pose for the traditional nose-to-nose photo with Golovkin at Wednesday’s news conference, and he did precious few interviews during his camp.

De La Hoya steals the fight-week spotlight

Oscar De La Hoya, the fight’s promoter, first announces he’s considering a run for president. That was a great way to steal some of the pre-fight coverage of Alvarez and Golovkin.

Then, De La Hoya said he would find a new TV home for Alvarez after Saturday’s bout, ending Alvarez’s deal with HBO. It was obvious to anyone with even passing interest that HBO, which once billed itself “the heart and soul of boxing,” was making a slow exit from the sport. There was little need for De La Hoya to divert attention from how great the fight he’s promoting figures to be to discuss something so patently obvious.

And then De La Hoya, for reasons unknown but perhaps to map out strategy for his presidential campaign, was a no-show at Wednesday’s news conference, the biggest event of fight week other than, you know, the fight itself. He also scheduled a Friday morning news conference to promote an MMA card being held in November, another surefire way to steal headlines from the fight being held Saturday.

Just about the only thing that hasn’t happened has been President Donald Trump lambasting De La Hoya on Twitter, though there is still time for that.

It’s been an eventful week and a crazy few months. Fight night can’t come soon enough.

Controversial judging mars Canelo-GGG I

The good news is that soon, all of the peripheral issues will cease to matter. When they hit the ring around 11 p.m. ET on Saturday, the focus will be about what it should have been about all along: Two of the greatest fighters of this generation battling in a grudge match for one of boxing’s most treasured titles.

Their first fight was entertaining enough, even if it was not an instant classic, but it left just about everyone, including the two men who took part in it, dissatisfied.

Dave Moretti, the only judge from their first fight who will work the second one, scored the first one 7-5 for Golovkin. Don Trella had it 6-6, inexplicably scoring the seventh, what appeared to be Golovkin’s best round of the fight, for Alvarez. And Adalaide Byrd had a head-scratcher, seeing it 10-2 in favor of Alvarez.

That score got her a brief suspension from her boss, Bob Bennett, the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission.

“Adalaide is a good judge,” Bennett said. “She’s an excellent judge. But everyone has that one night, and that was hers.”

If she had scored the fight 7-5 for Alvarez, it would have hardly caused a stir. But she saw a runaway that no one else saw.

Alvarez sighed when asked if he felt he won the fight 10-2.

“I won seven rounds clean, I know that,” he said. “Other than that, there were some close rounds. Maybe I won some of those.”

The absurdity of Byrd’s score, though, dominated the post-fight talk.

Alvarez’s doping debacle fuels GGG’s trash-talk

This time around, the competitiveness of the fight has been lost amid the back and forth sniping about Clenbuterol and contaminated meat.

Gennady Golovkin waves to fans as he enters Banc of California Stadium during a media workout on Aug. 26, 2018, in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images)
Gennady Golovkin waves to fans as he enters Banc of California Stadium during a media workout on Aug. 26, 2018, in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images)

Golovkin has been unusually outspoken. He’s spoken repeatedly of having seen needle marks on Alvarez’s body during the first bout. He said fans sent him pictures of their fight that showed what he said looked like needle marks.

He’s never been so strident about a given topic. He’s not a native English speaker and that is part of why his public persona throughout his years fighting in the U.S. has been that of a congenial guy with a megawatt smile who said his fights were “a big drama show,” and referred to Alvarez as “a good boy.”

No longer, though, does he see Alvarez as a good boy. Talented fighter, good boxer, but no good boy.

“He’s very skilled, you have to say that,” Golovkin said. “Good boxer. He doesn’t hit that hard. Slaps, mostly. That’s it. Nothing you feel. But he can box … ”

And in Golovkin’s eyes, he lies.

“Come on,” Golovkin said, a disgusted look creasing his face, when he was asked whether he believed Alvarez’s positive drug tests were caused by eating contaminated beef. “Who believes that? Who would ever believe it?”

A reporter asked Golovkin if there was anything Alvarez did better than he anticipated in the first fight.

“Yes,” he said, “he ran.”

Everyone got a few chuckles out of the rare joke from Golovkin, but Alvarez wasn’t laughing. He managed to use that to take a shot at Golovkin. He noted that trainer Abel Sanchez has been the one saying he ran.

“I boxed,” Alvarez said about his style in the first fight. “Does Abel know what boxing is?”

But when he was told it was Golovkin, not Sanchez, who uttered the one-liner, Alvarez shook his head.

“Those are Abel’s words,” Alvarez said. “[Golovkin] doesn’t have the balls to say that himself.”

The talk is all but done now. The arena is sold out, which is a good sign for the pay-per-view sales, though there are mixed signs about how that is going. The first fight sold 1.3 million, 1.4 million if you count the online sales from the Golden Boy-owned

Though the first fight wasn’t the classic fans had hoped for, it was an entertaining match. Whether that was enough to make people want to plunk down $85 to see them do it again with all of the extraneous noise going on remains to be seen.

The only thing that seems certain is that no matter how this fight ends, the hard feelings built up over the last 12 moths will last well into the future.

More boxing coverage from Yahoo Sports:
Who’s going to win Canelo-GGG II?
Gennady Golovkin: ‘The kind of person who is hard not to like’
Alvarez on Golovkin: ‘For me, it’s personal’
Boxing experts break down the Alvarez-Golovkin rematch

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