Gennadiy Golovkin’s mission on Saturday is almost impossible.
Super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez, who will face Triple-G a third time on pay-per-view at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, might be more vulnerable than usual after his one-sided loss to light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol in May. His confidence had to take a hit.
And you can bet that Golovkin will be as motivated as he was going into his first two fights with Alvarez, maybe more so. At 40, this could be his last great opportunity.
Does that give him a good chance of upsetting his arch rival? Nah. Here’s why.
The eight-year difference between the fighters wasn’t an insurmountable factor when Golovkin was 35 and 36, his ages for his controversial draw and majority decision loss to Alvarez. Now it might be.
Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 KOs) began to show signs of decline in his unanimous, but close decision in October 2019 against rugged Sergiy Derevyanchenko, who pushed the then-37-year-old to his physical limits.
He rebounded to stop second-tier opponents Kamil Szeremeta and Ryota Murata (to win two middleweight titles) in December 2020 and this past April, respectively. However, while he has retained his power at 160, he seemed to have lost a step in terms of speed and reflexes.
Even Golovkin has said he’s “near retirement,” which isn’t what you generally hear from a fighter going into one of the biggest fights in his career.
He can compensate for any deficiencies to some degree with his vast experience and determination but that only goes so far against an elite opponent who is in or near his prime.
Johnathan Banks, Golovkin’s trainer, counters by saying that neither fight is the same four years after their second fight – which is true – but, again, the difference between 32 and 40 in boxing is profound.
Then there is the size issue.
Golovkin, who has fought at 160 pounds his entire 16-year career, is moving up to 168 for this fight. On one hand, that could help him. He will have had to expend less energy on making weight. On the other hand, he’s moving up to face a man who has fought primarily at 168 or above since 2018.
That could mean he’s giving up the one edge he might have over Alvarez. Can he carry his power up to 168? And will he be able to absorb punches from a bigger man? Those are legitimate questions going into this fight.
And, finally, Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) also will driven to perform well in this fight. He’s coming off an embarrassing loss, whether he would acknowledge that characterization or not. He wants to prove he’s still the best in the business, if that’s what he was.
Also, he certainly can’t afford back-to-back losses, particularly against a 40-year-old in the second fight. He might never be viewed the same if he doesn’t have his hand raised Saturday.
That probably doesn’t bode well for Golovkin even if the old man enters at the ring at his current best.
So let’s add this up. Alvarez is much younger, naturally bigger and, by most accounts, simply better than Golovkin. That’s why oddsmakers have made the Mexican about a 4.5-1 favorite, which is wide by boxing standards.
None of the above is to say that Golovkin can’t win the fight. Great boxers, even older ones, sometimes find ways to emerge victorious when virtually no one believes they can.
And make no mistake: Gennadiy Golovkin is a great fighter. Well, at least he was.